January is always a great time to think about making healthy changes to start the new year.
Oftentimes, we think that we have to make huge changes in order for it to make a difference, but even the smallest steps in the right direction can benefit your overall health!
Whenever it comes to making healthy changes, I always recommend taking things slow by making one change a week.
It’s okay if you have an “off” day or slip up on the way to a healthier lifestyle. The best decision you can make is the next decision. It’s never too late and you’re never too far gone!
12 Healthy Changes to Start the New Year:
1. Eat at least one tablespoon of fermented vegetables each day. This includes foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, traditional pickles, kefir, yogurt, kombucha, miso, traditionally fermented sourdough and more.
Fermented foods help deliver tons of good bacteria to your gut. They are great sources of healthy probiotics and enzymes. Fermentation also helps increase the vitamin C, vitamin B, and mineral content in foods.
A word of caution – steer clear of kombuchas that contain lots of added sugars and from purchase “fermented” foods with vinegar. If vinegar is in the ingredients, then it has not been traditionally fermented and you will lose out on the good benefits listed above.
Making your own fermented foods is actually very easy, and I have some wonderful recipes on my site to help get you started.
If you don’t want to make your own fermented foods, store-bought brands like Farmhouse Culture or Wildbrine are good options.
2. Switch out your processed salt (Morton’s, etc.) for unprocessed sea salt (such as Celtic Sea Salt). While salt can be a controversial topic, we know sodium plays a crucial role in optimal health.
There is now evidence to believe too little salt intake can be detrimental for health.
Unfortunately, table salt is a highly processed food, lacking in natural minerals. It’s also bleached, made from GMO corn, and contains anti-caking ingredients.
Making the switch to unrefined Celtic sea salt or Himalayan salt means you get the benefits of enhanced flavor along with the trace minerals contained in those salts. In fact, Celtic sea salt contains up to over 80 different minerals!
Minerals are important for everything, from immune health to bone health to cell function. Also, if you’re concerned about not getting enough iodine in your diet if you avoid iodized salt, read this article. Don’t be afraid of using high quality, unrefined salt in your food!
3. Start eating some kind of healthy saturated fat daily, and get rid of processed vegetable oils.
Here’s a quick list of oils and fats to avoid: canola, peanut, corn, sunflower, safflower, margarine, shortening, and vegetable oils.
Here’s a quick list of oils and fats to include: butter, ghee, lard, tallow, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, palm unrefined avocado oil, and cold pressed walnut oil.
Processed vegetable oils are inflammatory to the body, whereas high quality animal fats and healthy saturated fats are an essential part of a traditional nutrient dense diet.
Healthy saturated fats have specific benefits for immunity, energy, intestinal health, and metabolic health. They also help form the foundation of cell membranes, increase beneficial HDL cholesterol, can improve hormone function, boost brain health, and much more!
Here’s an article explaining the various oils and fats I recommend for cooking and baking.
4. Get rid of air fresheners, candles, plugins, etc if they contain the ingredient “fragrance.” Replace them with high quality essential oils or natural beeswax candles.
Synthetic fragrances contain compounds that can disrupt the endocrine system and can be carcinogenic (cancer-causing).
More natural alternatives such as essential oils not only smell wonderful, but can be beneficial to health and mood as well. Get the good smell without the toxins!
Fontana scented candles are one of my favorite options for a healthier candle. (The lemon orange blossom and spiced latte are two of my favorites. Use my code CARRIE15 to save 15%)
5. Turn off your wifi at night.
Turning your wifi off at night is a simple way to drastically decrease your exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMFs).
EMFs, such as those from your wifi router, can pose a risk to your health. They can increase the risk of cancer and inflammation in the body.
Turning off your wifi at night is one of the easiest and most economical tools to reduce your daily EMF exposure. Plug your WiFi router into one of these outlet switches and at the end of the day, turn off everything plugged into that outlet.
Leave the remote for the outlet switch on your nightstand. You truly can benefit your health by the simple press of a button…from your own bed!
6. Pick your favorite fruit or vegetable that you consume often, and switch it to organic. Almost 70% of non-organic produce sold in our country has pesticide residues. And, over 90% of samples including things like strawberries, apples and leafy greens have tested positive for residues of two or more pesticides.
Pesticides are harmful chemicals that affect the thyroid by disrupting normal hormone function, and they have been linked to higher risk for hormone-related cancers, such as breast, thyroid, and ovarian cancer.
Switching your most-often consumed fruits or vegetables to organic is an easy way to reduce the ingestion of harmful chemicals, and thus, your overall toxic load.
Further, consider always buying organic when it comes to the Dirty Dozen. These are the dozen fruits and vegetables that have tested as having the highest amount of pesticide and chemical residue.
7. Eat slowly and in a relaxed state. When you eat stressed or in a hurry, your saliva and stomach acid secretions decrease. This means that your food won’t be digested as well. This causes issues downstream in your gallbladder, liver, pancreas, intestines, metabolism, etc.
Never eat your meals standing up or while multitasking (like while driving or walking).
Slow down, sit down, and chew, chew, chew! If you’re stressed or in a hurry, make an effort to breathe deeply before eating.
I wrote an entire article on the importance of eating while in a slow and relaxed state.
You may have to retrain your hurried eating habits, but once you do, you’ll be amazed at the improvement in your digestion by simply slowing down.
8. Change your laundry detergent and softener. Most detergents and fabric softeners contain synthetics and endocrine disrupters. These chemicals can disrupt hormone function and gut integrity, which can lead to gut permeability and chemical sensitivity.
There are thousands of chemicals allowed in conventional detergents, many of which are linked to respiratory issues, learning disabilities and cancer.
It’s also important to realize that if you struggle with autoimmune disease, using products with harmful chemicals can burden the liver. The liver is our primary detox organ, and if it is overloaded, the body will have a difficult time getting rid of toxins.
“When the detoxification pathways that line the gut are compromised, chemical sensitivity can arise. Furthermore, the leakage of toxins overburdens the liver so that the body is less to handle everyday chemicals in foods, water and air.” (source)
Also, don’t be fooled by products marketed as “green” or “clean.” Sadly, even many of these types of products contain potentially unsafe ingredients. They are unregulated labels.
So what are some safe alternatives?
I use Molly’s Suds for detergent, and wool dryer balls and essential oils for softener.
9. Find healthier alternative recipes for your favorite “junk” foods or treats.
It’s easy to think that “healthifying” our diet means having no more fun with food. Thankfully, that’s not at all true! It is easier than ever to have access to healthier alternatives to your favorite foods.
Everything from pizza and wings to cake and ice cream can be eaten. It just means we need to find recipes with wholesome ingredients to re-make and upgrade our favorite foods.
What are your favorites? Find a healthy re-make and get cooking!
My site is brimming with recipes to get you started: chocolate cake, pizza, queso, thin mints, Mongolian beef, chicken wings, enchiladas and more…
10. Clean up your salad dressings. Most salad dressings contain a load of excess sugars, unhealthy oils, artificial ingredients, as well as gums and thickeners. Talk about a recipe for a health disaster!
These unhealthy ingredients can cause inflammation or gut issues, so it’s best to avoid them.
Thankfully, there are easy alternatives to the unhealthy salad dressings we find lining our supermarkets.
Here’s an article about making the switch to healthier salad dressings.
You might be amazed at how easy it is to make your own nutritious, wholesome, and absolutely delicious dressing in a matter of minutes. I have so many recipes on my site.
If you would like to purchase store-bought salad dressings, Primal Kitchen makes delicious dressings with high-quality ingredients.
11. Clean up your coffee and help balance your stress hormones. Switch to Swiss water organic decaf coffee. Too much caffeine can affect cortisol levels, hormones, thyroid function, and more. It can wreak havoc on your adrenals, which is not a good way to start the day.
Further, conventional coffee can be laden with pesticides, mold, and other toxins.
Thankfully, you don’t have to ditch your morning cup of Joe altogether (although you might want to think about it!).
Most organic brands will make a swiss water decaf coffee. This is a superior choice, and it will state this on the label. Bulletproof, Trader Joe’s, Purity Coffee and 365 are a few brands that have quality decaf coffee.
12. Choose a healthier option for your coffee creamer.
I know, the flavored coffee creamers can be so enticing and fun! But the bad news is they are loaded with artificial colors, corn syrup, synthetic ingredients, sugars, and artificial flavors.
These are not ingredients we want to put into our bodies, and certainly not everyday, first thing in the morning!
It’s easy and quick to make your own coffee creamer. I have delicious recipes on my website for homemade coffee creamer, homemade dairy free coffee creamer, and homemade caramel and honey vanilla creamer.
If you like cream in your coffee, but not any other flavors, I recommend using raw cream, half and half, or milk.
If possible, find these products from a high quality source. You can search for raw milk here.
If you’re unable to source raw milk nearby, organic and pasteurized but non-homogenized is next best. You can often find this type of dairy product at your local health foods store.
Start your day a better way!