12 Small Steps for Better Nutrition
When it comes to a healthy diet, people often get overwhelmed and are unsure of where to start, preventing them from starting at all. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be that complicated. All you need to do is take a few small steps for better nutrition, one at at time and let those small steps add up to big change.
By slowly implementing these 12 small steps for better nutrition, you’ll feel better, look better, have more energy and be ready to tackle improving all areas of your health including sleep, exercise and mental health and wellbeing.
The Power of Small Changes
Making small changes to your diet, step by step, is a great way to build healthy habits without feeling overwhelmed. Over time, we begin to adjust to these the changes and they start to feel normal.
This is the power of small changes.
People often try too may things at once, or they try to go cold turkey, or attempt the new newest fad diet, only to fail and give up completely. Making such drastic changes is too hard to sustain. Here’s the thing, the process is much, much easier than that.
Small steps, take one at a time, makes the whole process of lifestyle change totally doable and ultimately sustainable. Nothing has to happen overnight. It night take a year to overhaul your nutrition. That’s fine! In terms of our whole entire lives, a year is nothing.
12 Weeks to A Healthier You
Each week for the next 12 weeks, focus on one of these small steps for better nutrition, adding in a new one each week. Before you now it, 3 months down the road you’ll be eating healthier than ever, feeling great and ready to tackle even more positive change. Let’s get started.
Week 1: Eat a salad everyday
For the first week on your journey to better nutrition, the goal is to eat one salad everyday. Luckily for you, salads don’t have to be a boring old iceberg lettuce, cucumber and tomato ordeal nor do they have to be complicated.
- Broccoli Chickpea Salad
- Mediterranean Orzo Salad
- Kale Peanut Brown Rice Salad
- Roasted Chickpea Avocado Salad
- Vegan BBQ Chickpea Salad
- Roasted Squash Farro Salad
- Fall Harvest Salad
Week 2: Prepare healthy, plant-based recipes at home.
This week is fun! We’re on the hunt for some fun and healthy recipes to try. It doesn’t have to be a something totally crazy, extravagant or complicated. Maybe it’s trying a new vegetable or whole grain you’re not that familiar with, or maybe it’s making a healthier, plant-based version of one of your favourite meals.
Preparing meals at home is so important in feeling connected to your food and having control of over what goes into your body. If you’re not vegan or vegetarian, the goal this week is to experiment and try a couple of completely plant-based meals or even going plant-based for one whole day.
Recipes To Try:
- Coconut Red Lentil Dahl
- Rice and Lentils
- Quinoa Kale Salad with Roasted Vegetables
- Sweet Potato and Chickpea Skillet
- Best Vegan Soups and Stews
- Vegan Panang Curry with Tofu
Week 3: Add Fermented Foods.
The goals for this week is to try to a fermented food every day. Fermented foods are an amazing way to upgrade your meals and your health. You can buy fermented foods or make them at home. Eating fermented foods is a great way to get raw, living, probiotic-rich, gut healing bacterias into the body.
Fermented Food Options
It could be sauerkraut, water kefir, yogurt, homemade kombucha, pickled carrots, onions or anything really! Everything in the health world right now is pointing to gut health. You could be eating the healthiest food on the planet but it’s what your body can do with those foods that matters. You’ve got to get that gut in shape and fermented foods are a fast track way to get you there.
In particular, homemade fermented foods are a quick and easy way to get healthy, living bacteria into your gut so it can do it’s job. The goal for week 3 is to try to eat 1 fermented food everyday. Try adding a spoonful of sauerkraut or picked beets to your salad, drinking a glass of homemade kombucha or enjoying some coconut yogurt for breakfast.
Week 4: Improve Hydration.
Alright guys, so we’re still getting in our daily salad, adding fermented foods to our diets and cooking a few healthy, plant-based meals at home each week. Hopefully those habits are starting to feel like a normal part of your routine.
The focus for week 4 is all about hydration.
Many people are walking around chronically dehydrated without even realizing it. Try not to wait until your body gets to a point where you’re so thirsty. We’re often not aware that a lot of the ailments we’re experiencing day to day can be due to dehydration so focus on keeping those water levels topped up at all times.
Tips for staying Hydrated
- Eat hydrating foods like cucumber, greens, melon, celery, radish and tomato
- Start every day with a big glass of water
- Counteract diuretics such as water and caffeinated tea
- Boost your water with a pinch of sea salt, fresh lemon juice or some berries
- Cut out sugary drinks
- Consider a reverse osmosis system or filtered water system such as Santiveia or Burke
- Use a water tracking app if you often forget to drink water
- Have a good stainless steel or glass water bottle with you at all times
- Hydrate between meals not during them to allow for proper digestion
- Drink consistently throughout the day so you’re not drinking a lot too close to bed time
As far as how much water to drink, every one is different and it depends on factors like the climate you live in and how much exercise you get. One rule of thumb is to divide your weight in pounds by two, and drink that amount of water in ounces every day. Start there and see how that works for you.
Week 5: Swap Processed Foods for Whole Foods
We are talking about heavily processed, refined foods here, not packaged foods. Processed foods are items found in the freezer section at the grocery store, items that have a long shelf-life or foods that have been refined so heavily they no longer resemble the whole food they once were. Processed foods often have oils added to them, excess sodium and added sugar.
The focus for this week is to take one or two food items you typically buy that’s processed and swap it for a whole food option. This could be frozen pizzas, frozen microwave dinners, processed snack or breakfast bars or sugary cereals. Pick one or two and try one of the whole food swaps below.
Common Processed Foods You can Make At Home
- Make your own granola bars
- Make your own breakfast bars or healthy muffins
- Try overnight oats instead of eating sugary breakfast cereals
- Make your own pizza instead of buying frozen pizzas
- Food prep homemade meals instead of buying frozen microwave dinners
- Snack on berries instead of candy
- Snack on nuts or homemade crackers or veggie chips or instead of potato chips
- Make your own salad dressings
- Bake wholesome cookies instead of buying processed ones
Week 6: Swap Grains for Greens to Eat More Veg
When people are new to plant-centric eating, they tend to rely heavily on grains for the base of their meals. Grains offer a number of excellent health benefits but they don’t have to make up the base of your diet whether you eat meat or not. This week the goal is to swap out some of your grains for more vegetables.
Here are some ideas for sneaking more veggies into your diet by using them to replace some of the grains you eat. Remember, it’s not all or nothing so focus on 1 or 2 swaps this week and build from there.
- swap rice for cauliflower rice, parsnip rice or broccoli rice
- try zucchini noodles or another veggie noodle
- eat a big salad for dinner loaded with seeds, nuts and protein
- try cauliflower pizza crust
- make lettuce wraps loaded with veggies and hummus
- make socca from chickpea flour
- try sweet potato toasts
Week 7: Switch Your Oils and Fats
Replacing unhealthy fats an oils in your diet with healthier ones can have a huge impact on your health over time. Most people are over-consuming unhealthy fats such as trans fats and refined vegetable oils due to the prevalence of processed foods in the average person’s diet.
High omega-6 vegetable oils and trans fats, often listed as hydrogenated oils, can cause inflammation in the body and that inflammation is at the root of a myriad of disease and health problems. Making the switch is easy.
- Refer to step 5 and cut back on refined, processed foods.
- Switch to oils like coconut, olive oil and avocado oil and limit their use.
- Get your fats from heart-healthy, nutrient-rich foods like avocado, in particular focusing on omega-3’s from foods like chia seeds, hemp seeds, ground flax seed and walnuts.
Week 8: Reduce your Sodium Intake
So, how are things going? You’re now 8 weeks into taking small steps for better nutrition! The focus for this week is reducing your sodium intake. Let’s take a look at how we can do that!
Due to processed foods, many people consume in excess of the recommended 2400 mg of sodium per day. Excess sodium intake effects high blood sugar and heart health so it’s an important aspect of nutrition to consider.
Hopefully you’ve already reduced your sodium intake by focusing on whole foods, eating more vegetables, cooking at home and drinking more water. Now we can take it a step further by reducing the amount of salt we add to our food. When you’re cooking at home, it’s easy to add flavour to your food without using excessive amounts of salt.
How to Flavour Food Without salt
- Use fresh lemon and lime juice
- Utilize plenty of fresh and dried herbs
- Use dried sea vegetables for nutrition and flavour
- Try vinegars like white wine, red wine, apple cider and balsamic
- Use a variety of mustards like dijon, spicy and whole grain
- Use lots of ginger, garlic and onion
- Ditch table salt for himilayan crystal salt or other unrefined sea salt
Week 9: Use Food Prep to Snack Better.
Alright, we’re really making progress here! You’ve reduced the amount of processed foods you eat, you’ve reduced your sodium intake and you’re staying hydrated throughout the day. Hopefully, these changes are starting to compound and you’re feeling great!
This week the focus is better snacking. While it’s not required to snack between meals if you’re hungry or feel a slump in energy, healthy snacking is a good way to maintain stable blood sugar levels and stay energized.
The goals for this week is to take time on Sunday to prepare some healthy snacks you can take on the road this week.
- chop up bell pepper slices and broccoli
- chop carrot sticks or buy baby carrots
- make a batch of hummus to eat with raw veggies
- bake a batch of protein muffins
- make some no-bake energy bites
- make some homemade granola bars or baked oat bars
- prep 2 chia seed puddings for a snack on Monday and Tuesday
- cook 2 cups of edamame
- make roasted chickpeas
- make veggie chips
- stock up on protein powder single serves, nuts, dried fruit and portable fresh fruit like apples and bananas to take on the road
That should get you started on better snacking. The focus this week is to skip the vending machine and energy bar section and only eat snacks you prepared yourself.
Week 10 Focus: Swap your Sugars.
For week 10 we’re focusing on reducing or cutting out refined sugar in your diet. Get in the habit of reading the labels on your food and avoiding products that contain white sugar, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, sucrose, dextrose, fructose, and artificial sweeteners such as aspartame.
As you’ve already cut back on processed foods, starting making your own snacks and eating more veggies, you’ve already reduced your sugar intake substantially. Let’s take it a step further.
Read about alternative sweeteners here.
Week 11 Focus: Up Your Fibre Intake.
The focus for week 11 is upping your fibre intake. You should be getting at the very least 30 grams of fibre per day. Fibre, in the most basic terms, is the indigestible part of plant foods.
It can help lower cholesterol, helps with weight control or weight loss, regulates blood sugar and promotes a healthy heart and digestive system. This week, try a few of these tips for getting more fibre in your diet. By the end of the week, you should be hitting that 25-30 gram mark.
How to Get More Fibre In Your Diet
- Eat an apple every day
- Make a coconut yogurt bowl topped with high-fibre cereal, ground flax seeds and sliced strawberries
- Eat raw carrots and broccoli with hummus for a snack
- Have a serving of mixed nuts
- Add chickpeas, kidney beans or black beans to your daily salad
- Try a lentil dish
- keep up with your daily salad
- Have dried apricots, dates, figs, peaches or pears for snack or dessert
- Try amaranth, barley or bulgur instead of rice
- Swap all white foods for whole grain ones (pasta, bread, tortillas etc.)
- Eat edamame for a snack
- Add a spoonful of flax to oatmeal, smoothies and baking
- Add berries and veggies to your smoothies
Read More About Fiber: Best Sources of Fiber
Week 12: Build a better breakfast.
A lot of these small changes overlap. By eating a salad everyday you’ll get more fibre. By eating less processed foods and cooking at home you’ll be snacking better and consuming less sodium. Each week, you’re working on building a foundation of nutrition and all of these small changes compliment each other to create that foundation.
This weeks focus is starting every day with a healthy, balanced breakfast. It’s time to ditch the drive-through breakfast sandwiches and coffee-shop muffins.
- Overnight protein oats
- Healthy low-sugar smoothies
- Tofu or chickpea scramble with lots of veggies
- Homemade breakfast burritos
- Protein pancakes with fresh fruit and almond butter
- 2-Ingredient Breakfast Cookie Dough
- Sweet potato breakfast bowls
- Homemade energy bars and an apple
- Chia seed pudding
- Red rice and black bean burrito
- Spicy chickpea veggie burger over lightly sautéed greens
- Sprouted grain toast with almond butter
- Roasted veggie bowls topped with scrambled tofu
12 Small Steps to Better Nutrition
You did it! How do you feel? Did you continue to build upon each small change week after week? A lot of these tips overlap but by focusing on one at a time, lifestyle change may not seem so daunting and it really doesn’t have to be.
These 12 small steps can be implemented at any time, of course but if you’re just beginning your journey to optimum health and nutrition, I would really recommend focusing on step at a time. There is huge power in small change.
I would also recommend focusing on this as a journey without the mindset that a healthy lifestyle has some end point in the future. It doesn’t. You truly have to commit to it and make it a priority in your life. It’s worth it, guys and you truly, truly deserve it. That’s what health living is, it’s treating yourself with the respect and love that you deserve.
You deserve to feel your best have the energy and confidence to live life to it’s fullest. Better nutrition will have a positive impact on every single area of your life. You can do this. Don’t give up, just take one step at a time!
Looks yummy! I love these ideas and your macro ideas – are you still tracking IIFYM?
Right now I am! I’m about 5 weeks into 100% consistency. Feeling great!