My last column was first in a series that addresses some of the advice I’ve given over the past few years about eating more healthful food. Not dieting. We’re talking about permanently changing the way we approach food. I reviewed some very basic, easy steps that will lead down a path of better awareness of what we put in our bodies. Now, I’m going to dig a little deeper. Like last time, these are all steps that are relatively easy and should be done over a decent period of time to avoid feeling like you’re depriving yourself.
• Try to cook for yourself more often. Before you shoot the messenger, hear me out. If you eat out a lot or tend to make pre-made, frozen meals more than you should, start thinking about a day or two every few weeks that lends itself to spending some time in the kitchen. Sometimes this is the weekend. Or maybe its when one child is away at a sleepover and there are less people to manage in your household. Or it could be when you have a rare night to yourself with no plans. But think about it and start planning (on a small scale) what you’d like to eat. Make a goal of eating one homemade meal that day and go from there. Even if you’re horrible in the kitchen, it can be as easy as making a breakfast smoothie or a simple pasta-based dish. I cook a lot and I can tell you some of the best things I make take 10-20 minutes to put together. Really.
• Pay attention to the oil you’re using to cook with. This is by far the easiest change to make that you won’t even notice. If you’re using shortening, vegetable or canola oil, get rid of it and replace it with grapeseed oil. Like vegetable or canola oil, grapeseed oil has no flavor yet it yields many benefits and is far less processed than other oils. The chemical composition of oils can change when heated, making them harmful from a health standpoint, but not grapeseed oil. You may have heard that olive oil is great, which it is, but I’d use it more as a finishing touch as opposed to cooking with it since it’s not as ideal when heated.
• I mentioned smoothies earlier and even though they sound overly simplistic, they’re a great way to improve your health. If you don’t have a blender, buy one or borrow one. Check Craigslist too (this is one of those appliance that not enough people use so you can find some in excellent shape at a really low price). Buy any type of milk or non-dairy milk, add some fruit and ice. Throw them in and push blend. That’s it. It’s a meal! Feel free to go the extra step and add protein powder, almond or peanut butter or a touch of agave or honey if needed. Want to get your veggies in too? Throw in a handful of spinach or frozen broccoli. That’s right – add veggies for added health benefits. You won’t even taste them – I PROMISE! The sweetness of the fruit overpowers any vegetable taste. Try it.
• Maintain balance to your meals. It doesn’t take rocket science to know when we’ve eaten like it’s our last day on earth. We all know birthday parties, family events, picnics, etc. are an invitation to eat all the things we probably shouldn’t. No need to beat yourself up over this. Everyone does it from time to time. But….don’t let this become a slippery slope. When you know these moments are going to occur, make it a point to eat halfway decent the day before and the day after. Cut back on sodas and juices. Eat a small salad with dinner. Get more fruit and/or veggies. Have a very small dessert or skip it all together. Clear out anything that may tempt you to overeat the following day. Drink lots of water. My secret weapon is drinking a lot of carbonated water which is way more filling than plain water. Add lemon and some fruit slices and you’ll feel like you’re having a fancy drink. One day of guilty eating is fine but you always feel better when it’s kept to one day.
See, those steps aren’t too bad. They’re easy and they can be implemented over time. However, you can expect that Part Three will get a little more serious. But so far, you’re off to a really good start. Take all the time you need. Healthier eating isn’t a race. Until next time…