True confession here–I’ve been planning this post since March. Does your life have a way of getting away from you? I know mine does. So when I revisited this idea a couple weeks ago, at first I thought I’d have to totally scrap it. But then I realized, “It’s Never Too Late For Spring Cleaning.” This philosophy is true not only for my basement and my garage, but also for my kitchen. No, I’m not thinking about cleaning up the dust bunnies from under my fridge (although I probably should), I’m talking about sprucing up how we eat with some simple changes that start in our pantries and refrigerators.
Now let’s face it, making changes can be hard. In fact, they can be downright overwhelming, especially if you start comparing yourself to others or some unrealistic ideal. But what if we take a different approach to change? I recently read a book entitled Little Changes by Kristi Marsh. In it she shares her personal journey with change after battling cancer and tackling the messy job of cleaning up the toxic foods, cleansers, and personal care products her life. Here’s an excerpt from her book about her journey with food:
The key is to just start. Take one product or food item, and make a wiser choice…. Celebrate your new peanut butter, the tomatoes you grow, or the omelet you made, instead of focusing on what you still have left to do. View changes as a process and not as a destination, and tasks become adventures. There is no end to his journey. It is a life-long philosophy to embrace….
I think Kristi is totally right–”the key is to just start.” I’ve always had more of a “little changes” philosophy. I started my journey to kick my processed food habit over two years ago, and step by step, I’ve made a ton of progress. While I’m still nowhere near “perfect,” I’m proud of where I am today.
So, in the spirit of “little changes” I thought I’d share with you my Top Ten Little Food Changes for a healthier you. Just remember, when you read through these ideas, they aren’t a checklist. Rather, look for an idea that makes sense to you, and that you’re ready to start incorporating into your life:
- Sign up for a CSA: If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know I’m a huge CSA fan. Joining a CSA jumpstarted my move away from processed foods and helped me change the way I think about food. I now plan meals thinking about vegetables first. If you’re interested in learning more, check out LocalHarvest or the Organic Consumer Association to find a farm near you.
- Shop at the Farmers Market: You’ll be amazed at all the different kinds or produce that are available at your local farmers market. Make your farmers market trips a weekly ritual, but try to go BEFORE you shop for groceries. That way you can plan your meals around what you find at the farmer’s market vs. the other way around. Need some resources to get started? The USDA has a U.S. farmers directory here, and I recently read a great article on OrganicGardening.com about 6 Farmers’ Market Scams and how to avoid them.
- Plant a garden: Now I’ll admit, gardening sounds pretty intimidating, especially for those of us who lack a green thumb. One of the easiest ways to start is with herbs. Many herbs grow like weeds and can tolerate even the worst of gardeners. And if you have a small yard (or no yard at all), don’t let it stop you. Find a community garden or check out one of these smart small-space garden alternatives.
- Join a Food Co-op: Want to eat healthier but farmers markets and CSAs don’t fit in your lifestyle? Check out food co-ops. In many ways they have the look and feel of grocery stores, but instead of focusing on processed foods, co-ops usually concentrate on stocking fresh, locally grown food.
- Rethink Meat: If there’s one thing that upsets me the most about our industrialized food system it’s how animals are raised and treated. “Pink slime” increased our awareness about what can go on in factories, but what happens on some farms is equally as abhorrent. If you eat meat, learn more about where your meat comes from and how it was raised. Interested in becoming a more responsible omnivore? Check out my shopping tips in my post “Do You Trust Where Your Meat Comes From?”
- Kick the Soda Habit: As I chronicled in my post Confessions of a Former Coke “Addict,” I’ve battled a soda addiction at least a couple times in my times in my life. When you add up the shear volume of sweeteners, artificial flavors & colors, and preservatives these drinks and their non-carbonated counterparts contain, it’s hard to justify keeping them around. I know these drinks may be tough to give up–they have a very “addictive” quality to them. But if you’re interested, check out my post about how I kicked the habit. It’s been over six months now, and I feel great!
- Take a REAL FOOD Pledge: One of my favorite blogs that I recently discovered is 100 Days of Reals Food. Lisa Leake runs the site, and she does a wonderful job of sharing lots of great recipes and stories about how her family has made the move to real food. So if you’re up for it, take Lisa’s 10 Days of Real Food Pledge. You won’t regret it!
- Drop Dairy from Hormone-Treated Cows: If you eat dairy products, consider switching to products from cows that are NOT treated with hormones. As my post “Simple is Always Good, Right?” points out, the United States is the only developed nation that allows people to consume milk from cows treated with growth hormones, and there are some real differences between milk from treated and untreated cows.
- Rehab Your Snacks: Snacking gets most of us in a lot of trouble. Unfortunately we usually snack in our weakest moments–when we are tired, hungry, or seeking escape. So to fight this battle, you’ve got to clean out the pantry and refrigerator and get rid of all the processed food snacks. Replacing these empty calories with fresh or dried fruit, cut-up veggies, hummus, and nuts can be a huge “little change” in getting you and your family on a healthier path.
- Create a New Weeknight Meal Tradition: Do you have any weeknight meal traditions? Unfortunately most of the traditions out there aren’t very good for you. Well, Meatless Mondays wants to change that. Yes, there is a whole movement out there built around helping you plan simple, healthy, meatless meals. A lot of us have forgotten (or never learned) how to make dinner without meat, and there are actually many delicious options. So, try it out for dinner. If you like it, maybe you’ll go meatless for Monday’s breakfast and lunch too.
So what do you think of making “little changes” in what you eat? What are some of the food changes you’ve made that have improved your life? Please feel free to share your ideas in the comment section below. And if you’re interested in learning more about Kristi Marsh’s journey and her book Little Changes, you can visit her website at www.choosewiser.com.
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