Spring may have officially sprung, but if you live in Melbourne you’re likely wondering (as am I) if Spring is ever going to come. Nonetheless, I love a change of season, especially Spring. It always seems to spur on motivation to get things done and it’s the perfect time to “spring clean” any area of your life – health, home, business, relationships. It’s like coming out of winter hibernation and hitting refresh. Whether it be de-cluttering your home (which I actually did last weekend – tick); improving your diet (feeling pretty good about this – tick); or beginning something new like a new healthy habit (I’ve just started a meditation routine – go me!).
Sometimes it’s the simple little things we can begin that have big positive impact on our health and well-being. For example, I had planned this week to get out of the office at lunch and go for a half an hour walk to get my intake of vitamin D and some fresh air. A simple addition to improve my healthy lifestyle.
It’s something I did all of last summer and I felt so much more energized and focused all day, especially in the afternoon. This also stopped any mid-afternoon sweet tooth cravings. Winning! However, Melbourne’s delightful weather had other plans and I’ve so far managed getting out for 1 of the 4 days thanks to the rain.
The good intent was there nonetheless.
So, given the new season and opportunity to create some healthy habits, I began thinking about other simple things (regardless of the weather) we can do to improve our health and well-being!
Here’s my list of healthy hacks for spring to help you get on track:
WARM WATER WITH LEMON OR APPLE CIDER VINEGAR
This is how I start my day, everyday, and have done for years. Beginning your day with a big glass of warm water with either 1/2 lemon juice squeezed in or a tablespoon of Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) does a few great things. Firstly, the warm water stimulates your vagus nerve and increases blood flow to your digestive system to get your digestive enzymes flowing. Lemon or ACV alkalises your body and helps the liver with detoxification. And lastly, it re-hydrates you after an overnight fast.
Note I said warm water (not hot, just warm tap water), as the warmth is what stimulates the vagus nerve. Cold water will do the opposite. If you experience digestive issues particularly with eating meals, try this about 15 minutes before a meal to improve digestion and absorption of nutrients.
FOCUS ON FOODS YOU SHOULD BE INCLUDING IN YOUR DIET
With the realisation of Summer around the corner I am often hearing people talk about starting a new “diet” or detox etc. One of the best (and easiest) things you can actually do for both your long-term health and potential short term body composition goals is to shift your focus to what you should ADD into your diet, not what you need to cut-out. Sounds counter-intuitive right? But by increasing your vegetable (and fibre) intake, ensuring you drink enough water, eating regularly and not skipping meals, you will actually feel fuller and satiated and are far less likely to reach for the wrong foods.
It’s all about eating smarter, not less. And more importantly focusing on the positives will make it a positive experience for you.
This doesn’t have to mean doing a full gym session or exercise class every single day (but yes include those weekly too), but simply do some form of body movement every day that makes you feel good. Even on your scheduled “rest days”.
This could be as simple as going for a relaxing walk during your lunch break, or stretching your body at home (this will be my aim on my rest days). It may mean some days doing your regular training routine, and other days getting off your tram/train a couple of stops earlier and walking further.
Movement is so important to awaken your body and your senses, and get things flowing.
FREEZE PRE-PACKED HEALTHY SMOOTHIE BAGS
Having healthy food ready to eat or quickly throw together means you’re less likely to reach for packaged foods or unhealthy snacks. I always prep some smoothie bags and store them in the freezer for when I need a quick snack or dessert. All I have to do is throw the frozen contents into the blender, add a scoop of my favourite protein powder and some water and blend!
Try these smoothie combos:
- 3/4 cup raspberries, 1/4 cup coconut flakes, handful spinach leaves & 1/4 lemon (I keep the peel on)
- 1 banana, 1/4 avocado, 2 tsp raw cacao, 1 tsp maca powder
- 1/2 apple, cucumber, 1/4 avocado, handful spinach, 1 tsp honey
- 3/4 cup strawberries, 1 tsp flaxseed or chia seeds, 1/4 cup coconut milk
- 3/4 cup pineapple, 1/2 banana, 1/4 tsp turmeric, fresh ginger
PLAN YOUR WEEKLY MEALS & WRITE A SHOPPING LIST
Every week I plan out our weekly meals and snacks and write a shopping list for exactly what we need to make those meals. We give ourselves a couple of hours on a Sunday to prep meals (breakfast, lunch and snacks) and each night get snacks and things organised, ready to just grab everything the next morning before heading out to the gym/work for the day. We are both home for dinner so cook dinner fresh each night. Not only does this planning and prepping eliminate food waste, save money, ensures we have healthy food on hand all the time, but also keep us organised for busy schedules. For more on this, have a read of my Guide to Meal Prep.
Keep your fridge and pantry full of good food and you will eat good food!
SKIP THE SAUCES & GO FOR SPICES
One of the best and easiest healthy swaps you can do to improve your health is swapping packaged/bottled sauces for your own homemade marinades, sauces and spices. Packaged sauces are usually filled with sugar, sweeteners, preservatives, and industrial oils (canola, sunflower, etc.). By making your own you can ensure you are using good quality oils like Extra Virgin Olive Oil, coconut oil, etc., eliminate or reduce the sugar and no preservatives or additives! Spices are another really easy way to flavour meals without any extra calories.
Try some of my favourite sauces/marinades/spices mixes:
- Mexican/Taco spice mix: 1 tbls paprika, 1 tbls chilli powder, 1/2 tsp onion powder, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, 1/4 tsp cumin
- Herby chicken mix: Italian mixed herbs, garlic powder, chilli flakes, sea salt, pepper
- Salad dressing: 1 tbls Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 1 tbls ACV, 1 tsp mustard, salt n pepper
- Asian stir fry: 1/4 cup tamari (gluten free soy), fresh ginger, fresh lime, chilli
- Miso marinade: 2 tbls miso paste, 1 tbls mirin, 1 tbls tamari, 2 tbls hot water (delicious on salmon and eggplant)
- Tahini salad dressing: 2 tbls tahini, 1/2 lemon juiced, 1 clove minced garlic, 1 tsp maple syrup or honey, salt n pepper
- Honey Soy Glaze: 1/4 cup tamari, 2 tbls honey
MAKE EATING MORE VEGETABLES EASY (& FUN!)
I love broccoli and plain veggies as much as any health nut. But seriously, healthy eating doesn’t mean poached chicken and steamed broccoli day in, day out. There are so many different veggies and so many ways of cooking them. Our bodies need a huge variety of foods, especially plant-based food to ensure we get a range of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytonutrients, and other nutrients we don’t even know about yet.
Roast up a huge tray of eggplant, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, zucchini, capsicum, onion, garlic, spices and add to salads or serve up for dinner with some protein and good carbs. Chop up raw carrot, capsicum, celery, snow peas and dip in homemade hummus or cottage cheese for a healthy snack. Stir fry bok choy, broccoli, carrot, beans, ginger, garlic, onion and add a marinade (above). Grate zucchini or carrot into your porridge/oats and even sneak more vege into your desserts (beetroot or sweet potato brownies anyone?!).
Try at least 1 new or different vegetable each week you haven’t eaten for a while. Variety is the spice of life as they say!
INFUSE YOUR WATER
Want to drink more water? Add slices of lemon, cucumber, mint leaves or fruit like strawberries into your bottle of water for a hint of flavour and freshness.
What other healthy hacks do you do?