When trying to implement nutrition changes, it can often be overwhelming to think of all the changes that need to be made and figure out what should be done first.
Choosing healthier, unpackaged food options requires more planning, so I’ve outlined below some of the most important steps to take in order of importance.
Nutrition Changes: Clean Up the Kitchen…
Having healthy foods on hand (and getting rid of the unhealthy ones!) will make the transition easier, as you won’t have to rely on willpower alone during the first few days when the adjustment can be tough.
Clean out your pantry and start choosing healthier options. For the most part, throw the unhealthy foods away, though there are some practical household uses for some products like flour, sugar, vegetable oil and oatmeal.
I’ve found it easier to just throw all the junk away at one time. This makes the transition easier in the long run, though perhaps a little tougher for the first few days. If your family is holding an armed rebellion at the idea of you throwing away their frozen waffles, cereal, and chips, a baby-step approach may be needed.
If you can only make the transition a few steps at a time, these are the foods I’d recommend removing (in this order):
- Wheat and other gluten containing grains– Especially for at least 30 days, it is important to remove grains completely (check condiments, sauces, etc… it’s in everything!) to see how your body responds to them. Many people have digestive or other issues with grains, but don’t notice until they remove them from their diet.
- Vegetable Oils– It was really a toss up between this and grains for the most important to remove. Vegetable oils are artificially created, often rancid, oxidize easily and are high in inflammatory Omega-6s. No one should be consuming them at all, but it is especially important to remove them if you are pregnant or have small children, as they need quality fats (coconut oil, butter, animal fats, olive oil, etc.) for proper brain and tissue development!
- Sugar- Another toss-up for number one, but this one is a no-brainer. There is no biological need for sugar, especially in the processed forms that exist today, and many health benefits to removing it. Sugar is toxic to the liver and can lead to a host of health problems, especially when it is over-consumed. At least during the wellness challenge (and hopefully forever)… get rid of the sugar!!
- Processed Meats- If possible, switch to organic, nitrate free versions of foods like bacon, lunch meats, sausage, etc. to avoid the nitrates and other additives.
- Non-Organic Meats– If possible, switch to organic meat options. Choose exclusively grass-fed beef if possible (check for local farmers in your area) or completely free-range poultry and eggs.
- Non-Organic Vegetables– When possible, choose organic vegetables, at least for the top 12 that are most likely to have high levels of pesticides. If you can’t buy only organic, just soak fruits and vegetables in vinegar water (1/2 cup per a sinkful) and use a natural fruit and vegetable wash to clean them and remove residue.
- Dairy- Some people will find they have to remove dairy completely, while others tolerate it pretty well. Either way, remove the processed, ultra-pasteurized versions and milk (unless raw and in moderation) and stick to raw cheeses, butter, and naturally fermented sour cream. You can make your own coconut milk to replace dairy milk in cooking or for drinking.
- Canned tomatoes- Almost all tomato products in metal cans have relatively high levels of BPA (except Muir Glen brand, according to some info I’ve seen) so it’s better to buy in jars or can your own, if you are able.
Restock with Quality
Once you’ve cleaned out your kitchen and are re-stocking it, stock your kitchen with nutrient-dense real foods like meats, vegetables, coconut oil and products, fruit, nuts, spices and homemade condiments.
For the most part, these are healthy foods that can be eaten freely:
- Beef (Preferably Grass-fed)
- Poultry (Preferably Free Range)
- Wild Game Meats
- Organ meats (Grass-fed only!)
- Nitrite Free Beef/Deer Jerky
- Pork (not necessary but ok)
- All eggs from any edible bird (free range when possible)
- Mahi Mahi
- Tuna (not albacore)
- Any wild caught fish from a sustainable source
(note: corn is not a vegetable! and white potatoes should be limited or removed also)
- Other Berries
- Other fruits in moderation
Nuts, Seeds, Oils and Fats
- Brazil Nuts
- Macadamia (and oil)
- Pumpkin Seeds
- Sunflower Seeds
- Coconut (Milk/Oil/Whole etc.)
- Avocado (and oil)
- Olives (and oil)
- Nut Butters (not peanut)
All Natural Herbs, Spices and Condiments
Drinks and Desserts
- Pure Water
- Sparkling water
- Herbal and Decaf teas
- Water Kefir
- Veggie Smoothies
- Homemade Desserts
Have a Plan
Whether you plan them yourself, or follow an existing plan, having a plan for what you will cook each night will help take a lot of the frustration out of switching to a new way of eating.
If you are new to this way of eating, stick with easy, fast (but still healthy) recipes for now.
It’s normal for newcomers to a real-food diet to feel sluggish and maybe even have a headache — this is normal while your body adjusts to the lack of simple sugars and carbohydrates. Read this post about how to avoid and overcome common stumbling blocks of a real-food diet.
What is the toughest change for you to make? Share below!