Making changes to our dietary habits, meal planning, prepping, cooking and shopping can become overwhelming. It may feel like we have too much on our plate (pun intended!) So, where do we start? How do we begin to make sustainable changes to what we’ve been doing without overwhelming ourselves? How can we involve our family in these changes too? There are lots of moving pieces within the topic of meals, and along with that, a lot of potential areas of opportunity!
Before we dive into practical advice/ideas, it is important to note that we don’t need to make ALL of these changes at the same time. In fact, when we try to change too many things at once it can make it harder for those pieces to stay consistent and can lead to discouragement if we’re setting our expectations too high. Change takes time, and we may not always get it right on the first try! Instead of changing everything at once, we can choose one or two action steps at a time. Work to standardize these pieces, then we can optimize/add new steps from there. In his book “Atomic Habits”, James Clear talks about getting 1% better every day. At first, this may not seem like a lot, but it really does add up! With this in mind, we can think through individual action steps that will progressively get you closer to the goal you have in mind.
What does a realistic action step look like? It may be a bit different for each person depending on past experience, knowledge, motivation, confidence, so consider the following pieces as you’re building your next goal. We can use the SMART acronym to help us out here. Our goals should be:
- Specific – Avoid setting very vague goals like, “I want to eat more vegetables.” Instead, it may be “I want to try at least one new vegetable each week.”
- Measurable – This is how we can track our progress and easily determine when we’ve accomplished our goal. In the example above, including one new vegetable, is the measurable piece.
- Attainable – Is it realistic for you personally within the time-frame you’ve decided upon? Consider any potential challenges of the goal you’re thinking about. We want to have an optimal challenge – not too easy but not too hard.
- Relevant – We ask the question, “Why is this goal relevant to you right now?” or “Why is this next step relevant/important now considering your long-term health goals/vision?” This ties into your BIG WHY! If you haven’t yet considered your personal WHY to making these changes, it is more likely you will lose interest in the goal. So first make sure you know your WHY! *can we link to our big why article? Might be nice here**
- Time-Bound – What is the time-frame for this specific goal? Oftentimes we will set a 30-day goal, but you could do a week or two or longer – it’s totally up to you!
- REMINDER: It is very important to reflect on how goals are going and adjust as necessary. Consider what is working well and what isn’t working well. We know that life happens and things come up, so give yourself some grace and understand that you have the power to adjust or make changes when you need to!
Now let’s chat through some potential first steps within the realm of dietary changes. And again, it is unrealistic to attempt all of these changes at the same time. Start with one or two that you feel more confident about then work up from there!
- Print out the EPIC 5 Shopping List and use it as a guide next time you go shopping. There is a learning curve when it comes to dietary changes, so understand that there will be a sort of transition period as you begin making changes.
- Try one vegetable or recipe each week! This is a super easy way to build confidence and start to figure out more things you enjoy!
- Begin getting rid of processed foods in the home. Cleaning out the cupboards can be helpful to limit/remove potential temptations. If your family members are not following the same plan that you are, you could have a designated cupboard for their additional sweets/snacks that you’re trying to avoid.
- Make note of and avoid foods you are sensitive to. Whether you’ve had food sensitivity testing done or you are able to recognize a reaction to a certain food. This is an important piece when personalizing your diet plan.
- Next time you go shopping, start to pay more attention to Food Labels and the potential additives/colorings that may be included. Another tip along with this is to avoid going deep into the aisle – this is often where the majority of the processed foods are. Following the perimeter of the store will help to avoid those sugary temptations, so you’ll mostly be walking through fresh produce and more whole-food, natural options.
- Each day, incorporate at least one vegetable from each category: Cruciferous, Leafy Greens, Colorful
- You could also aim to have half of your plate be vegetables!
- Start incorporating a Greens Smoothie into your day. This is an easy way to get 2-3+ servings of veggies in one sitting!
- Get your family’s feedback on meal ideas. It doesn’t have to be all on your shoulders – see what they do or don’t enjoy and WHY! This can help you with ideas for future planning too!
- Look into services like Misfit Markets. This is a creative, fun way to increase your variety of vegetables and get the family involved! Each week (or however often you’d like) you can have your family help you decide which veggies you want to get that week. This can be done while grocery shopping too – use your creativity and encourage your family members to do the same!
- Make a meal plan – collect recipes/foods you know you/your family enjoys and structure out your meals for the week. Not everyone enjoys doing this, but a lot of people thrive when they have more structure. Taking some time on the weekend (or a specific day) to plan ahead will save you time and energy during the week.
- Along with this, any type of prep you can do for yourself ahead of time can save you both time and energy. For example, on Sundays you could clean/cut/prep veggies for the week or cook some chicken/turkey for leftovers. Anything you can do ahead of time to make the rest of the week easier for yourself – I promise your future self will appreciate it!
Regardless of how/where you choose to start, the fact that you’re willing to take a step in that direction is already a BIG WIN! Don’t forget to celebrate every step you take and even celebrate the lessons you learn from the mistakes you make. Understand that nobody is or will ever be perfect, so give yourself some grace and keep pushing forward. Find hope in the fact that we all make mistakes, and we’re all doing the best with what we have. YOU’VE GOT THIS!
To your health and wellness,
Health Coach, EPIC Functional Medicine