Like many of you, many of my meals used to come out of a fast-food bag with grease stains on the bottom, from a container of deli meat (usually bologna or ham), and usually always had a side of mayo, sugary ketchup, or packets of salt on the side. No day was complete without a few chocolate chip cookies, a serving of salty Lay’s chips, and who can forget the buttery biscuits from the corner breakfast joint every single Saturday morning (with extra butter and sugary grape jelly, obviously). Of course, those foods now seem foreign to me, but for so long, I simply didn’t know any different.

I think many of us grew up eating a less than perfect diet (nor did our parents eat perfeclty) and that’s just the way things were. Children and even many adults, contain an innocence at times where they don’t really think about or consider what they’re putting in their body. In the meantime, as they grow older or time goes by, they wonder why they have a hard time focusing at school or work, can’t seem to manage their weight, and their skin, sleep, and even digestion all suffer too. Hormones get out of whack and things just don’t feel as they should. We’re not a slave to our food choices – we do have a choice in the matter and what we choose ultimately affects how we (and the children in our lives) feel.

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Small Choices Lead to Big Changes

A whole foods diet won’t just improve your mood, weight, outlook on the world, and even your energy and focus, but it can also improve the future of our health in ways we might not consider. If we educate the future of our world as we wish we had been when we were young (promoting less sugar, meat, and dairy), we might see some big changes in ways we’d never dreamed of. The more we share the benefits of choosing whole foodsthe less environmental issues our future and our current world will have to deal with. The less our youth will have to worry about diabetes, possibly depression, obesity, and heart disease and high blood pressure and hormone problems no child, teen, or even young adult should even have to be dealing with.

How to Implement the Changes to Work For Us

Our choices matter. Choosing whole, plant-based foods filled with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and nourishing (not inflammatory) proteins and healthy fats, all provide key elements that keep the body healthy. Children may have a hard time accepting changes to a healthier menu, which makes it helpful to know some ways to help children adapt to the lifestyle. Tips for making vegetables and fruits taste better can be taken advantage of by both children and adults, and many budgeting tips can also teach children and adults that the cost of food doesn’t have to be expensive when we make the healthier choice, despite what the dollar menu tells us.

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To inspire healthy changes in our world, the food industry, and in our health, take these three steps to make a dramatic impact that we believe, will truly change the world in a really big way:

1. Forget the Processed Stuff

Pretend that processed foods don’t exist. Ignore them and go for whole food choices whenever possible by simply overlooking their marketing and long list of ingredients (not to mention the cost). Teaching the body to appreciate the sweet juicy taste of apples, carrots, and pears and even the yummy ways to enjoy broccoli, all change the taste buds and teach the body to go in a new direction. No one said change was easy, but once your body has tasted the good stuff, those sugary donuts and salty chips will start to make your stomach turn.

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2. Ignore Food Media..or at Least Outsmart it

Food media has literally taken over the influence of our youth. While that can be hard to control, we have a choice in how much we subject ourselves to. Ignore those infomercials or Coke commercials that promote sugary, animal-based, refined products as healthy. Foods with added fiber often just contain fillers, and foods that promote weight loss usually have loads of sugar listed in the ingredient list. Make the choice to buy the simple stuff: rich sweet potatoes (both delicious and inexpensive), yummy whole grain oats (sure to keep the belly and wallet full), frozen berries for smoothies, flavorful peas and carrots, and simple water and unsweetened or homemade almond milk to drink versus soda, milk, and energy drinks. Even though the U.S. Dietary Guidelines promote milk, eggs, and meat, that doesn’t mean we have to live to a slave to those food rules. Plants are simple, keep your lifestyle that way too.

3. Create Natural Activity at Home

No one has to do a forceful exercise routine, and it certainly shouldn’t something we teach children as the only way to stay fit. It’s much better to focus on being active naturally throughout the day instead of sitting in front of the television, computer, or playing video games all day. Allow a couple hours a day for these activities, and then teach children and even yourself, to do things around the house like play out in the yard, ride their bikes, skate, go for simple walks (take the dog if you have one!), take the stairs instead of elevators in public, and learn to be more mobile even if it’s just by doing laundry, emptying the dishwasher, or drying the dishes. Or, even join them and volunteer to help animals together to inspire family activity more often that does some good for others around us. Every bit counts, and the more active you are throughout the day, the healthier you’ll be for years to come. This is a great way to teach our children that it’s not always about spending an hour at the gym, but more about small choices we make throughout the day. Also see some other tips for teaching kids how to live healthfully and 10 fun activities both kids and adults will enjoy alike.

Overall, it’s about small choices that lead to big changes. Keep things simple, and ignore the complications our world has made regarding health. We have the choice and it’s a pretty simple one with big potential. What will you choose?

Lead Image Source: Christina Burke/Is Raising Vegan Children Bad for Their Mental Health?