The journey to lifelong health starts with but one small step – and then one leads to another. A positive change here, an unhealthy habit dropped there, and before you know it, you're travelling down a healthier path.
That's how it should be. Radical overhaul is overwhelming, but small, simple changes are oh-so doable. These are a few of our favorite ways to ease into health. Start with one. When you see what a big impact a humble change can make, you might be ready to tackle the whole list. After all, it's the little things, right?
Before you think about what to take away from your diet, first consider what to add: minimally processed greens and colorful veggies to every meal – and eat those first. As your body fills up on these nutrient-rich foods, you'll have less room for the other stuff.
Tip: Choose foods that are high on the ANDI scale (that's Aggregate Nutrient Density Index) to get the most added nutrition.
Does it come in a package? Then chances are, that food has been refined and processed, which, unfortunately results in nutrient loss. Concentrate on whole foods in their natural forms, such as fruits and vegetables. If it looks like it did when it grew from the earth, that's your cue that it's a healthier choice.
Tip: Look to our Four Pillars of Healthy Eating for tips on how to build a plant-strong diet.
Begin to switch out white flour (and foods made with it) for whole grains. Instead of reaching for regular pasta, try a whole-wheat variety instead (look for "100 percent whole," "whole durum wheat" or "whole semolina" on the package). Baking? Use whole wheat, spelt or buckwheat flour – and throw in a handful of millet for added texture. Whole flours are higher in good-for-you fiber, minerals (like magnesium) and B vitamins than their refined cousins. Can't eat wheat? No worries: There are plenty of wheat-free options, from brown-rice or quinoa pasta to oat, teff or chickpea flours.
Tip: Learn more about pasta history and how to cook it perfectly.
Don't stop with the flour and pasta. Stage a white out for other grains, too. (So long, white rice!) Replace with one of the myriad whole grains, which also happen to be healthier. Check out our bulk bins and experiment with a new whole grain each week. There's so much variety, from amaranth to wild rice.
Tip: Get recipes and ideas for using whole grains at every meal in our Whole Grain Guide.
Believe it or not, you don't need added oils to make the foods you love. You can steam-sauté those greens and replace the oil in those muffins with applesauce. Then get the healthy fats you need from the most nutritious sources: avocados, nuts and seeds.
Tip: Learn how to sauté with steam plus other techniques for cooking without oil.
Whether you already follow a vegetarian or vegan diet or are simply looking for ways to eat better, studies show that well balanced plant-based diets are among the healthiest ways to eat. Cutting meat from your diet even one day a week has significant benefits for both you and the planet.
Tip: Learn more about getting all the nutrients you need on a vegetarian diet.
Studies show that Americans eat far more sugar than they need – over 22 teaspoons per day, or about 130 pounds a year! Many foods, such as grains, fruit, and milk, have naturally occurring sugars, so start to strike those foods that have sugar added, especially if they're highly refined, like white sugar and high-fructose corn syrup. If you need to sweeten, opt for less refined sources of sweet, such as raw honey or date paste.
Tip: Get the skinny on alternatives to refined sugars, plus tips on how to substitute them in recipes. Sweet!