I remember feeling extremely overwhelmed and confused when I began to change what and how I ate. I wondered things like:
- Would eating 5-6 small meals be better than 3 squares?
- Would eating red meat be beneficial or I should I give it up?
- Is dairy good for me or bad?
- Bread is the devil…apparently I should stop eating it.
I felt like there was so much conflicting information–and there was! And there still is!!
The process of learning to eat takes work. For sustainable change, there simply is NOT a shortcut. You have to do it… and learn! At the beginning we want to do everything “right.” We want to fix it…immediately. If we are going down the rabbit-hole, then we want to fix it all as we go. And, how can we possibly “fix” it all when our list of things to “fix” looks like this:
- free range
- no preservatives
- no bread
- no sugar
- no white food
- less condiments
- more water
- no dairy
- no fat dairy
- full fat dairy
- no fat
- no carbs after 4 pm
- no snacking after dinner
- less meals out
- baked/roasted/grilled only
- no deep fried food
*huffing puffing* *trying to catch my breath*
That’s fricking exhausting. It’s contradictory. It’s overwhelming. It’s insurmountable.
At the start of my changes, I very much felt like what I just described above. I had this looming list of all the things in my eating that needed attention. Some of these things that apparently needed attention, didn’t have a straight forward answer (no dairy, no fat dairy, low fat dairy, or full fat dairy??? WTH!!) which added to my confusion even more.
On top of all this, I had no idea how to change how I fed my family, too. How could I figure out my own damn stuff and then have my family buy in, too? Can you say “anxiety overload?!”
Below are some basic things I did at the very start of my health overhaul. They are what I’ll call “high impact general changes.” Changes that make a huge difference, apply to all meals, and don’t require you to necessarily focus on the minutiae.
At the start don’t get bogged down with where your protein was sourced, if your fruit and veggies are organic, the fat content of your dairy, or what oil to cook with. These are lesser details that can, and will, come later.
Believe me when I tell you that it took me nearly 3 years to change to locally sourced protein, buy more organic produce, eat sugar free dairy, and learn to use coconut oil. As you go along your own health journey you may or may not decide to implement the same things I just listed. Either way, they are details and you want to focus on the “heavy hitters” first.
Here are those HIGH IMPACT GENERAL CHANGES:
1. Worry about yourself first.
When I began my own changes, we as a family ate lots of cream soup based casseroles for dinner. We ate boxed cereal, bagels, and fruit flavored yogurt for breakfast. We ate a good amount of pasta based dishes, too. Essentially, I kept preparing food for my family just as I had, but did something a little different for myself. Huh?? Some examples:
- I continued to make tater tot casserole with a veggie side. When I’d serve myself up, I would get as much ground beef as I could with only a few tater tots and then I’d double up on the veggie side.
- I prepared spaghetti as I normally would, I’d have a bigger help of sauce with a smaller portion of pasta, and double up on the veggie side.
- Many casseroles I made you had to pre-cook the protein. After the protein was cooked, I would take out my portion to eat “plain” and then add the remaining portion to the casserole and serve it to my family as planned. Again, always doubling up on the veggie side.
This continued for a number of months until I gained confidence in how I was eating. I kept preparing some of that same stuff while introducing “new” (means healthy!) dishes and finding what everyone liked. Over time we had transitioned out of our old rotation of dinners into an entirely new rotation of dinners that was better for everyone…and I was now eating exactly what everyone else was.
It is okay for you to eat separate and differently for a little while. Remember it is short term…it is a transition strategy. Get yourself situated first and then leading your family will come much easier!
2. More protein.
I began to incorporate protein at every meal. More eggs and yogurt for breakfast, less bagels and toast. More stuff on salads versus on bread (think chicken/tuna/egg salad all over greens versus on bread). Less pasta, rice, crackers, and bread at dinner…fill that plate with a proper protein portion, fill out half the plate with veggies, and a little grain for flavor and so you don’t feel deprived.
3. More veggies
I focused on lunch, dinner, and snacks for upping my veggie intake. Think of half your plate being veggies–that was, and still is, a huge helper for me. If I could add some in at breakfast, then it was a bonus. I still work at getting veggies in during my morning meal–I get stick of them sauted into eggs and I’m not a huge lover of “green” smoothies.
4. Less junk
You’re thinking easier said than done, aren’t you? Surprisingly, when I upped my portions of proteins and veggies it helped make the less junk thing easier. You might find that simply eating better fuel, eases the cravings for crap. Other strategies I used, particularly when we had meals out or take out:
- I stopped ordering a “basket.” My husband would get the meal deal and I would get just the sandwich or a salad. Then I’d have a few of his fries and share his soda. It was a win-win: I got to have some of the not-so-good stuff I wanted so I wasn’t left feeling deprived and he ended up consuming a bit less of the not-so-good stuff.
- If we ordered pizza, I would fill up on a ginormous salad first. I always had a piece or two, but it wasn’t the main part of my dinner. I got my fix for the junk, but it was tempered with good stuff!
Think high impact first, details second. You will get there and you can’t mess it up! Every small change is of benefit so try not to get caught up in feeling like there is only one right way to approach changing how you eat. There isn’t. Remember find WWFY and go with that!
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