12 Steps to Better Health

As some of you know, I have recently begun the program with the Institute for Integrative Nutrition® to become a certified Health Coach. One of my challenges this week is to put effort into one of the sections of the 12 Steps to Better Health. Naturally, I figured this wonderful wheel how to better health would be a great challenge to share with all of you.

Though the Integrative Nutrition Plan has 12 steps, they do not need to be followed in order. The best thing to do is to pick one, and move to another once you feel ready. Perhaps it may take a day, week, or month to feel like you have turned the focus into a habit. Maybe commit to focusing on one of these for at least a week and check in with yourself once that week is over to see how you feel. Remember, it takes 21 days to develop a habit, and six months for it to become part of your personality!

IIN 12 Steps to Better Health Wheel
© 2011 Integrative Nutrition, Inc. (Used with permission).


IIN®’s philosophy is primary food comes first, even before what you put into your body. Primary food includes relationships, physical activity, career, and spiritual practice. We all probably know people who eat extremely healthy, but still aren’t happy people. This is where primary food comes in. The more primary food we receive, the less we depend upon secondary foods.

I’ll be working on specific posts that go in-depth to these sections, but for now I’ve included short blurbs below to help inspire.

1) Drink More Water: How much does a average, healthy adult living in a temperate climate need? The Institute of Medicine determined that an adequate intake (AI) for men is roughly about 13 cups (3 liters) of total beverages a day. The AI for women is about 9 cups (2.2 liters) of total beverages a day. If you exercise or engage in any activity that makes you sweat, you need to drink extra water to compensate for the fluid loss. An extra 1.5 to 2.5 cups (400 to 600 milliliters) of water should suffice for short bouts of exercise.

2) Practice Cooking: My favorite website to get new recipes is Oh My Veggies. Every recipe I’ve tried is easy, and has been delicious!

3) Increase Whole Grains: For a detailed list of whole grains, visit

4) Increase Sweet Vegetables: For a list of sweet vegetables, visit Jillian Michaels’ helpful webpage.

5) Increase Leafy Green Vegetables: (excerpt from my article G-BOMBS: How to Make Sure You Are Getting the Nutrients You Need Every Day)

Raw, leafy greens are the most nutrient-dense of all foods. They contain only about 100 calories per pound and can be consumed in unlimited quantities. The majority of calories in green vegetables, including leafy greens, come from protein, and this plant protein is packaged with beneficial phytochemicals: folate (the natural form of folic acid), calcium, and small amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. Leafy greens are also rich in antioxidant pigments called carotenoids which are known to promote healthy vision, and contain substances that protect blood vessels, and are associated with reduced risk of diabetes.

Some examples of leafy greens are bok choy, broccoli, and kale. These are all part of the cruciferous vegetable family, which have a unique chemical composition—they contain glucosinolates, and when their cell walls are broken by blending, chopping or chewing, a chemical reaction converts glucosinolates to isothiocyanates (ITCs)—compounds with a variety of potent anti-cancer effects. ITCs also work to remove carcinogens, reduce inflammation, neutralize oxidative stress, inhibit angiogenesis (the process by which tumors acquire a blood supply), and kill cancer cells.

Some ways I incorporate leafy greens into my diet isn’t just with salads, but I also add them to smoothies (with berries – see below), and I’ve even put kale on home-made pizza. It’s actually soooo good! Check out the recipe here: sweet potato pizza with kale and caramelized onions.

6) Experiment with Protein:

So how much protein should you be incorporating in your diet? The USDA recommends:

Athletes (as well as pregnant/lactating women, and those under physical stress): 0.45 grams of protein per day, per pound of body weight.

Moderately Active Adults: 0.36 grams of protein per day, per pound of body weight.

The average American consumes between 100-120 grams of protein per day, two to three times what we need!

For more information on protein, and where you can get it, click here to read my article “Protein: How Much is Enough?”

7) Eat Fewer Processed Foods: Processed foods have been altered from their natural state for “safety” and convenience. You can evaluate how processed a food is by reading the label’s ingredients list. If you don’t recognize many of the ingredients, this indicates a highly processed food. Really, any food that has a label—comes in a box, bag, jar, or can—is processed. If you don’t know what one of the ingredients is in your food, look it up online and ask yourself if you really want that in your body, or if you think your body will know how to digest it. For a general list of processed foods, click here.

8) Make a Habit of Nurturing Your Body: Take care of yourself. Get a massage. Stretch. Moisturize. Sit in the sauna. Get some sunshine. Most importantly, get enough sleep!

9) Have Healthy Relationships: Make sure to put time and energy into the relationships with those you love.

10) Enjoy Regular Activity: Our bodies were made to be active. If you need some ideas for what types of exercise you could be doing, click here to ready my article “What Now? The Activities that are Best for Your Post-Sport Body.”

11) Find Work You Love: Here is a big one. We spend more time working and with our co-workers than not. It is much healthier to choose something you love doing, in an environment that you love, for all this time spent. Think about the intention you have for your life and your ultimate goals you want to accomplish. Is your current job or career working toward that goal? If not, maybe re-evaluate. This is your life, after all!

12) Develop a Spiritual Practice: Perhaps you are religious and already have a practice, like praying. Or, perhaps you are not religious. Developing a spiritual practice can be something like meditation (click here for an introduction on meditation), walking outside barefoot with your toes in the grass, appreciating the sunset, etc.

I would love to read comments about your own journeys with this 12-step program!


12 Steps to Better Health. (Oct. 2014.) Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Retrieved Mar. 20 from class materials.

Boudro, Heidi. “List of Processed Foods.” (2015.) Getting Started with Healthy Eating. Retrieved Mar. 20, 2015 from



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