Can we agree that eating these days is far more complicated than when we were growing up? I know that it’s often left me feeling defeated, confused and guilty.
I see two polarizing sides to eating for a healthy lifestyle among women today: Those who eat only plants, spend their days cooking, have strong opinions on social food issues, and…those that eat what is convenient, affordable and easily accessible.
I know that not everyone fits into either of these two camps, but hopefully you get where I’m going with this. So how do we navigate the world of food when we’re getting mixed messages about ingredients, and have seemingly less time every day for cooking?
I’ll tell you: baby steps, a little bit of knowledge, and a couple of great tools.
Finding Room for Real Food
In my last article, I introduced you to our family’s story and how we became better acquainted with “real food.” Real foods consist of whole ingredients, in other words, foods that are minimally processed. A good rule of thumb is being able to pronounce all the ingredients themselves and eating things that consist of five ingredients or less. Also, if it can easily and quickly spoil, its safe to say that is real food.
But first, I need to set the record straight…
My family loves doughnuts, and I don’t turn down tacos. We don’t eat perfectly all the time and we also don’t particularly enjoy eating raw veggies but I do know when I am not making the best choices so I eat in balance. It’s called the 80/20 rule. So 20% of my body is made of doughnuts and the other 80% is made up of things I am proud of like beets, spinach, parsley, apples, strawberries, quinoa and whole fats.
Back to those baby steps. The first thing we cut out was processed dairy and milk, and this decision was driven by our health conditions. We were fighting issues that were based in inflammation like chronic migraines, acne and joint pain, so out went the milk and the cheese. This was not easy. I cried. But after a week, we made it work. We found alternative milk we enjoyed, and swapped out our margarine for grass fed butter. Honestly, there are so many alternatives out there to dairy these days if you decide to switch.. So maybe the first step you make as a family is thinking about your health and any chronic issues and adjusting your diet based on that first.
Baby Steps: Start with Breakfast
Now think about what your family eats in the morning and what small tweaks you can make until your morning menu is real-food-based. For example, substitute sugary cereal for something like Honey Nut Cheerios, white bread toast for sourdough, and margarine for grass fed butter.
- Banana smeared with peanut or almond butter and raisins
- Eggs with sourdough toast
- Cheerios topped with honey and a handful of berries
Once you have conquered the morning meal, move onto your next snack/meal. This approach made it easier for me to get past the overwhelm of our eating habits and cut down on the cost of a total overhaul upfront.
Bring on the Veggies
If the thought of deciphering and reading labels sounds exhausting to you, the best piece of advice I can give you is to add more produce to your diet. Forget about label reading, and cutting out for now and just focus on upping your whole food intake. Isn’t it fun to look at what you can eat instead of focusing on what you shouldn’t?
I think Michael Pollan sums it up well when he says in his book In the Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto:
“Eat food, not too much and mostly plants.”
“If you aren’t eating enough fruits and vegetables everyday, you might as well be standing in front of a low level X-ray machine all day.” (Dr. Bruce Ames)
Did you catch that? The point of eating is for our overall health, not to soothe our emotions or our ever growing appetite. I’m convinced that one of the main reasons we are always hungry and constantly eating is because our body is starving for real nutrients.
A mind shift our family made last year came from this quote by Dr. Alejandro Junger, author of the book Clean: The Revolutionary Program to Restore the Body’s Natural Ability to Heal Itself, in the film Hungry for Change:
“The problem is that we aren’t eating food anymore; we are eating food-like products.”
Sounds about right to me. So if you feel overwhelmed or are still not sure where to start, always know that adding more produce is a great beginning.
Teach Me to “Like” Healthy
Now, let’s address the elephant in the room: if eating more fruits and veggies was so easy, we would all be doing it.
This is what has worked for us: Seasoning, cooking methods, and Juice Plus.
Some folks tend to be too light-handed on seasoning. Life is short! Throw some salt on that brussel sprout, drizzle that asparagus with balsamic and, if you aren’t sure, throw some minced garlic on it. Also, roasting veggies may change your life. No, seriously… chop up a few things, throw them on a cookie sheet, drizzle with some coconut oil and all the seasonings and then let the oven do the babysitting. Brussel sprouts roasted with oil, salt and garlic is now our family’s addiction! We fight for the last few pieces.
But this has not always been the case in our house, and guys, my middle son could kill you with his charm and dashing good looks; the only thing equal to his stubbornness. Needless to say, coercing him to eat certain foods was taking more energy than I had, and who really wants to argue over something you just worked hard to prepare.
This led our family to get started on Juice Plus. Simply put, it is whole foods in a capsule or gummie. I had no idea what a game changer this would be for our family, and this one simple change would truly be the catalyst to many more great food choices. Suddenly, we were flooding our bodies with 30 whole foods every single day. The kids thought it was the best thing ever getting to eat yummy gummies in the morning.
Have you heard the old saying, “You are what you eat?” It’s true, your taste buds go through a 10-14 day life cycle meaning that your taste changes all the time. If you binge on sugar, your body would crave it, and the same is true for whole foods. We were not only finding we were craving more whole foods and new produce because of eating that 30 fruit, veggie and berry variety every day, but our body was rebuilding itself out of those new, nutrient dense foods.
We found that our bodies were starting to heal themselves of issues like frequent headaches, adult acne, constipation, low energy, poor cravings and high cholesterol. Though making some of these choices didn’t always feel fun and took some effort, it has been more than worth it. We finally feel like we have the energy to live this great big life we want and know we are healthy enough to do it.
My desire in writing this article is to help you walk away with hope, tangible advice you can start implementing today and for you to feel empowered when choosing what to eat. Here is a short list of my favorite resources and a couple of family tips:
LiveSimply.me – This blog is really a one stop shop for healthy recipes, food plans, food education and recipes to make your own home products. Her gluten-free Blueberry Surprise Pancakes are ridiculously delicious and we eat them for dinner often.
100DaysofRealFood.com – You will find everything you need to get started and be successful with eating real food. I love her approach of showing better options and best options for most of your food choices (because perfection isn’t for everyone), haha. I highly recommend getting her book because you will want to make notes and highlight things. She will make label reading a breeze and become the best friend you always wanted.
OhSheGlows.com – Her recipes will literally blow your taste buds away. She does not hold back on flavor and she only cooks with whole food ingredients. Some ingredients you wouldn’t normally use, but listen, every time I have fed my meat loving husband something from her, he calls me the best chef and says we need to eat more plant-based.
Super Money-Saving Tips!
- Get Cookbooks from the Library – I have found almost every cookbook I have been interested in is available at my local library. This is a great way to test drive one before buying because sometimes you are only digging a handful of those dishes and then sometimes you stare at every picture drooling and crying over your love of food (oh, you’ve never done that?)
- Gardening – Something that has not only saved us money but has been life-giving is gardening. You’ll have to check back next week to hear more about what I call my “Robot Garden” that lives in the basement.
Now go eat an apple and well chat soon.