We all know we need to be healthier — the problem is how. It’s not easy to give up unhealthy foods, habits and lifestyles, but spring is all about change, so it’s the perfect time to get our butts in gear and start making those nutritious changes that our bodies are desperately craving. Getting healthy is not always easy and one of the biggest setbacks we face is simply getting started. Here are the top 10 hacks to bring about a more vital, energetic and healthier you.

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Photo credit: Thinkstock

1. Make Dandelions, Not Coffee
Drinking coffee is a major addiction for many people today. Although coffee contains antioxidants, it also is a diuretic that removes waste out of the body faster than it should. This means that certain nutrients can be lost from the body before they’re properly assimilated. It can also be quite dehydrating, and can create mood swings and severe cravings for sugar. Anyone suffering from Candida, thyroid problems or adrenal fatigue will definitely want to lay off the coffee. There are many substitutes that use dandelion root and chicory root to create that coffee-like texture, taste and smell. Dandelion root is a liver cleanser and tonic, so it actually has the opposite affects of coffee: rather than stressing the body out, it detoxifies and nourishes.

Make dandelion root coffee at home, or head over to your local health food store to pick up the perfect coffee substitute. Be sure to read the ingredients first!

Handy Dandy “Coffee”

Ingredients:
4 tablespoons ground dandelion root, roasted
4 cups of water
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions:
1. In a pot over the stove, add the water, dandelion root and cinnamon. Bring to a boil and reduce heat for 5 minutes.
2. Pour the Handy Dandy “Coffee” through a strainer to remove any chunky parts and enjoy!

2. Just Say No to Supersize
One of the biggest problems with our eating culture today is portion size. When it comes to lunch or dinner, many of us take our big plates and fill them up to the brim with grub. We then expect ourselves to eat all of the food and wonder why we feel so bloated, gassy and stuffed afterwards. Many of us are no longer aware of our full signals — we simply rely on feeling bloated instead of feeling satisfied and satiated.

One of the best places to start making changes is with the size and portions of our meals. We can start doing this by simply using smaller plates. Simple concept — I know! The smaller the plate, the less food will be eaten. If hunger still persists, wait a few minutes and then go back for seconds. Often times, we won’t even need to.

3. Gratitude is the Attitude
Not only are we eating too much, but we’re also eating too fast! Many of us eat totally unconsciously and don’t realize the amount of food that’s going into our mouths. Some of us are completely distracted while we eat — whether we’re in a meeting, on-the-go or watching TV. Not only are we eating too much, but we’re barely chewing and therefore barely breaking down our food and absorbing important nutrients.

One of the best ways to slow down is to think of gratitude. Many religious people will say a prayer before they eat, so saying a little piece of gratitude before we eat can slow down the body and present the mind. Being mindful while eating means we can become conscious of what we’re eating, how much we’re eating, how fast we’re eating and when we’re actually full. The gratitude piece can be about thanking the body, the land, the farmers, the chefs, the grocery store or whatever comes to mind.

4. Become a Techie
Technology today plays a major role in promoting health. There are tons of apps out there that help track calories, grams of protein, pesticides and can even tell which types of seafood are safe to eat. Apps like Fooducate, Seafood Watch, Dirty Dozen and Eat Slower can all help on your healthy eating journey. Social media outlets like Instagram, Twitter and Facebook can be used for accountability to keep aligned with health goals. Websites like foodnetwork.ca can provide lots of recipes and inspiration for planning a healthy eating week.

5. Dinner = Lunch…the Next Day
Time is precious and when it comes to the morning, most of us are rushing around trying to get ourselves out the door. There’s barely enough time to eat breakfast let alone make an entire lunch to eat that day. When we’re left without a lunch we either a) starve b) eat easy, fast, fatty food or c) drink more coffee. We need lunch to refuel the brain and the body as it’s hard to continue on with the day without proper nourishment supporting the body’s blood sugar. The best way to eat a healthy lunch is to pack it the night before. So take leftovers from dinner and pack it up for lunch the next day. Trust me, it makes a huge difference.

6. Routines are for Queens (and Kings)
Routines provide structure and structure provides sanity. People say it’s so much easier to eat healthy when they’re following a routine. Set guidelines within the routine: for example, grocery shopping, prepping and cooking should all be scheduled in. Use a smartphone and set reminders. Make Saturday the shopping day and Sunday the cooking day. Having designated days and times will help you create the routine needed to feel healthy.

7. Know Your Schedule
It’s important to know what the week looks like ahead of time. Imagine our schedules are littered with lunch meetings and late nights out, and none of these meals are planned. Knowing our schedule helps to plan for these kinds of obstacles that often interrupt meal times. Know a meeting is coming up at noon? Bring a lunch or snacks from home and eat it before the meeting. Posting a weekly schedule on the fridge encourages planning, so do it!

Another important point is to “eat before eating.” Many of us tend to starve ourselves until the event, dinner party, meeting, etc. and by the time we get to the event we are ravenous, angry and irritable. Not to mention we stuff our faces with anything in sight. Eat before eating means just grabbing a little snack to keep blood sugar balanced so we’re not starving by the time we get there. Start to pay attention to hunger and body signals so eating occurs before big blood sugar crashes.

8. Become a Stocker
How can we possibly make dinner without any ingredients? Having a stocked fridge is truly the key to health. When ingredients are on hand it makes creating meals so much easier. If the ingredients aren’t there, the meals most likely won’t get made. It’s always a good idea to stock the fridge with staples so if we need to rush out the door, we can at least grab snacks and a hearty meal before leaving. Set up your fridge like a salad bar: keep cooked quinoa, canned chickpeas, chopped veggies, baby spinach or kale, and cooked chicken in containers in the fridge. With this all prepped and ready to go, putting together a quick hearty salad bowl is easy.

9. Drink Up, Buttercup
One of the keys to becoming healthier is to stay hydrated. Drinking water helps to keep the blood healthy and allows oxygen to properly flow throughout the body. Water promotes cardiovascular health by impacting blood volume and it hydrates muscles and joints. Ever hear clicking when walking up the stairs or bending down? Joints need lubrication too, so drink more water! It’s important to stay hydrated with water and not other beverages since they can either be dehydrating or can negatively impact blood sugar. The best way to drink water is to carry a water bottle around all day. Set goals like, “I need to drink the whole water bottle by noon and then drink it again by 4pm.” Stay accountable with a co-worker, a loved one, or use social media to post goals for drinking enough water daily.

10. Veggies = 1/2 the Plate
Vegetables are medicine. They contain chemicals that fight colds, prevent cancer, ease arthritis, reduce pain, clear skin, increase blood flow and improve weight. We clearly need to eat our vegetables and an easy way to do this is to make half the plate overflow with veggie goodness. The other half should be made up of protein, complex carbs and/or healthy fats. Since we all know we eat what’s in front of us, having vegetables be the star of the show probably means they will actually get eaten. Need delicious veggie recipes?

tamara-green-living-kitchen Tamara Green is co-founder of The Living Kitchen, and a Holistic Nutritionist and Natural Cook. She combines her knowledge of nutrition and passion for cooking good food to work with clients to create lasting changes in their lives.