March is National Nutrition Month. What better time to refresh the food resolutions you made back in January, reassess your nutritional health, and set new goals? Lofty aspirations such as, "Eat healthier" are hard to follow because they lack focus. To help you stay on track, here are five specific challenges you can take on week-by-week basis. Pick one, focus on it, and reap the benefits.
Challenge #1: Try a plant-based diet.
Duration: Four weeks
You don't have to go completely vegetarian or vegan, but work at doubling your veggie intake for one month. Make sure that for your main meal, at least half of your plate is covered in fresh vegetables. This challenge alone will dramatically increase your nutrient intake, help you feel more energized, and reduce your daily calories.
Challenge #2: Cut dairy and/or grains.
Duration: Three weeks
Dairy and gluten are two common sensitivities. Some people are surprised to find that they had sensitivities they never knew about. Do you feel bloated? Gassy? Sluggish? Foggy? It may be due to a dairy or gluten sensitivity. Try cutting out one of these foods for a limited period of time and see if you feel any differently. You can replace cow's milk with coconut milk, and become more familiar with many of the gluten-free options at the grocery store.
Challenge #3: Cut out added sugar.
Duration: Two weeks
This is a tough one because sugar can sometimes feel addictive. You may find that after cutting sugar for a couple of weeks, your taste buds will start to change and your cravings will eventually go away. Depending on your current diet, you may want to take baby steps. Start by replacing white sugar with a more natural sweetener. If you don't eat white sugar, you may choose to cut out all sweeteners. Or cut out foods that list sugar, aspartame, or high fructose corn syrup in their ingredients.
Challenge #4: Try a detox.
Duration: One week
A healthy detox is a great way to refocus, re-energize, and become more mindful of what you are eating. Keep in mind your current health condition and activity level when choosing a detox. You may want to try a cleanse that lasts only one to three days. Remember that this is not a permanent diet, but a way to support your digestive system and give it a rest. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding are not encouraged to start a detox. Consult your health care practitioner if you need help choosing a detox that will fit your health needs.race near you.