It’s always exciting when someone wants to talk about beginning a healthy eating journey. I love to talk about food, eating well, and how to best accomplish it. So when friends ask, I’m ready, so ready to share what I’ve learned over the years.
I’m not a nutritionist. I’m not here to tell you what to do. But, I do want to share some of what’s working for me, on my journey. Take what I’ve written with a grain of salt as this post is based on my experiences. Your journey and body are unique. Your tastes and preferences too. The way that we eat and enjoy food is based on our little family and what we enjoy and deem important.
I grew up in a home where whole wheat bread, whole foods, and plenty of fruits and veggies were consumed. Dessert, if we wanted any, was usually fruit. This way of living was instilled in me at a young age. I didn’t necessarily keep to them throughout my teen years (when it was up to me). But, in my early 20’s I started to come back around, to see the value in caring about what I was eating.
Food, for me, is to be enjoyed. It’s a requirement for life, but is also something that brings me great joy. It’s my art, my passion, what I love to do. But the art isn’t just in the paring of foods, the sound of fresh baguettes crackling as they cool, or the plating of a dish. It’s in the marriage of nutrients and taste. Eating well takes great skill.
I feel like we have it a bit easier, since we have access to the amazing produce from Abundant Harvest Organics. But, there are options out there no matter where you live. From a CSA to farmers’ markets, to planting your own garden… local produce from the grocery store works too. There are lots of ways to get in the groove of healthy eating.
Here are some things that I’ve learned from experience.
- It took some time, but eventually I stopped craving the junk and started craving the good stuff. I can’t remember the last time I had a craving for Doritos. But roasted veggies, all the time! Also, I try not to focus on what I can’t have, but rather on what I can. Of course I’m going to crave junk if there’s nothing else available.
- When there are cravings, I’m trying to be better at listening to my body. In other words: if I’m craving french fries, maybe it’s because I’m actually in need of good fats. A good alternative when this is the case would be a good fats salad with tuna, hard boiled eggs, nuts, avocado, and cheese, topped with an olive oil and balsamic vinegar dressing. (P.S. Fats are not my enemy!)
- Fill up with nutrient dense foods, even at snack time. A handful of almonds and an apple would be my preference over a handful of empty calorie cheesy crackers.
- Whole foods like nuts, seeds, legumes, colorful fruits and veggies, good fats/oils (olive and coconut), and eggs are staples in our home. They’re full of nutrients and taste great!
- I’m wary of foods with diet claims. They tend to be loaded with sugar, salt, and other things to make them taste good, to compensate for what’s been removed.
- I don’t keep myself from ever eating anything unhealthy. That method doesn’t work for me. If all junk food is cut out of my life then I’m more likely to binge on it (and feel guilty about it afterwards). I think that whole foods, real foods, are a much better option. But, there’s a place for treats. The key is that they’re treats, not the norm. We don’t eat In-n-Out for every meal, but we do eat it once every week or two. I love salt and vinegar potato chips. Always have. We buy them every month or so, but I know better than to keep them on hand all the time.
- I’ve learned how to make some of my favorite treats at home, so I control what goes into them. And when I don’t make them from scratch, I read the label so I know what we’re eating. I like to keep to foods that have ingredients that I can pronounce (or know what they are if they’re tough to say). I prefer it when packaged foods have as few ingredients as possible.
- Just because a food is marked “organic” doesn’t mean it’s healthy. A store bought, factory made cookie might have organic ingredients, but that doesn’t mean it’s good for me.
I think it’s important to make eating fun. We can feed ourselves out of necessity. Somedays that’s all I can come up with – food, just because we need nourishment. But, whenever possible, I find it best to enjoy the process.
- One of the things that I’ve thought would be fun is to plan something fun for each day. For example, Meatless Mondays, Taco Tuesdays, Breakfast Wednesdays, International Thursdays, Pizza Fridays, Simple Saturdays, and Snacky Sundays… We don’t do this, mostly because of my job, but even doing one or two of them could be fun (Taco Tuesdays and Pizza Fridays would be a hit at our house for sure!).
- To make eating well possible, a menu plan is essential for me. I wrote a three part series about it, so I won’t go into too much detail here. But, basically, I like to plan a menu that will work with our schedule, tastes, and desires. I try to plan foods that are manageable for the cooks in our home (mainly me, but sometimes Tim takes a turn). I also have some go-to meals that can be made when the day hasn’t gone as planned. It keeps me from jumping to unhealthy alternatives. Peanut Butter and Jam Sandwiches are one. Seriously. Protein from the nuts, homemade jam, whole wheat bread, fruit on the side… I’d much rather eat this than something out of a box.
- I like to have a few meals on hand in the freezer. Soups work especially well for last minute meals straight out of the freezer. If it’s not a last minute change, frozen foods can defrost in the fridge overnight and be reheated the day of. It’s a great way to use leftovers too. We also eat leftovers for lunch, be it at work or at home. Sometimes they are repurposed and made into a new meal, but we also enjoy them a second time just as they are.
- And last, but not least, if there’s not going to be time during the work week for meal prep, if possible, it can be good to take a couple of hours and do it when there is time. Simple things like chopping veggies can make a simple weeknight Stir Fry even quicker, thus more likely to stay on the menu.
And I really mean it. There’s joy to be found in food.
(Written while snacking on 3 apriums, 1 banana dipped in crunchy peanut butter, and 1 homemade pain au chocolat.)