By Carlee Frank

The New Year is just around the corner, and I can practically hear the confetti cannons and Ole Langsyne; but do you know what else I can hear? Millions of New Year’s resolutions uttered globally.

If you’re one of the many looking to improve your health through diet and fitness in the new year, this series is here to help. Every week, we will explore a different aspect of health –diet, exercise, body care and much more. This week we’re starting at the beginning. It’s not a miracle diet; it’s simply a change in mindset.

First, a little about me…

I have been gluten intolerant for four and a half years, and while I suspect Celiac, I have not been medically tested, so I retain the title non-celiac gluten sensitive (NCGS). In order to determine my NCGS status, I cut gluten out of my diet completely. Gluten is the complex protein found in wheat, barley and rye. This meant no pasta, cereal, bread and, oh yes, cookies. After a significant drop in symptoms—such as stomach pain, indigestion and nausea—I cut gluten out of my life entirely.

I am also lactose intolerant –meaning I cannot eat or drink dairy products –and a vegetarian, so my diet, which has most people questioning how I eat at all, has taken me down a very healthy path. Which brings the title of the article into focus. You want to be healthier, right? Well, I have many tips to help.

My No. 1 tip is a change in your thought process surrounding food. Each time you eat, think to yourself, “how can this be healthier?” It’s that simple.

If you’re about to eat five cookies, that might mean eating just one instead. If you’re staring at a gooey cheese pizza for two –but it’s all yours –you might want to limit that kind of treat to once a week, or even twice a month. However, the question, “How can this be healthier?” can be even easier.

Tip No. 2 is to think gluten free. While I wouldn’t tell your server you are NCGS, you can still order like you have an aversion to gluten. Meaning, order a lettuce wrap instead of a bun, wheat wrap, or ciabatta roll, or simply go bun-less. Instead of pasta, order fish or a chicken salad –both of which have greater protein and nutrients. Finally, when your waiter asks if you’d like dessert, order tea or fruit instead.

Tip No 3. is to still think gluten free, but this time at the grocery store. Cooking at home can make eating healthy much easier, but first you need ammo. So, still in the gluten free mindset, pick up a couple of zucchinis instead of a box of rotini. You can buy a simple spiralizer and have zucchini noodles in minutes. Then sauté the “zoodles” in a pan, add your favorite sauce, spices, protein and voila, you have a healthy pasta alternative. Another grocery store tip is to, again, ask yourself how your purchase can be healthier. Before you begin scoping out the aisle with the smallest line, take a look at your cart. Sub out those Little Debbie cakes for apples or the chips for almonds.

While asking yourself how your food can be healthier or channeling the diet of an NCGS person may seem too simple, it can make a big difference in your health. According to the National Sleep Foundation, complex carbohydrates found in refined and processed foods, “make tryptophan [an amino acid that causes sleepiness] more available to the brain, which is why carbohydrate-heavy meals can make you drowsy.” This is not to say all carbs are bad, certainly not, but I think we can all agree that a big bag of chips or pack of cookies should be avoided.

If you want to eat healthier, really stick to this change of mind. Often times it is us who get in our own way, so this week I challenge you to become more mindful about what you eat. Next week, we’ll figure out the best motivation for wintertime exercise.