- Cooking your own food is one of the best ways to eat healthier, since you get to control exactly what goes into your meal. As a society, we’ve gotten out of practice using our kitchens, but cooking for yourself doesn’t have to be scary. If you don’t have any cooking experience, search around the internet for “Beginner cooking recipes” or go browse a local bookstore for kid’s cookbooks, which are obviously geared for beginners. Plus, you’ll get fun, bright colored pictures to look at!
- Mike and I are doing a lot of cooking at home including cooking in bigger batches in order to have leftovers for lunches and freezing meals and ingredients for nights when we’re feeling lazy. Even when there are leftovers in the fridge, I still sometimes forget a lunch and go buy something from the freezer more than I’d like. It’s a work in progress.
- Ripe avocado makes a good spread and mayo substitute.
- Guacamole is a great way to get a bunch of tasty veggies, and so is a good salsa (read the label or make your own!). Try to watch the amount of salt that’s included.
- Try dishes where veggies are mixed in with meat, like a stir fry.
- If you’re brave, try raw veggies dunked in a sauce or dip. It’s not the healthiest in the long run, but if it gets you eating things you wouldn’t otherwise, go for it! You can cut down on the dip once you’ve gotten used to the taste and texture of veggies.
- If all else fails, you can literally sneak vegetables in:
- Pureed raw zucchini is one of my favorite tricks; it’s tasteless but nutrient rich and makes sauces creamier. It’s great in pasta sauce (even added to a jar of pasta sauce) or a stir fry, and you can often use it in place of half of the oil when baking. You can puree a bunch (just stick chunks of washed raw zucchini, skin on, in the blender and have at it) and freeze it in cubes or small Ziploc bags. Instant nutrition! This works well with other pureed vegetables too.
- Make a fruit smoothie and add a carrot. Blend well and you’ll forget it’s there.
- We’ve also signed up for a CSA (Whistling Train Farm) so we’ll get a box of fresh, locally grown produce every week from June – January. If we don’t find creative ways to use up everything in the box, we’ll have wasted money. I’m really excited for the challenge. Maybe try buying a new vegetable a week and finding a way to cook with it (AllRecipes!)
- Mike and I are slowly becoming part-time vegetarians by working a lot more vegetarian recipes into our collection. I’ve been really surprised by how tasty and filling some of them are! You don’t even have to like tofu (though we do).
- I made Asparagus Chicken and Pecan Pasta the other night and it was super tasty and plenty filling. If you're scratching your head on how this is vegetarian, I cut out the chicken and added snap peas (we had frozen asparagus and snap peas on hand, any veggies would work). I also cut down the cheese to 1/2 c, mostly because I wanted to be able to have more to use on other tasty dishes.
- I use allrecipes.com for almost all of my new recipes. It lets you search by what you have in the cupboard and it is popular enough that it has a really strong rating system. There are also always comments about what people changed in order to make it fit with what they had in their pantry. All of the tested recipes (which is most) have a “per serving” breakdown of Calories, Fat, Cholesterol, Sodium, Carbs, Fiber, and Protein. It's pretty easy to find tasty, healthy recipes.
- Plan ahead one day/week to bring lunch instead of eating out. Once you get that down, increase it to two, and so on. Eventually, you’ll get to the point that you’re hardly eating fast food at all. Then you can have a fun experience like I did a few days ago! We haven’t eaten fast food more than once or twice in a couple of months now, but I forgot to bring lunch and Burger King had been sounding really good (I have to drive past one daily, often when I’m hungry), so I decided to treat myself. It tasted pretty good, but almost immediately afterwards I felt off. It sat really heavy in my stomach and made me feel gross for the rest of the day. Fast food just isn’t worth it anymore, and this is coming from someone who was just about addicted to Chicken McNuggets only half a year ago.
- Now the only fast food we’ll treat ourselves to is Chipotle Mexican Grill. They use whole and smart ingredients (including non-factory farmed meat!) put together in the same way you would at home. If you aren’t going to cook for yourself, your health is worth the few extra dollars to make sure you’re getting good quality prepared food.
I think taking control of your eating is a really big struggle for Americans. I don’t watch TV and I still feel constantly bombarded by advertisements for products and diet fads, and by information from ‘experts’ on the ‘only’ healthy way to eat. Spoilers: it generally involves their product. No wonder we can’t keep it straight. My general rule of thumb is to get back to basic ingredients and make it myself. If I’m not making it myself, I try to pay attention to what’s in it. Eating well doesn’t have to be hard, but it does take awareness and a bit of action.
Changing your diet isn’t about racing the scale. You can lose weight and still be unhealthy about it, but if you start changing how and what you eat you will notice a difference in how you feel, and eventually you should have more energy and less weight.
Never stop questioning,
PS. This probably would have fit well in last week’s post, but I forgot it. I’m curious if you all have any suggestions:
One of my biggest struggles is boredom snacking. Right now, for example, I’m stuffed but I have a very strong urge to go and find something to munch on … and Mike just offered me a cookie. Not fair. I know that this is a really important thing to cut back on, it goes right along with eating without distractions and paying attention to when your body says “I’m full!” but besides just not having anything in the apartment to snack on or sheer willpower, I don’t really know how to go about it. Help?