Who doesn’t like New Year Resolutions? Or maybe I should say who likes them? I have never been a fan of them personally. Like everyone, I have some friends who are pretty vocal about all the great things they are going to do in the New Year. They start advertising it a week or two before the 31st, and then go on about it every day for a month or so. Then the ‘fever’ gradually dwindles down, and it’s like ‘what New Year resolution’.
In a perfect world, we would never over indulge, would eat all our food groups, exercise every day and help our neighbors rather than envy them. But Life, it ain’t that easy, or perfect! So we all have our quirks and habits that make us unique, and that are sometimes ‘bad habits’ in the eyes of others. Once or twice a year, we wow to let go of some less attractive aspect of our personality, with very little success (at least in my case).
As I get closer to the hill, along with a lot of my 70s born friends, it’s a no brainer that our calendar makes space for good health – or activities undertaken to preserve it! You don’t miss someone until you lose them. The same thing can be said of good health. Without being any more pedantic, let me unveil ‘The Plan’ to hold on to that good health in 2013.
This is not a weight loss plan. Actually, since I am not a nutritionist or health professional this is not any kind of plan at all and should not be viewed as medical advice. But if you take it in a playful spirit, you can make small changes to your diet for a month. It is easier to take small steps rather than do a lot at once. And it is also easier when you’re doing it for a short time frame.
Now you can pile these on for maximum benefit, tho’ that might sound tough. Or you can mix and match, and keep doing a few things. Even if you just follow the theme for the month, I am sure you will end up eating a lot of nutrient rich food and will minimize your junk food intake to some extent.
So here goes. I am eager to see what every one thinks about this.
The 12 Steps to a Healthier 2013
Eat a fiber rich low GI fruit a day, such as an apple, orange or pear. GI is the glycemic index of food. The lower the number, the more time your body needs to break down and digest the food, stabilizing your blood sugar.
Can you eat other fruits like bananas or grapes? Yes you can. Bananas are generally supposed to cause weight gain, and I think many people frown on them. If you ask me, it’s a matter of trade-offs. If you have to choose between an apple and a banana, go for the apple. But if you’re choosing between a banana and a donut or a pack of cookies, go for the banana any time!
Since this can be quite difficult, I am choosing the shortest month for this. For vegetarians, this is a bit simpler. Although it is not easy to give up dairy and dairy products. Those of you in the US, UK, Australia etc. might find this easier to do – with the whole range of soy milks, nut milks, frozen substitute products available. But don’t go overboard on those OSoy ice creams or the Rice Divine! It is easy to eat high calorie food even on a vegan diet.
If you’re a carnivore, this might be more difficult for you. But it is still worth a try. One month on this might have you feeling lighter and healthful. If you manage to ditch the caffeine along with this, you will get even better results.
Stop eating 3 hours before going to bed.
The only thing you can consume is water. Ok, so if 3 hours sounds too much, try 2 hours. But do it every day for a month. Going to sleep on a lighter stomach will help you sleep soundly and minimize any digestive upsets caused by over eating.
If you’re a nighttime binger, or late night TV watcher like I am, this will work wonders for you. And since midnight snacks usually mean ice cream, you’re saving a lot of calories this way.
Stop eating white sugar or sugar substitutes or anything made with corn syrup (HFCS).
Spring arrives and so does the need to wear lighter clothes. As you shed that extra winter coat, wouldn’t it be great to shed a layer or two of your body along with it?
Check the food labels and the ingredients. If sugar features in any form ( glucose, fructose etc.) among the first 3 or 4 substances, this is predominantly a sweet and not allowed. This will rule out most processed foods, cookies, cakes, pastries, desserts etc.
But you can do it for one month. If you have to, eat something sweetened with honey or agave nectar.
Drink at least 8 glasses of water every day. If you already drink those, drink 12 glasses.
Summer’s almost here. In some parts of India, May is a very hot month. Your body gets dehydrated sooner. Say no to Kool Aids and Rasnas and fill up on water – that natural drink God provided us.
Increase your intake gradually. You might experience some water retention initially, but that will pass soon.
Replace one meal with raw salad.
June is quite hot. No one wants to go near the stove in the heat, making this the perfect month to indulge in salads. Lettuce and greens are abundant, so are berries in the northern hemisphere.
Eating salad is easy enough because there is a salad bar in almost every cafeteria. Cici’s pizza has a salad bar too, and so does Jason’s Deli. Cheesecake Factory has HUGE salads, and so does Olive Garden! I think you get the point. So eating out is a breeze this month.
It is as easy to make salads at home. You can use any greens, micro greens, lettuce, spinach etc. Make hearty salads with beans or tofu. Make oil free dressings beforehand. Check out my Corn and Peas Salad for a fresh summer feel, or this Texas Caviar for an any time meal.
Have a smoothie for breakfast.
The heat is on! You can easily manage a cool breakfast. In fact, if you’re like me, you’ll actually crave one. July is a great time for smoothies – those frozen bits of heaven!
Use fresh bananas, berries, juice, yogurt and protein powders. Add any supplement you want. Chip in some romaine or kale. This can be as nutritious as you make it.
And the best part – it travels well. So transfer to a travel mug and you can sip it on your way to work.
Your task this month is to eat 6 meals every day.
It is time to eat, and eat well. By now you’re half way through. You must have realized what wonders are possible when you fuel your body right. You can control the portions so that you are able to eat 6 meals.
Eat 3 meals and 3 low calorie snacks. Snacks doesn’t mean chips. Eat raw veggies, fruits, nuts, granola etc. For your main meals, you can use ideas from some of the themes we tried before. Smoothies for breakfast, salad for lunch and then a nice dinner without going overboard.
Keep eating those snacks so that you’re never too hungry.
Eating more number of smaller meals turns your body into a fat burning machine, because it increases your metabolism. Add some light exercise and you have an explosive combination.
Say no to processed food.
September is great because there are still lots of fresh summer veggies available in some parts, plus it starts to get chilly.
Gradually move toward soups and stews. Do not eat processed products such as bread, baked goods, tortillas etc. Yes, even those made with whole grains.
Eat more actual whole grains instead like barley, bulgur or dalia, brown rice etc. You will feel full sooner. Whole food is packed with fiber and is lower in calorie than bread, pasta etc. And it is also generally lower in GI than things made from flour.
Eat 5 servings of vegetables and 2 fruits every day.
The challenge with all these themes is to do them every day without fail for the whole month. So although you might eat these many veggies and fruits once in a while, or a few days a week, doing it every single day will make a difference.
I say servings but you can consider that as 5 cups :). Once you have finished eating these, spread out over the course of meals and snacks, you can eat anything you want.
As you follow our monthly themes, you will notice something very surprising. Not only won’t you have much of an appetite left to raid the cookie jar, you probably won’t want to!
Eat one zero oil meal every day.
This is not hard. Check out my zero oil recipes such as Chana Masala.
Once you learn the magic of the water saute’, you can make any kind of food without oil or butter. This will save you a few hundred calories automatically. You can occasionally use skim milk or nuts for creamy sauces.
Since we are only doing this for one meal in the day, it is not a big change to adjust to. Gradually, you will like the taste of zero oil food so much that you might not want to slather oil on everything you eat.
So we’re up to December already. I hope you have enjoyed our little experiment until now. And you can pretty much mix and match now. You might be having a breakfast smoothie, eating salad for lunch, fruit for your snacks and a nice hearty lentil soup or stew for dinner. The task for December is very simple.
December means holidays and most of us are running around shopping and preparing for some big event. So all I am asking you to do this month is eat something that will fortify you.
Make a powder of flax seeds, methi or fenugreek seeds and cinnamon and eat a spoonful every morning – either as topping on your cereal and milk, in your smoothie, or just pop in your mouth and drink a glass of water.
Cinnamon will help control your blood sugar, flax seeds will give you the necessary omega three fats and the methi seeds will strengthen your joints and your spine, and yes, also help controlling your blood sugar.
And there you have it!
Whew! Are you excited reading about this? And do you think it is doable because we’re doing it in small doses? Once you stick to a theme for a month, you can avoid being swayed by any random article you read in a magazine or newspaper. Because you will know what your plan is for that month.
So go ahead! Just follow one thing for the month, or keep doing some things forever. We can take stock next year, or do a monthly check-in.