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8 Simple Health Hacks for Your Family


Article by Jami Nato

Photography by Getty Images

For a while in my early 30's, I was on a sugar binge. I would start the day with a baked good, feel a slump in the afternoon and grab some chocolate and crash hard in the late afternoon with no energy for the evenings-- so of course I would chug a diet soda. Surprisingly , that wasn't helpful for sleep either! I sent myself into a not-so-pleasant autoimmune response and had huge eye bags, painful adult acne, and mood swings for days.

I got so tired of myself feeling miserable, I decided to give up sugar--And It was pretty tough (I don't pretend to make any lifestyle makeover choices over-simple). But if there is one thing I am really thankful for, it was saying goodbye to constant sugar intake throughout the day. My autoimmune issues subsided little by little, Acne cleared, and energy was boosted. I don't necessarily care for the talk surrounding weight loss but some of that happened too--although feeling better in my skin was the best part of the deal!

Although I'm not a doctor, I will share with you what I did, and maybe it will help you dig out of some of the bad habits too. Remember to give yourself a lot of grace and space, there will be ups and downs, and you will be met with resistance as soon as you decide to take on a new healthier habit. Once you know that, you'll be prepared to do small things every day to produce big results over the long term.

1. The first thing you need to know:

Taking something out of your diet will produce better results than adding something in. We always want the latest and greatest herb, pill, or easy button to get us to where we want to be. It just isn't going to outwork good ol' self discipline and deduction. I know, it's not what you want to hear--but it is the truth. I promise taking out the bad stuff will really change things for the better!

2. Set yourself up for success with a little prepping.

For me, I knew it wasn't working for me to eat a baked good first thing in the morning. If I was hungry, I needed to eat something nutrient rich. I would think, "How many nutrients can I get in this one meal?" Eggs with spinach and onions were a great filler. I learned to prep the veggies in little baggies and throw in the freezer for easier access. Prepping really does help to give better options when you're hangry or busy. If I have a salad prepped, I will eat that over leftover pizza staring at me when I open the fridge.

3. Train yourself, little by little, to inch away from eating first thing upon waking.

It's called intermittent fasting and it lets your gut have a nice rest. As I dug deeper into gut health, I learned that breakfast was a marketing tool to get us to eat highly processed cereal, a new Carb-loaded product on the market in the 1950's. But, If you look at our ancestors , breakfast food wouldn't have been available first thing in the morning if you had to go hunt it, search for it, cook it, etc. Our guts are overloaded with all the eating we're doing. SO consider shortening that digesting window. Some studies have shown that even when people eat an equivalent number of calories, but consume them within a shorter time frame, they get leaner and their brain functions better. *Something to consider if you don't deal with an eating disorder or have other health issues.

4. A great thing to add into your diet, as opposed to subtracting, would be more water.

Water is great for so many functions of the body, but If you're not properly hydrated, your brain just can't function properly, you make less good decisions, and you're tired all the time. Your kidneys and liver function are slowed, and you can't get rid of waste and toxins. No wonder my skin looked terrible while I was downing my Diet soda's. For me, I like to drink half my body weight in water (in ounces) daily. If you're 130lbs, drink 65 ounces in water... and make sure you have access to a bathroom wherever you go!

5. Sneak in the veggies wherever you can.

For instance, Last night, I used the food processor to dice mushrooms and added to the ground beef in our spaghetti. You can't even taste it or decipher it from ground beef! I also substitute veggie broth to any savory thing that calls for milk orI puree some of the veggies in soups so my children don't complain about "chunks". I used to love that cookbook called "Deceptively Delicious" when my children were small--tons of great health hacks in there. Again, this goes back to my second point, Have the mindset of How many nutrients can I fit into this one meal.

6. Set out a muffin tin of acceptable snacks for you or for your family.

Why a muffin tin? I have no clue, but it sure makes it tidy and a lot more fun. In each section, I will add items like carrots, nuts, hummus, guacamole, berries, sliced apples, almond crackers--the options are endless. When I start hearing, "I'm hungry!" I say, "You're welcome to eat anything from the snack tray until dinner." It helps me snack healthier, and them too.

7. Sometimes you have underlying health issues like thyroid or food sensitivities that are making you miserable.

There are so many helpful in-home test kits that can help: I have had a really good experience using Everlywell . These simply help you to know your base level issues. There's nothing more defeating than eating well and still feeling miserable, so always peel the onion back more and more. Maybe there's something else going on! Consult your doctor or naturopath.

8. Don't be afraid to have treats.

Saying no to everything feels unsustainable and depressing. We try and have 80% of our food made up of good choices while the other 20% is stuff I don't sweat about. Although I do have some favorite healthy treat alternatives we buy pretty regularly , all tested and approved by Yours Truly:

With a few small changes, I really believe you can feel good again. And if you're feeling overwhelmed, just pick one thing to move forward with. You don't have to do all the things all at once. You didn't create bad habits in one day, and you probably won't stop them in one day. So remember to keep making small strides every day, teaching yourself to be consistent with something small. Then you can move on to the next and the next good change.

You CAN change!