Six Ways to Make Healthy Eating Easy
Editor’s Note:Taylor Riggs, registered dietician and food enthusiast, has just published her cookbook Real Food, Real Simple. In addition to dozens of scrumptious paleo-friendly and gluten-free recipes, she has some sage advice on food and health for those living with diabetes. These six easy tips can help jump-start a healthier lifestyle!
1. Keep it Real
Choose real, whole foods as often as you can. What do I mean by this? Fresh fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, nuts, seeds and unprocessed foods that are as close to their natural form as possible. Our bodies are meant to consume foods made from the earth, not from factories; foods rich in nutrients, not in chemicals; and foods that make us feel good, not bad. So whenever possible, start by picking real, fresh foods and go from there. Your body will thank you!
2. Help You Help Yourself
I always find it helpful to spend at least one hour on meal preparation each week. No, this doesn’t mean you have to prepare all of your meals for the week in full on Saturday or Sunday or portion all of your lunches into individual plastic containers. It just means taking a little bit of time each weekend to make your life way easier during the week by doing a little bit of prep work for yourself. By doing something as simple as chopping a few peppers or onions to have on hand for dinners during the week or cooking a big batch of cauliflower rice to have as a base for your lunches, you will save yourself a ton of time (and stress) when it comes to weekday meals. I promise! Whether you’re getting home late from work or the kids have a soccer game, having less work to do for a meal makes it 100 percent more likely to actually happen. Make a goal to set aside just one hour for this each week and I promise you’ll notice a big difference!
3. Be Prepared
The above being said, how will you know what you need to prep for the week if you don’t know what you want to make? You won’t! So try making a list at the beginning of the week of what meals you like to have and any ingredients you will need to make them. This way, when you go grocery shopping you will not be aimlessly walking around the store putting things into your cart that you don’t need—or worst, forgetting items you do need, leading to an extra grocery tip trip during the week (the horror!).
Making a grocery list immediately sets you up for a great week because it gives you a built-in action plan. Try writing your dinner ideas for the week down on a calendar and hang it up on your refrigerator, or make notes of your weekly emails on your phone. I even think it’s fun to create a photo album on my iPhone titled, “This Week’s Meals” and save pictures/recipes for each day so I can have a visual and something accessible if I need to look up ingredients while I’m at the store. Being prepared means setting yourself up for success!
4. Embrace the Power of Leftovers
I believe there are two types of people in this world: those who have leftovers and those who don’t (ha!). And I hope to one day show the latter group is really missing out. Seriously! In fact I think food often tastes even better the next day, since the flavors have had a little time to sink in and marinate. Plus, you can repurpose things in new ways. Have Chicken Lettuce Wraps for dinner on Monday? Throw the filling into an egg scramble for breakfast on Tuesday. Voila! Two healthy meals for the price and work of one and you didn’t waste any food. It’s a win-win!
5. Create Your Own Healthy Environment
Have you ever heard someone say that if you keep healthy food around, you’ll eat healthy food? And if you keep junk food around, that’s what you eat? Well it’s true!
One of the most valuable concepts I learned during my dietetic internship at Ohio State University is that our environment plays a major role in the health decisions we make. For example, if we open our refrigerator and see sodas and candy bars front and center, with water and fruit shoved into the bottom back corner, the first option for many of us is going to be the candy bar. Why? Because it’s readily available, easily accessible and, well, it looks and tastes good. Plus, the fruit has to be washed, peeled and prepared, so from a convenience standpoint, the candy bar wins.
But, what if we made a few small changes to our environment? For example, what if we pre-washed the fruit, put it into an open bowl and moved it to the front of the refrigerator at eye level and put the candy and soda in the corner down below? Or better yet, what if we eliminated the candy and soda all together? Leaving the fruit as the only option?
We can’t always control every piece of our environment. But, there are simple efforts we can make to help put ourselves in better situations when it comes to making healthy decisions in our everyday lives. Tired of being tempted by donuts at work meetings? Try eating breakfast before you get to the office. Want to stop hitting up the vending machine for your 3 p.m. snack? Leave your cash at home and keep a bag of almonds in your purse. Small changes can have big outcomes and can help make the healthy choices easier.
6. Find Your Balance
I have “to-dos” covered from personal experience on how important finding balance is to a healthy lifestyle. It can be easy to have an all-or-nothing personality when it comes to diet or exercise or work or school, but I found that it’s actually okay to not be all in. It’s okay not to eat a 100 percent Paleo diet. It’s okay not to do a killer workout seven days a week. The important thing that I continue to reiterate is that you find a balance that works for you. Whether that means you follow the “80/20” rule, you eat Paleo, you eat vegan, you eat whatever the hell you want; by all means do it. If it’s a lifestyle that’s healthy and treats your mind and body well, I’m a fan of it.