Health and Nutrition can be a daunting topic for some. I’ve known folks mid-way through life who have sustained themselves on a pure meat and potatoes kind of diet. But this isn’t necessarily the healthiest and most optimal way to live. I often get asked about how I stay in shape; while exercise is necessary, I find that the healthier I eat, the better I feel both physically and mentally. So, I share with you, my most important eating habits.
Eating healthy and eating whole foods is one of the simplest and cheap (!) ways to improve health and well-being. We’re not talking about the mega health-food store Whole Foods; we mean literally whole foods; apples, carrots, garlic- food that comes from the earth. According to a January 2016 article from US News, eating a whole foods, plant based diet not only helps prevent chronic disease but also increases overall well being. While this is something that most of us probably know, many things are easier said than done. So take a look for some simple and easy actions you can take towards living a more fruitful (no pun intended) life.
- Buy foods that are as close to their natural state as possible. Instead of reaching for veggie chips or frozen french fries, buy a bag of potatoes and bake your own! Or cut carrots into thin strips and bake with rosemary and garlic. You want your food to look like it came from the Earth; so the least amount of processing is best.
- Take the guesswork out of meals. Try to limit grocery store runs to 1-2 times per week. Planning meals ahead of time takes away those last minute trips to the store with a growling stomach. Start off by planning just your lunches; buy veggies and chop/ steam ahead of time, make a pot of mung beans or lentils, a “sauce” such as hummus or tahini/sesame dressing and voila! You’ve got lunch for the week! Just put together your lunch bowl in the morning before work and you’re done for the day.
- Get things steamy. Standing in front of a skillet watching food cook isn’t exactly everyone’s fantasy for their downtime on a weeknight. So make it easy on yourself by steaming your veggies! Cook time is shortened, nutritional value is better than if you cooked it directly over heat, AND it’s as simple as setting a timer (and not forgetting it)!
- Do What the Buddha Did. A buddha bowl is my go-to meal literally almost every day. A Buddha Bowl comes from the concept of monks walking through villages having their food bowls filled with whatever was available, for their one meal a day. PLEASE don’t just eat one meal a day, but DO use this concept loosely. Here is what consists of a buddha bowl:
Steamed or Cooked Veggies (use what is in season!) Carrots, Sweet Potatoes, Fennel, Green Beans..etc.
A cooked protein: this could be mung beans or lentils, meat, or even tofu.
A cooked grain: this is optional but I love adding short grain brown rice to my bowls!
Raw Veggies: this is good for fiber and digestion. I love shredding carrots or beets and adding bean sprouts to mine.
Sauce: this is where it gets fun. I never get tired of Buddha Bowls because I always use a different sauce or dip! Some ideas are Hummus, Red Pepper dip, Guacamole, BBQ Sauce, Tahini Sauce...you get the idea.
Done! Now you have a beautiful and simple way to eat healthy, all year round!
- (Eating Out) Less is More (Money in your Wallet). This is one of the biggest money saving tips out there. According to a 2015 article from Market Watch, many Americans are spending valuable savings on eating out. We’ve all been there; after working 8-10 hours a day, the last thing you want to do is cook a meal. You just want to be full. That’s where eating out “saves” you. The unfortunate thing is, when we eat in someone else’s place of business (because that’s what the restaurant industry is) we have no idea what they are putting into our food. You might try to pick a healthy option but there is no way to know if those carrots in your dish came from a can that came from a factory in China and were grown in soil that may have no nutrients in it but may be filled with toxic chemicals or minerals. The only way to know what you’re eating is to prepare it yourself. So save your money, plan ahead (see #2) and be confident in your food choices.
- Know your prices. You’ll be less likely to eat out if you know how much it would cost you to make that meal at home. Let’s do some math: let’s imagine a typical lunch scene. You order something “healthy” like Chicken Pad Thai. You pay $12. For $12 you get one big plate of rice noodles with small pieces of bean sprouts, green onions, garlic and pieces of chicken. There may be an egg in there also. Do you know how many Pad Thai meals you can make at home with $12? I will tell you:
For FOUR servings of Pad Thai:
Rice Noodles $3.49
Organic Chicken Breast ($7.99/ lb)
Green Onion $.68
Bean Sprouts $1
Pad Thai Sauce $4
So for $21 dollars, you can make 4 servings at $5 a piece using Organic ingredients! These are the prices at my local HEB organic section so they may differ slightly but you see the point. Basically, when you eat out, you are paying more than DOUBLE what you’d pay to make the same thing at home.
- Fruits of Your Labor. Sometimes, veggies can seem like a cruel punishment; especially if you aren’t used to eating them often. So get your vitamins and minerals from fruits too! Rather than a bag of chips or a Clif bar for a snack, grab an apple or a grapefruit. I tend to eat nut butter or nuts with my fruit so that I feel full for longer. You can even pair yours with cheese if you want to get fancy! Eating healthy doesn’t have to be bland; it can taste pretty sweet!
- Start Small. Don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to change how you’ve eaten your whole life, in a couple of weeks. Small steps are best. Here are some SMALL steps you can take for BIG changes!
Meatless Mondays. If you’re a big fan of eating meat, see if you can go one day a week without it. This will allow you to get creative with your meals and you’ll save money while having a positive impact on the environment!
Limit eating out to the weekends. See if you can stick to your goals during the week but allow yourself some fun and flex time on the weekends!
Invite your friends. It’s easier to make changes together. Involve your partner or friends so they can help hold you accountable and perhaps make some changes in their diet as well!
Try one new veggie a week! Never had diakon? Grab one at the store and try pickling it! Get creative and know that it’s okay if you don’t like something; you never know until you try!
Be nice to yourself. This isn’t an attempt at a world record. Just do what you can and know that any effort is better than none at all.
So, these are all suggestions; some will stick and some won’t. This is a good starting point though, if you’re finding yourself on the edge of making a change.
Have any easy recipes to share? Comment below, we’d love to know!
“WHEN DIET IS WRONG, MEDICINE IS OF NO USE. WHEN DIET IS CORRECT, MEDICINE IS OF NO NEED.”
~ AYURVEDIC PROVERB