The following article was written by Heinen’s Chief Dietitian, Melanie Jatsek RD, LD.
I’ve always been a believer in the power of food to transform one’s health, but it wasn’t until the status of my own health changed in 2022 that I prioritized what I put into my body over everything else. My diet wasn’t horrible by any stretch, it was just inconsistent.
I knew that to fill my body with healing nutrients, I had to have a plan. In the past I always fell into the trap of crafting grandiose plans with multiple steps (and sub steps), only to become overwhelmed and throw in the towel. Big plans are great! Why not shoot for the stars? But big and complex? That’s where I went wrong.
This time around, I decided to begin with the end in mind and work backwards. What was the end goal I was after? To fill my body with healthy, antioxidant-rich foods every day to keep my immune system strong and ready to defend itself against unwelcome “guests.”
How could I make that happen without complicating the process? By building a small set of simple habits. After sitting with my long-term goal, I realized there were four habits I needed to master.
When you know your end goal, I am confident these four easily adaptable habits can help you achieve better health in 2024.
Habit #1: Commit to Prepping One or Two Simple Meals
I’ve found it’s much easier to stay on track when I have two solid meals prepped and ready to go. The way I see it, if I’m prepared for two-thirds of my meals, the likelihood of falling off the wagon is very low at dinner because I’m feeling good and want to keep the momentum going!
My latest staple meals are chia pudding for breakfast and a nutritious smoothie with raw veggies and dip for lunch. And when I tire of these, I mix it up and try something different. Don’t be afraid to do the same!
Habit #2: Carve out One Hour to Prep Your Committed Meals
I wish I could tell you that a healthy lifestyle requires no preparation, but the truth is you will have to spend some time in the kitchen. If your goal is important enough, I am confident you will find the time.
I dedicate one hour on a Saturday or Sunday to do some light meal prep of my committed meals. During this time, I:
- Mix up a big batch of Pumpkin Chia Seed Pudding and break it down into small jars. (Time Commitment: 10 minutes)
- Clean and slice raw vegetables and store in large jars. I like a combination of 4-5 of any of these veggies: celery, zucchini squash, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, watermelon radish, jicama, bell pepper slices, broccoli, cauliflower or carrots. (Time Commitment: 20 minutes)
- Make smoothie packs filled with greens, berries, beets, avocado slices, chopped turmeric and lemon slices. When I’m ready for lunch I dump the contents into my blender with about 12 ounces of Heinen’s unsweetened almond milk. I also like to add a scoop of Garden of Life Raw vanilla protein powder and blend until smooth! (Time Commitment: 20 minutes)
Chia pudding and smoothies may not ring your appetite bell, and that’s OK! Find what works for you and make a habit out of meal prepping the components for those meals. For meal inspiration, search the many Fx-approved recipes curated just for you.
Habit #3: Keep a List of Staple Items to Purchase on Your Weekly Grocery Trip
It’s hard to prepare a healthy meal when your kitchen is lacking nutritious food. Set yourself up for success with a staple grocery list that you fulfill each week.
My list contains all the ingredients for my committed meals and additional items like
- Broccoli sprouts for my salads
- Actual Veggies plant-based burgers and Wild Planet mackerel for a quick dinner protein
- Heinen’s pasture-raised eggs for “breakfast for dinner”
- Quantum nutrition bars for a quick snack or meal replacement
- Hu dark chocolate bar to quiet my sweet tooth
Habit #4: Rest When it’s Time to Rest and not a Moment Later
It’s important to know your triggers. What causes you to fall off track? Maybe you’re like me and many others who become vulnerable to unhealthy snacking when we get overly tired. We weren’t meant to sit in a chair all day staring at a screen, so if you have a desk job, it’s important to take small breaks throughout the day to step away and rest your brain. And of course, at the end of the day when you’ve had enough, know that the responsible thing to do is put yourself to bed. The dishes, the pile of laundry and that last email—they’ll all still be there tomorrow!
When you have a really good reason to eat like your life depends on it, the excuse of being “too busy” drops from your vocabulary like a hot potato and you find the time to prepare healthy meals. And if you think about it, what you choose to put into your body absolutely impacts the quality of your life on a physical, mental and emotional level. So yes, your life does depend on it.
We all have 1440 minutes granted to us on any given day, yet it’s how we choose to spend those minutes that can make the difference between building healthy habits and accomplishing your goals or staying the same and achieving the same results.
PS: I am pleased to share that I am one year free of my original health diagnosis, and I intend the keep it that way.