A popular New Year’s resolution is to start eating healthier, but when it comes to eating, drastic changes can often steer us off the path toward greater health. Small steps are often the most successful ways toward eating healthier, and little changes in your diet can go a long way.
Don’t overwhelm yourself with the proposition on eating better. Start simple, and follow these steps to help you reach a place of higher nutrition and feeling good.
Choose Fresh and Local Food and Produce
Start by keeping food simple. Simple means no processed foods that are loaded with sugar, salt, and ingredients we can’t pronounce. As easy as it is to grab something from the frozen aisle, chances are really high that it’s full of preservatives to keep its expiration date that much longer. Go whole, simple, and as local as able.
Read Nutrition Labels
Can you pronounce what’s in it? If you can’t, then why eat it? If it’s made with words that contain more than twelve letters, it’s probably best that you don’t put it in your body.
With the movement to eat foods that are “scratch made” you’ll often now find items that are labeled “preservative free.” When these are available, grab those items first.
Change How You Grocery Shop
When you shop on the borders of the grocery store, you inevitably wind up in the produce department, the bakery, and along the meat and dairy aisle. This is naturally the way most grocery stores are designed.
The inner aisles are typically where canned food is found, where the frozen foods are found, and where packages upon packages are waiting for months on end to be purchased before their expiration date.
When we keep to the borders, we are making an effort to take home foods that are fresh, simple, and most recently baked or prepared.
Cut Fast Food from Your Diet
If eating healthier is a top priority to you, then its time to ditch fast food for slow food.
It’s cheap in cost and made fast for a reason, lacking nutrients and minerals the body needs and craves. Resist the urge to hit the drive through at lunch, and opt for something brought from home.
Plan Home-Cooked Meals for Lunch
Lunch is when folks often fall off the healthy wagon, opting for a fast bite from the office cafe, or bringing a meal that requires the microwave to cook. Often these microwave dinners are loaded with preservatives, salt and sugar.
The key is to plan ahead for lunch.
Make a fresh pasta salad early in the week that you can eat 2-3 times, or bake a meatloaf on the weekend that you can eat off of for the duration of the week. A side of pre-steamed broccoli will make it even healthier, and give you those extra greens midday.
Even a loaf of preservative-free bread and some fresh chicken or turkey will be healthier for you than most options available that come fast and cheap.
We also want to mention that by not eating out every day at lunch, you will save a small fortune!
Change Your Snack Habits
Crackers, chips, candies, fruit roll ups and most cereal bars are full of empty carbohydrates, preservatives, sugar, fat, and salt.
Pick up some roasted nuts from the grocery store the next time you are there, and substitute your old snacks for healthier ones.
Mandarins, an apple with peanut butter for dipping, or grapes are all healthier ways to curb your sugar cravings, and feed your hunger in between meals.
Drink More Water
Often when we think we are hungry, we are actually just dehydrated.
Sodas, coffee, tea and high caloric drinks don’t quench our thirst like water does. Be conscious about how much water you are drinking, and rather than reaching for an unhealthy snack, reach for your water bottle instead.
This really is the hardest part. The reason we choose frozen foods, pre-prepped foods, take out and fast foods is because it’s easy. Food prep takes time, energy and creativity, and if we aren’t comfortable with cooking, then there’s that learning curve, too.
Start simple, and gather 4-5 recipes that are within your cooking comfort level.
Pick up all needed ingredients at your next grocery store run, and start by cooking 1-2 at a time. Freeze any overflow in freezer bags or into tupperware, and use these portioned meals for your weekday lunches and dinners.
While it may seem like a lot of work, you’ll find that once you incorporate this into your weekly schedule and rhythm, it will be worth every ounce of time and energy. Who knows, you may find a passion for cooking!