Making dietary and lifestyle changes can certainly make a huge impact on your health. They can also totally cramp your style.
Making realistic, long-term changes start slowly. Complete and abrupt overhauls typically result in sliding backwards once a few cravings hit or when life just happens. The best way to ease your way into it is to seriously half-ass it.
1. Brown rice. Some people love it, some people hate it. The husk of the rice contains lots of minerals such as magnesium, zinc, iron, and copper, and a good dose of B-vitamins. Start by mixing half white rice with half brown rice (you may have to cook separately) until you get used to the taste and texture. You'll be increasing nutrients and fibre.
2. Coffee. 2-3 cups (actual cups) per day are good for you and can help prevent diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and dementia. Over this limit means your risk starts to go up. If you're overly anxious or are drinking way too much, the best way to start to cut down is by switching to half-caf. This will keep enough caffeine to reduce withdrawal symptoms and help with the step-down approach.
3. Pop. While you work on cutting this completely out of your life (really, it's that bad for you), make friends with club soda. Dilute half of your pop with club soda to cut your sugar intake in half while maintaining all of the happy fizz. As a further step down, use a splash of juice or wedge of lemon to flavour the fizz. Then end the relationship by telling the pop, "it's not you, it's a healthier me".
4. Salty snacks. Peanuts, chips, pretzels: you name it, this trick works. You can get reduced-sodium chips (Kettle Chips has some with virtually no salt... I can personally verify this one!), unsalted nuts or pretzels at any bulk or grocery store. Mix half salted with the unsalted. Your tastebuds won't notice the difference but your blood pressure certainly will!
5. Meat. Embrace the year of the pulse! Get yourself a food processor and make some bean or lentil burgers or meat balls. Reducing meat consumption by starting with a Meatless Monday can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Plant-based diets have the best health outcomes and one of the best to follow is the Mediterranean Diet. This includes meat in moderation and uses plants as the main-stay of nutrition.