Small changes, big impact ... to a healthy, clean 2014!

Chocolates, cookies, pastries, eggnog - still have remnants of the holidays hanging around your house? The start of a new year comes with fresh beginnings and an opportunity to set yourself up for a healthy year. Toss the holiday treats and take on some of these simple yet helpful tips to stay on track with your goals, resolutions and intentions for 2014! 1. Simplify your food. It's all about buying fewer boxed goods and more fresh, colourful, whole foods. Get out of the aisles at the grocery store and shop the perimeter.  If you need to buy packaged food, buy items with the most familiar and fewest ingredients possible. A quick tip for people on the go: instead of relying on the coffee shop on your way to work for fast meals, look for a spot that sells fresh juices, smoothies and meals they make in house with fresh, whole ingredients (fresh juice and smoothies bars are popping up everywhere!).

2. Kick out refined food. Refined foods (ie: any flour that is bleached or processed/modified before consumption) are stripped of their nutrients and may be fortified with synthetic vitamins and minerals. Make the switch to whole grain products that use grains such as whole wheat, quinoa, buckwheat or brown rice as their base.

3. Let go of 'can't have' diet plans. Create a comprehensive approach to your nutrition by increasing the amount of nutrient rich, healthy foods in your diet. This helps your body grow used to these foods and you will start to desire them instead of foods that are less healthy.  And, psychologically, you will struggle less with cravings and wanting to hop off your plan as you’re not telling yourself you can’t have something. Be gentle with yourself by not 'cutting out' all the less healthy foods you enjoy; 'cheat days' can lead to a string of choices you may regret - so go easy on yourself and enjoy that treat or snack that makes you feel satisfied. One meal is not going to derail your progress.

*If you do take an approach to the New Year by cutting certain items from your diet, try and do so in stages. Take one item out per month and experiment with healthier alternatives. Remember: this is a lifestyle change, not a fad diet.

4. It’s not just what you eat but how you eat. Food isn’t just something on your plate; it’s also how you think about it. Think of food as nourishment and fuel and create some intention around your meal times. Take time to chew your food and reconnect with it by noticing the flavors, textures and how it makes you feel. Do you ever forget  how your food tasted at your last meal? Blazing through meals doesn't allow for the same eating awareness - and odds are you probably felt like you over-ate, too.

5. Try new things! Challenge yourself to try something new once or twice a week. Swap almond or coconut milk for regular milk, try a green smoothie or a smoothie in general for breakfast, drink lemon water in the morning, try a new recipe, drink tea instead of coffee, try a meat free meal (or meatless Mondays), or give  juicing a go. Diversity is the key to keeping your taste buds interested and staying on track for the rest of the year!

In the name of finding new ways to get your sweet fix, check out the recipe below. It's a great alternative if you usually eat a granola bar or pastry for breakfast or a snack. Enjoy!

Peanut Butter Coconut Balls

1 cup peanut butter (or almond butter)

1/2 cup coconut flour

1/2 cup coconut flakes

4 tbsp coconut milk

4 tbsp coconut oil-melted

½ cup-3/4 cup honey

¼ cup ground flax

*MIX everything together in a bowl and let set in fridge for 30-40 minutes. Once set, roll into any size ball you’d prefer and roll balls in coconut flakes. If mixture isn’t sticking together well, add more honey until it’s no longer crumbly. Store in fridge for up to 7 days.

*for a sweet healthy treat you could also add cacao nibs*