It’s a new year. And we all know what that means! Everyone is either trying to get healthier or lose weight. There’s nothing terribly wrong with either one of those goals, but, for most people, those goals are just way too broad to really know what to do about them and make real progress. That’s why below I’ll be sharing 7 things you can do this year to make healthy eating (or even weight loss) a little bit easier.
A year ago I set a goal to try one new vegetable each month with my family. It was really more like a habit than a goal. I wanted to make it a habit to eat in season, and the ultimate goal, then, would be to eat a healthier diet.
If you are unfamiliar with the goal I set, you can read all about it HERE, or you can get the gist from these quotes from some of my monthly produce challenge posts:
Each month I will introduce the veggie (I have decided not to do fruits for my own family since we have no problem eating those each day) and then you get one month to try and incorporate that veggie into your meals at least 1-4 times. My ultimate goal is once per week and I want to try the veggie in different ways to see if we like it one way better than another.
…Essentially, the point of this challenge is to become better at giving our families a variety of fruits and vegetables. Sometimes I think we get stuck eating the same foods over and over, but our bodies crave a variety of foods for optimal health.
Other reasons to do this challenge are to eat in season and to discover new ways to enjoy foods that we might normally shy away from.
The Monthly Produce Challenge was a big success for our family
The monthly produce challenge (which I called it) may have been the first time that I truly stuck with a year long goal. And there are some big reasons for that, as you’ll learn about below. There were many times, though, I wanted to give up. It wasn’t “hard,” per se, but life just got busy and I felt like I didn’t have time to add one more thing to my plate.
Perhaps you also feel that way a couple weeks after you set new goals or write down New Year’s resolutions. Life is busy. Adding one more thing to your already busy schedule can feel daunting and like it just won’t work.
Which is why I’m a big advocate for working on one new habit at a time.
7 Things You Can Do to Make Healthy Eating Easier This Year
After completing the monthly produce challenge, I realized I could share my experience to help you, especially if healthy eating is a goal of yours this year. A lot of these tips can aid you with weight loss as well.
1. Choose a habit that is easy
Did you notice I told you to choose a habit, not a goal or resolution? If you are just starting your journey into healthy eating, do not go big. Yeah, some people can handle it and do an awesome job. But the rest of us probably should take it one small baby step at a time. Habits feel doable while year-long goals and resolutions seem out of reach.
The monthly produce challenge was soooo easy, friend. It was basic: Try one new vegetable each month, at least once. If I had made it complicated, like ‘make sure we are trying one new vegetable each week‘ and ‘that vegetable needs to be in at least 3 meals for the week‘, do you think I would have made it past the second week? I’m guessing a big fat NO!
A good (beginning) habit won’t take much of your time, thought, or effort. Make it part of your current routine somehow and it will eventually become a habit for you. For example, instead of trying to drink 8 glasses of water each day, you could decide that each time you go to the bathroom you will drink 1 cup of water afterwards. If you currently don’t do any exercise, but want to start, avoid trying to run every morning for 30 minutes. That might be doable for some, but for the rest of us, a better habit would be to take a 5 minute walk after work.
2. Focus on just one thing
It’s so tempting to try doing everything all at once because you feel so motivated and alive right now. But, if your resolutions from years’ past can attest, you probably are biting off way more than you can chew when you start making goals for every single area of your life.
Refine your habit so it’s super specific. “Get healthy” is often a goal people try to reach for, but there are pretty much a gajillion things you could do to get healthy. Those bajillion things are all the habits of a healthy lifestyle. Choose one habit and stick to doing it until you either master it or decide that it’s not for you. Move onto another habit when you feel like you’ve got a good handle on the first habit.
The greatest thing about the monthly produce challenge is that it focuses on just one new vegetable each month. You only have to make the current vegetable a priority. And that made it all the easier to get it in our diets. You don’t have to continue eating the previous month’s vegetables; it doesn’t require you to go walking and take a multivitamin and clear your pantry of sugar. It’s simply one thing you have to remember and you really only need to remember it once a month when you look at your meal plan.
3. Don’t worry about eating 100% healthy just yet
It would be great if you could just jump into a healthy eating lifestyle and stay there forever. But it really doesn’t work that way. You have to work your way up to it. There are so many good things you can do, and they are all important, but they are certainly not all urgent.
Pick just one thing (I sound like a broken record!) and nail it. It’s easier to add one thing at a time to your plate than everything all at once. The only reason I can think of to go all in with healthy eating is if you have a medical issue. Otherwise, take small bites at a time. When you try to do too much you end up failing and then quitting because it’s overwhelming.
I’ve been working at this healthy eating thing with my family for a number of years, and we are still nowhere near as healthy as I would like us to be. But I can tell you we are a lot healthier than we were just 3 years ago. I’ve only been trying one new thing at a time. We might not eat grass-fed beef, grow our own vegetables, or limit our sugar intake, but we’ll get there.
The monthly produce challenge doesn’t focus on overall health. It just pushes you to eat more veggies, which is a pretty big part of the health picture.
4. Find an accountability partner
A lot of people cannot easily change their lives on their own. They need someone to check in on them and be their cheerleader. If that’s you, ask a friend, a spouse, a relative, or a neighbor to text you or ask you how things are going every so often. It would be great if the person you ask is trying to do something similar to what you are, so you can be each other’s accountability partners. When you know someone is counting on you or will follow up with you to find out your progress, you will be more likely to follow through with action.
Fortunately, I have a blog with readers. When I put something on my blog, I know that it will get read and that some people may just email me if I am not following through with what I said I would do. That’s why the monthly produce challenge was easier for me than it would have been if I had tried doing it on my own. I need accountability for most habit changes I’m trying to make.
5. Do what is best for you, not what is popular
The healthy eating world is not immune to fads and trends. On the contrary, it is full of them. If you’ve been on Pinterest in the last year, you’ve probably noticed an explosion of “keto diet” pins. That’s because all the sudden it’s the new fad diet. You probably know at least a couple people who are doing this specific diet. Next year, it will probably be some other new diet. In my opinion, you should assess what you need to work on rather than follow the latest fad diet.
When I came up with the monthly produce challenge a year ago, I already knew it wouldn’t be that popular. Most people are not interested in adding vegetables to their diets because they don’t like them. They want health to be a little easier or tastier (actually, though, most vegetables are totally tasty as long as you prepare them how you like them). I could have done a sugar-free, gluten-free, or dairy-free challenge instead. All of those are popular. They really are great, but, if you notice, they are all challenges that take something away from your current diet. I wanted to add something to my diet that was missing. And that was definitely vegetables. So I may not have done a popular challenge, but I did what was good for myself and my family.
6. Make a plan of action
You’ve probably heard the quote “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” This is definitely the case with your new habit. Once you’ve written it down, take the time to figure out exactly what you are going to do to make it happen. Planning is absolutely crucial for success.
When I was doing the monthly produce challenge, if I hadn’t sat down at the end of the month and found recipes that included the next vegetable of the month and actually added them to my meal plan right then, I wouldn’t have done it. I even went as far as setting up my monthly meal plans for the entire year at once. On each month, I added, “(Vegetable of the month) recipes to try” near the top of the plan so when I got to a new month to meal plan, I had that visual cue to start looking for recipes.
Nothing would’ve happened if I had just thought, “I would love to add a new vegetable to our meals this month.” It’s so important to take the burden off your brain and let visual reminders do their job.
7. Ignore your family’s protests
You will not make it past the first week of a healthy eating change if you listen to all the complaints of your children and spouse. They are going to notice, if you haven’t told them already, that something is up, and they probably aren’t going to like it.
If I gave up when my family started complaining about the healthy food I was serving, I wouldn’t be writing this blog. You have to keep plugging along even if nobody wants to eat your healthy food.
However, you can make things easier by getting them involved. Ask them what kinds of fruits/veggies they like and ask them to help with making dinner. If they are part of the process, they will be more likely to eat and enjoy what is being served. It also doesn’t hurt to make sure your healthy meals are pretty tasty. 😉
I’ve decided that the monthly produce challenge will continue in my house. I won’t be doing blog posts about it, but we will still try one new vegetable each month. Because I am removing the accountability aspect, I am hoping I don’t slack off in a few months!
If you followed along last year and want to keep going as well, you can follow our schedule for the year if you’d like:
January – Spaghetti squash
February – Sweet potato
March – Beets
April – Green beans
May – Mushrooms
June – Peas
July – Rhubarb
August – Shallots
September – Bell Peppers/Sweet Peppers
October – Acorn Squash
November – Turnips
December – Brussels sprouts
Or, if you are looking for something easier, because you rarely eat vegetables in your house, here are some vegetables for each month you could try that are quite easy to add to your diet:
January – Potatoes
February – Celery
March – Carrots
April – Broccoli
May – Onions
June – Corn
July – Avocados
August – Tomatoes
September – Cucumbers
October – Pumpkin
November – Ginger
December – Cauliflower
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or a dietitian. Anything I share on this website is for informational purposes only. Please seek a medical professional if you need medical advice.
If you missed the challenge last year and want to give it a shot, here are links to all the posts:
Intro post – Want to Eat Better This Year? Join the Monthly Produce Challenge!
January – Parsnips
February – Cabbage
March – Collard Greens
April – Asparagus
May – Arugula
June – Green Onions
July – Radishes
August – Summer Squash
September – Eggplant
October – Butternut Squash
November – Leeks
December – Kale