Health

The Best 30 Day Health Challenge To Get Back In Shape After The Holidays

Welcome to Your 30 Day Health Challenge

A 30-day Health Challenge has two ingredients: nutrition & fitness. To prepare your body for a 30-day Fitness Challenge, you have to ensure its right fueling. Starting with a 30-day Nutrition Challenge, follow our tips to get back on track to a balanced diet and build a strong foundation for becoming active. 

30-Day Nutrition Challenge

Nutrition Tip #1: Ditch the Sugar Crash for Sustained Energy 

The kind of simple sugars found in that second helping of cranberry sauce or in those Christmas morning pancakes are quickly and easily absorbed by your body, which causes blood sugar levels to spike, then plunge. When blood sugar drops, so do energy levels; plus, it signals a need for more fuel, which is why you’re soon hankering for more food, and specifically craving sugar for another jolt of energy. Then begins the vicious cycle of the post-holiday sugar addiction. 

The trick to breaking this cycle is swapping empty, processed sugar for nutrient dense and fiber-rich fruit. The true key is increasing your fiber intake while still satisfying your sweet tooth.  Fiber is the all-star here because it leaves your stomach undigested and ends up in your colon, where it feeds friendly gut bacteria, leading to various health benefits. Certain types of fiber may also promote weight loss, lower blood sugar levels and fight constipation. 

Apples, bananas, oranges, strawberries all have around 3 to 4 grams of fiber.

Why? Because the peel contains the most fiber! Raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries are also a great source of fiber with an average of 8 grams of fiber per cup. All of these options are great for raw snacking. Swap any pre-packaged fruit bars or candy for these high-fiber fruits.  Also with the added benefit of high-fiber, you’ll feel fuller longer leaving late night snacking in the dust. 

Sugar lurks in sneaky places can be in foods that you may even consider to be healthy! For this 30 Day Health Challenge try to stay away from foods that harbor large amounts of sugar, like the ones listed below: 

  • Processed sugars (cane sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, maltose, liquid fructose)
  • Processed foods with real or artificial sugar added
  • Limit dried fruit and other fruits high on the glycemic index (bananas, pineapples, watermelon)
  • Limit high-sugar vegetables (parsnips, potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots)

Nutrition Tip #2: Choosing The Good Carbs

You’ve probably heard of the term, “good carbs versus bad carbs”. All that really equates to is non-processed carbs versus processed carbs. Non-processed carbs are foods that contain a complete source of carbohydrates that include natural sugars and more importantly, fiber. Processed carbs are foods like white bread, enriched flour, and sugar which have been highly processed to the point that little to no nutrition remains.

Also, processed carbs are quick to burn through your system. Meaning that even after a hearty serving you’ll just go back to being hungry in very little time. However, complex carbohydrates from whole grains release slowly into the bloodstream so you never suffer a crash. Additionally, complex carbs have the benefit of being a great source of hearty fiber. An influx of fiber is a great way to reset your system after one too many indulgent holiday parties. 

You can source complex carbs from whole grains like quinoa, buckwheat, and whole-wheat pasta. Also, you can get your complex carbs from hearty beans like kidney beans, black beans, and chickpeas. 

During this 30 Day Health Challenge the types of carbs you’ll want to avoid are all refined grains:

  • Enriched flour (white bread, flour tortillas, energy bars, breakfast cereal) 
  • Products made“with whole grains” (which indicates they’re not 100 percent whole grain)

Nutrition Tip #3: Go Fish…

The holidays are not only a trap for those with a sweet tooth, but there are also plenty of salty options around too. From charcuterie boards to roasting hot dogs over a fire, processed meat pops up everywhere. However, after one too many salami spreads your body can start to feel sluggish. So for this 30 Day Health Challenge, we are opting to ditch the processed meats and get our protein from the sea!  

In order to still incorporate some solid protein into diet while taking a break from the deli section, fish is an excellent option. Not only is it a clean source of protein with little to none trans fat fish are also some of the richest sources of omega-3 fatty acids. 

Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of fat essential to your brain and nervous system. Also, they are good for your heart because they lower triglyceride levels and blood pressure. Along with helping keep plaque from clogging your arteries. All around it’s a pretty great addition to your diet. All in all, fish is a great way to reset your system after the holidays. 

Some of the best types of fish to eat are salmon, tuna, and halibut. The American Heart Association recommends that you eat at least two servings of fish every week. 

While doing this 30 Day Health Challenge you should avoid processed meat that includes:

  • Cased meat (sausages, hot dogs, salami) 
  • Cured pork and beef (bacon, ham, corned beef) 
  • Smoked meat or dried meat (beef jerky) 

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Nutrition Tip #4: The Hunt for Healthy Fat 

Although fat has gotten a bad rap, it isn’t the health villain it’s made out to be. There are fats that occur naturally that provide lots of benefits to your system. However, there are also un-natural manufactured fats that can wreak havoc on your body. 

Trans-fat, also known as hydrogenated fat, is not at all natural.  Trans fats are made industrially. This is done by “hydrogenating” vegetable oil in a process that involves bombarding it with hydrogen gas. Doesn’t sound the healthiest, does it? Because it’s not. This process transforms the liquid unsaturated fats into solid trans fats.

This type of helpful fat is present in a variety of foods and oils. Research has consistently shown that eating foods that contain monounsaturated fat can improve your blood cholesterol. Along with decreasing your risk of cardiovascular disease. Munch on almonds, cashews, peanuts, or opt for savory add-ons like peanut butter,  almond butter or avocado.

During this 30 Day Health Challenge avoid the most common sources of trans fats or “bad fats” include: 

  • Fried foods (french fries, falafel, chicken wings) 
  • Pastries and desserts (cakes, pies, frosting, creamy fillings, cookies)
  • Food prepared with shortening or margarine

Nutrition Tip #5 Pre-Packaged Food Are In The Past 

If you’re looking at the label on a box of your favorite junk food, there’s probably a bunch of ingredients that you can barely pronounce. If that’s the case, your cookies are packed with artificial preservatives, colorants, and flavorings that could be negatively affecting your health, even if it’s been deemed as safe by the FDA. Plus, pre-packaged foods harbor incredibly processed ingredients. Meaning that they likely hold little to no nutritional value or fiber. Making it hard on your body to digest.

A great replacement is swapping those pre-packaged snacks for equally snackable raw veggies. Mostly when we snack we are just looking for a food distraction. This can easily lead to overeating really unhealthy food. A simple fix is to replace this mindless snacking habit is with equally yummy veggies like bell peppers, carrots, cucumbers, cauliflower, and broccoli. All these easy produce staples can also be spiced up with a side of hummus or low-fat tzatziki. 

While burning your way through this 30 Day Health Challange be sure to skip out on these pre-packaged foods: 

  • Breakfast foods (sugary or fortified cereals, granola, breakfast sausages or meat) 
  • Pre-made dressing
  • Snack bars (multigrain breakfast bars, energy bars, pre-made lunch snacks) 

Nutrition Tip #6 Going Green

Along with sugars and fiber, starch is one of three types of carbohydrates. Like all carbs, it provides glucose — your body and brain’s main fuel. Many starchy foods, such as whole grains and legumes, are highly nutritious. However,  many processed varieties are not.

Some of the holiday mainstays like processed potatoes are one of the main culprits of bad stretches.  For example, instant mashed potatoes have a high glycemic index of 87.  Meaning they can quickly raise your blood sugar even more than sugary soft drinks. 

A great starch swap to help your body bounce back would be consistent hearty servings of leafy greens. We know, everyone’s favorite. However, leafy dark greens have some very impressive qualities that you don’t want to skip on. Hearty greens like spinach, kale, arugula, romaine, swiss chard have great benefits. Such as maintaining heart health, burning fat, and helping manage diabetes. 

Greens contain nitrites, which have been associated with browning fat cells. Meaning converting fat-storing white cells into fat-burning brown cells. This creates extra fat burning and ultimately, weight loss.

To finish off this 30 Day Health Challange make sure to stay clear of these starchy foods: 

  • White rice
  • Cereals (even the fortified or “healthy” ones can be packed with sugar and starch) 
  • White flour pasta and noodles 
  • Baked goods & pastries (especially commercial or grocery store options)

30-Day Fitness Challenge

Some of the best ways to get back into your pre-holiday shape are to make consistent fitness plans in the new year. The true key to getting out of a fitness rut is to stick to a consistent plan. Especially sticking to a plan that meets your fitness goals and needs. What makes it easiest to actually stick to a fitness plan is if all the prep work is done for you. 

Below we found the cream of the crop of fitness challenges. The best part? They all require little to no equipment. Everyone’s fitness goals look different and are always changing.  Perfect for squeezing a quick yoga session before work or powering through a killer routine over the weekend. Whether you are looking to bulk up or lean down, there’s a killer online program for that. No more excuses in 2019, get to it! 

Gain Lean & Powerful Muscle: BeFit

Increase Your Core Strength & Flexibility: Yoga by Adriene 

 

Burn Serious Fat with Cardio Circuits: Body Rock 

Tone Up & Lean Down Pilates: Blogilates

 

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Lesley George

Lesley is a content writer and community manager at Shape.

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