Disclaimer: I am not a registered dietician. These tips are based solely on my own knowledge of and experience with healthy eating
I’m not sure healthy eating is something that can be taught, at least not by me. The person wanting to eat healthier has to have a taste for healthier foods or at the very least, a willingness to learn to like them. But part of my goal to improve in the kitchen was to also be healthier. And that, in turn, inspired me to start blogging about food. So I figured a post about some of the basics of healthy eating might be a good idea.
Growing up, my parents were total health nuts (sorry guys, it’s true). Soda was a rarity in our house and when we had it, it was a natural Whole Foods brand. Store brand cereal? Forget it. And for years, I thought all bacon was made from turkey! As I mentioned, my mom is a fabulous cook. So we almost always ate home cooked meals made with real ingredients. On the one hand, this was a great way to grow up. I think it definitely had something to do with my fast metabolism and rarely fluctuating weight. And despite vivid memories of sitting at the table for hours until I finished my vegetable cous cous, and being forced to try dried seaweed, I came out of childhood relatively unscarred. On the other hand, sometimes forbidding something too much can make it all the more tempting. When someone brought donuts to Sunday school, I wanted 2, or 3! Because these were forbidden at home. It’s definitely a delicate balance, but I’m glad I wasn’t taught some of the horrible food habits I see in kids today. Salt, sugar, and fat- the ingredients in nearly all the “really bad foods”- are incredibly addictive and clearly the addictions are starting younger and younger (I’ve seen women hand their young child a venti sized Starbucks frappuccino!). That’s why I can write for days about all the benefits of healthy eating and it’s not going to change a thing if you’re not ready to change. But here’s the thing: once you get started, you slowly stop craving all those things, I promise!
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m definitely not perfect. I’m not a big drinker, but I like wine- particularly red- a little too much and I could easily drink an entire bottle in one sitting if I let myself (mom and dad look away!) Ice cream, soda, and Starbucks are my other weaknesses. but I’m a firm believer that nothing is bad for you in moderation (except maybe cocaine). I still crave fast food, but now it’s an occasional thing instead of on a regular basis. And when I do crave it, it’s usually Panda Express or the occasional burger from Culvers. As for Taco Bell, Burger King, Arby’s, etc? Nope, don’t miss them at all!
As I explained in my bio, this development mostly started when I moved into my first apartment and no longer had my mom or the university dining hall to rely on for my meals. I quickly got tired of the 3 dish rotation of things I knew how to cook. Also, I’m heading towards my mid twenties, and I know that someday soon my metabolism is going to slow down and I’m not going to be able to eat whatever I want whenever I want and not have the scale budge. With a history of obesity and diabetes in my family, I have even more reason to start eating healthy now.
One of the first changes I made was really simple: subbing whole wheat pasta for white. At first I didn’t like it. But I stuck with it, and before I knew it, regular pasta started to taste weird to me instead. Then I started keeping my freezer stalked with frozen veggies. As a single person living alone, it’s hard to keep perishable things around in quantities you can consume before they go bad. So frozen veggies were perfect. As long as they don’t have any added sauce, they have the same nutritional content as fresh veggies. As I made these changes, I started getting more adventurous too. I discovered that while I still HATE bleu cheese, I had outgrown my dislike of brie. I also discovered that I like feta cheese, especially on salads and pizza, and I learned to like baby spring greens in salads instead of iceberg lettuce.
Another big change I made was that I started eating breakfast. I vaguely remember eating breakfast as a kid. But sometime around high school, I stopped. I had to be out the door by 8:30 and in class by 9:00. I was never hungry before then and hated forcing myself to eat. I knew skipping breakfast was bad for your metabolism, but 15 extra minutes in bed always won out over getting up in time to eat, even if I did happen to be hungry. But then I started reading a blog that changed all that. Julie at Peanut Butter fingers eats a lot, and I do mean a lot of smoothies! They looked really good, and all the recipes she listed were super healthy. So I went out and bought the ninja Master Prep (great for smoothies!) at Meijer along with chocolate protein powder and no sugar added whole frozen fruit. It was love at first sip! Being in college now, I can have food with me in class. So I whip up a smoothie in the morning, pour it in my reusable Starbucks cold drink tumbler, and take it with me to class. A protein packed smoothie keeps me full until around noon and tastes great. But the biggest change I noticed was instant and even more exciting. I had tons energy. I didn’t find myself yawning in the middle of the day or drifting off on the couch while watching TV at night. Some nights, I’d still be wide awake at 3 a.m. When my alarm went off at 6:45, I was tired but as soon as I got myself out of bed I was good to go. If I do find my eyes getting heavy too early in the evening, a few jumping jacks or laps around my apartment perk me right up. I couldn’t believe something as simple as eating breakfast could make such a huge change.
Finally, I started preparing more meals that involved meat. And most importantly, I avoid processed foods at all costs. I feel a hundred times better and I wish I’d done this sooner. Obviously, this is a more expensive way to eat. And if you simply don’t like the taste of whole wheat or raw veggies, nothing I say about their benefits is going to change your mind. However, if you’re ready to start eating healthier, make these small changes like I did and you will see a difference, I promise!