Baby Step #1 : The Old Switcheroo

Easing the progress of any change is the confidence that you can handle change.  You CAN handle the truth, right?  Unfortunately, for most of us, part of any change is remembering the times we failed to complete the intended change.  We all fail and we all sabotage future success by focusing, highlighting, dwelling on, gnawing over, and losing sleep over, our failures.  One reason the Sis sisters came up with our Baby Steps plan was to provide do-able changes that will not only reward you with the outcome of the change, but will provide you with a success.  And it doesn’t need to be a total smashing success, because food choices are not permanent.  We have many opportunities to get it right… everyday.

I took a class on parenting that offered some wonderful solutions to discipline that work best when delivered by a sane, rational adult who has had enough sleep.  Yeah, right…, I haven’t met many of those.  But the teacher left us with a profound message.  “If you do it this way more than 50% of the time, you are doing a great job as a parent.”  I found that to be very helpful and I think it is relevant here as well.  Parenting and eating are very similar in that we do them a lot, and have lots of tries to do it differently.  It is better to do the right thing some of the time than none of the time, and really great to do the right thing most of the time!

So enough chopping and dicing, let’s put the goods in the frying pan 😉

Baby Step #1: switch out some nasty thing from your diet and replace it with something healthier.  

One item. One switch.  As often as possible.

Here is a list of top 10 nasties, with suggested replacements.  If you eat nothing from this list, then you will have to fess up to that item that you know you should give up.  Now I’m not talking about the special treat you have at Christmas every year.  I’m talking about something that is a regular part of your life which has a poor impact on your health.

One last thing to consider before you choose is to consider the function of this item in your life.  Is this an item that provides energy (mocha latte, sugar)?, an item that provides comfort?, and item that is part of your routine?, an item of convenience?, a reward? because knowing that will help you successfully replace that item with something that fulfills the same function.

Here’s the Top Ten “Foods” to consider replacing (remember, the idea is to pick only one – no stars for over-achieving…)

1) Soda / sweetened beverages (energy drinks & sport drinks): Water, water and 50% soda or juice to help you cut back, water and lemon or lime, iced tea (with at least half as much sugar as soda that you can then reduce), coffee (unless you have heart issues).  Cut back entirely or drink half as much, just work your way towards as little soda as possible.

2) Doritos / Cheetos /Potato chips – especially flavored ones (lots of nasty chemicals). If you need a teeny baby step on this one, switch from flavored to plain chips of your favorite variety, or go all out and switch to homemade popcorn (check out some tasty, healthy recipes here),  healthy crackers like Triscuits, kale chips, or salty nuts.

3) Pre-made baked goods like donuts, cookies, cakes, lunchbox treats : switch one for homemade baked goods or for pbj on whole wheat bread or a  flavored herb tea, or a small serving of dark chocolate.

4) Fake dairy like Cool whip, Hazelnut flavored goo (I mean fake coffee additive), powdered coffee creamer, etc.  Better to put a little REAL dairy, small amount of sugar and maybe a drop or two of vanilla or some cinnamon in your coffee than that oil-based imposter for anything edible.  Here is a recipe for date cream which can also be used in coffee – just thin the recipe a little with more milk of choice.

5) Boxed macaroni & cheese.  (This includes Hamburger Helper type stuff)  I know this is totally a convenience food, who has time to bake macaroni and cheese?… and most kids don’t like it as well.  Here’s a fast, easy version of homemade macaroni & cheese, but you could also just add veggies and shredded cheese to pasta or microwave baking potatoes and top with some shredded cheese and/or salsa and/or cooked veggies.  On an evening where you do have time to make something and then let it bake for an hour, try this recipe that uses hidden zucchini.

6) Candy (high quality dark chocolate in reasonable quantities is another story).  Weed it out people.  Substitute homemade treats in reasonable quantity, flavored herbal tea, or brushing your teeth – sometimes that flavor takes away the craving for something sweet.  As with soda, if you eat a lot of candy and drink a lot of soda, you are probably addicted to sugar, so set a reasonable goal of reducing how much you eat.  Keep lowering your amount, and re-choose when and if you slip.

7) Commercial salad dressing.  This is nasty stuff.  Try some homemade dressing, some of which are incredibly simple, like these and our simplest is rice vinegar and soy sauce.

8) White wheat crackers & flavored crackers.  Triscuits = wheat, oil and salt.  This doesn’t mean that eating an entire box of triscuits won’t make you gain weight, however, substituting simpler flavors helps your palate get over the MSG, chemicalized rush of crackers like Chicken in a Biskit.  See chips substitutes (#2) for more ideas, but you can dip any cracker into salsa, or add real cheese or plant based cheese like Little Sis’ sunflower cheese or an easy cashew cheese or a more difficult, but also firmer cashew cheese!

9) Fast Food.  However much you can cut back.  Commit to decreasing your intake of this terribly harmful food.  If you haven’t seen it yet, I recommend watching Super Size Me with your family (watch first to assess the appropriateness, there is some frank talk about  sex, but nothing graphic).

10) Commercial white bread is full of unnecessary ingredients and does not have a lot of nutritional value.  Look for whole wheat breads and make sure you read the labels.  Just as an example, azidocarbamide is a dough conditioner used in many breads that can also be used to clean your boat.  For real.  Read the labels.

Just a word of encouragement.  Set your sights on an achievable goal.  If you think you can only cut your consumption of one of the above in half, then make that decision and set a goal of 2 weeks.  At the end of the 2 weeks commit again and decide if you can cut back some more.  If you slip, if you slide, if you make a poor choice, it is not a permanent fail.  Your chooser is not broken, it’s just not perfect.  If it was perfect, you probably would have already been recalled to the place where perfect humans go ;-).  You are still a wonderful human being with potential for joy, love, productivity, creativity and health.  Just decide to try and choose better the next time and keep on the road to better health, one baby step at a time.

This post was shared at Wildcrafting Wednesday.

68 responses

    • Yes, I found the more than 50% idea to be very liberating! Really makes it easier to forgive the less than perfect and keep trying! So glad you stopped by, I hope you’ll come back 🙂

  1. What an encouraging, realistic plan for people to start eating better. Thanks for sharing this with the Food on Fridays community. It’s a good challenge. Reading this list inspired me to pop more popcorn. We have a big tub we can store extra in that can serve as a grab-n-go snack for the kids or something to toss in a lunch bag.

    • You are so very welcome Ann! And thank you for taking the time to let us know. It is so rewarding to hear that maybe our experiences and writing have encouraged or helped someone. You rock that popcorn tub!!

  2. Great advice. I recently stopped eating wheat for health reasons (as a choice, not because I’m allergic to it) and it’s been great! It actually wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be once I took the plunge!!

    • Good for you Jill! I think the first week or so is the hardest because you are breaking a habit. We have quite a few gluten free recipes,here because my husband is also gluten free. So glad you stopped by!

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  4. I’m visiting from Granny’s Vital Vittles link-up and found this article to be incredibly helpful! I’m more than half way through these switches to more “real food” options but it’s great to read about it and get more ideas. I shared it on my Facebook page too for my friends!

    • Thank you! It’s funny but now that my body is truly used to real food – I eagerly choose a small bit of good chocolate over crappy, chemicalized baked goods any day of the week!

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  6. Stopping by from I heart naptime. Love this post. My family has been slowly progressing to a whole foods lifestyle by using most of the steps you have outlined, making healthier choices. I love that you advocate using baby steps. I think that is the best way to make a real sustainable change.

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  8. baby steps are very important when it comes to eating real/whole foods (ie stuff that doesn’t need a label to know what’s in it)… it doesn’t taste or feel the same as artificial/manufactured food and if you rush into it, you’ll go “ew”. getting used to a new way of eating takes time. developing new preferences takes time. well said, darling.

    thank you for sharing with us at the Wednesday Fresh Foods Link Up! I hope to see you again with week with more seasonal & fresh/whole food posts 🙂 xo, kristy

    • You are so right about the ‘ew’ factor. I am sometimes shocked when I share something with a person who eats processed foods and they don’t like it…. I mean, what’s not to like, right? But their palate is not accustomed to the more complex and hearty flavors of real food. It takes time to get past the Ka-Pow of sugar and salt and MSG and little else in processed foods. Thanks for your link party! We appreciate the chance to share and learn from others 🙂

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  10. OMG I so needed this! This is a great list for starting with. I am all about the baby steps and don’t like to feel deprived. Thanks so much for linking up to Creative Thursday. Can’t wait to see what you share this week! Have a wonderful week.

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    • It is truly difficult to maintain a complete overhaul of what one eats. Much easier to take it a bit at at time knowing that better is indeed… better!

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  23. Excellent tip! It is so much easier to start with one change. Even if it is just a 10 minute walk everyday instead of no exercise or switching out one dietary habit. This is something folks can stick with.
    Thanks for sharing on Natural Living Monday!

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  25. I just recently realized not all wheat bread is good. What’s the deal!?! The more I educate myself and learn about what the food companies do, the more upset I get. Hopefully it will be enough to help making changes easier!

    • I think you are right that it makes it easier to change when you realize that what the package says is not necessarily reliable. Food companies are trying to make money and put on the label what they think will sell. Once you start eating healthier and feeling better that also makes it easier to change! And don’t forget that any improvement, any baby step is progress. It’s hard to change everything all at once and stick with it! Good luck!

  26. Hi, I’m visiting from Marvelous Mondays.
    I appreciate that you brought up the idea about discerning why you eat that thing you want to replace and that when you know what purpose it’s serving you can find a healthier substitute. Great advice!
    I’m going to be doing a “Change One” challenge on my blog but not for a while. It’s new so I’m still working on getting a routine in place.
    Great article!

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