Healthy food…You can do it

healthy lifestyle pic Healthy food is a part of a healthy lifestyle for more reasons than just weight management. Just as a car runs best with the appropriate fuel combined with care and attention to maintenance, our bodies function best with a balanced diet, stress management, and regular exercise. As healthcare costs skyrocket and stress is in abundance, one of the easiest ways to promote wellness is to eat the foods that support health and prevent illness. Feeling better, having more energy, lower #’s on the scale, & radiant skin…just perks.

The phrase “Healthy food” can be a bit vague. Healthy food, as I see it, is food that contributes nutritionally to the body. It is easy in this day and age to get caught up in a type of healthy food (we are so blessed!) such as organic, free-range, or non-GMO and those things are good. However, for the purposes of this discussion, let’s just take it back to the basics and talk about the types of foods that will help you create your healthy lifestyle, however you choose to purchase them is up to you. I point that out because it can all be overwhelming. If walking into Whole Foods promotes panic due to the immense number of options, then just go buy an apple, wash it, and eat it…start there. Creating a healthy diet is a process and a journey. You get started and learn and as you learn more you change more and so forth. Give yourself some grace, start with small steps, and smile…you’re gonna be alright.

The Process

My husband and I began to really change our diet about 12-13 years ago. Over the years we have adjusted and then made more changes, adjusted and changed, and then we adjusted and changed. It is a process, a journey. Each time we felt like we were really making a big change, but as we got used to it, we realized we could do more. Gone were the days of living on macaroni and cheese and grilled cheese sandwiches (what??…we like cheese!) and in came the days of seeing the stove as more than a shiny object to look at. This was the beginning of my new obsession…modifying my favorite recipes to make them healthier and trying new things. I can laugh now at the whole wheat pancake batter that could have been used to patch a hole in the wall and the spinach frittatas that the dog even spit out…remember, it is a process, laugh often!

So, start somewhere. We got started by changing from white flour to whole wheat and looking for whole grain alternatives. I stopped buying unhealthy snacks that were quick grabs (read chips, cookies, crackers) under the guise of “it’s for the kids”. (Ummm…so the kids need trans fats and a bunch of sugar?) I switched from ground beef as the go-to protein to using chicken, pork, or beans. Nothing too crazy, right? Then I started adding in vegetables anywhere I could. I made zucchini muffins that we ate for breakfast. I added beans into the taco meat and peppers and carrots into spaghetti sauce. We also bought a high-speed blender for protein shakes and smoothies so we could incorporate spinach and other greens more easily into our diet. Here are some things that have helped us continue on this journey:

Start with small, manageable steps and be realistic. If you are short on time, then don’t buy 5 types of vegetables that all need to be prepped and think that you are going to eat them. We are fortunate to live in a time where you can walk into the store and buy a relish tray already prepared. Look at that, veggies that are ready to eat! Buy fruit that can be eaten as is or with minimal prep, like cuties, apples, grapes, blueberries. All of these fruits are awesome alone or on top of yogurt for snacks.

Decide what your goals are. If you don’t know what your goals are how will you get there? If you want to lose weight, then log what you eat. I guarantee you will be surprised at the number of calories you ingest if you honestly document everything you eat for a week. My Fitness Pal is an app I use most days. At first it is cumbersome, but it gets easier as you get used to it and build your own meals, etc. I’m more than happy to help you if you’d like! If you want to just generally eat a healthier diet, then pick a target and set goals to hit it. Less sugar? More vegetables? More home-cooking? All great goals and you can start working on them today.

80/20. This is my survival and longevity plan. I try to make the healthiest choice 80% of the time. The other 20% is for holidays, weekend dates, birthday parties, and just that time when I need an ice cream cone. This is being realistic, having a no-deprivation plan, and committing for the long haul. Healthy eating has so many benefits but you don’t usually see the impact after just one meal. It takes time for our bodies to repair the damage we have done.

So, love yourself and your family by upping the ante…healthy lifestyles rock!

 

As you shop:

Look for fresh fruits and vegetables, however frozen has been shown to be just as nutritional usually and offers wider variety not limited by the season. If canned veggies are used, it helps to drain and rinse them. You eliminate a lot of the added salt with that simple maneuver. Bumping up your fruit and veggie intake increases your nutrients and fiber helping you to feel full and easing portion control struggles.

Look for protein sources that are lower in fat, you’ll save dramatically on calories by just switching from beef tacos to chicken tacos. Still yummy! And pile on the veggies and your tacos become a serving of vegetables too. When you make scrambled eggs, use a combination of whole eggs and egg whites, the majority of the fat and calories is in the yolk. And again, add those veggies…peppers, onions, spinach, mushrooms…all easily added in and delish! Beans and rice together make a complete protein as well…get creative and enjoy, just watch your portion control.

No added sugar. Yep, the enemy is sugar. Too much sugar ramps us up and then dumps us on the curb feeling blah. It also sky-rockets our risk for diabetes and a host of health concerns. Limiting sugar is difficult at first because most of us seriously are addicted to the stuff. Give yourself time and start small, but do it, start to limit it and your body and  mind will thank you.

Variety and Balance are the most-valuable players in this game. Feeling deprived will lead to unhealthy choices and limited success; so give yourself grace and remember that perfection is not the goal. 80/20 my friends, 80/20!

 

 

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