If you want to eat healthier but you aren’t sure where to start, here are some suggestions for you! I’ve learned these on my own, from family members (especially my hubby), and from other healthy friends who have walked alongside me on my health journey. I hope these are helpful to you!
1. Get to the grocery store.
This is where it all starts. Getting more groceries and ordering less take out is often the first step in getting and staying healthy. When you go to the grocery store, the best way to shop is for ingredients, not finished products. Processed foods (things that are pre-made, like freezer meals, boxed meals, etc.) have more preservatives and added ingredients that you don’t need, and aren’t good for you. Stay along the outer edge of the store for produce, meats, eggs, and dairy (much of which is processed, but not all of us can go without dairy!). If you’re looking at the ingredient list for an item and there are words that are 15 letters long and you can’t even pronounce them, then you probably don’t need that ingredient in your diet. When buying your ingredients, like produce and meat, fresh is best, frozen is second, and canned is third. Organic is always a perk, but it’s expensive, so do it when you can, but don’t feel bad when you can’t.
2. Clean out the pantry!
Checking expiration dates is important, of course, but in addition to that, toss the leftover holiday candy and the snack crackers. If you do need food that’s ready to grab on the go, try out SkinnyPop, Larabars, Kind bars, fresh or dried fruit without added sugar, or lightly salted nuts. It’s not always about calories, but about the fuel you’re getting from the food you eat.
3. Make the switch.
Whenever possible, use honey or pure maple syrup instead of sugar. Use olive oil instead of vegetable or canola oil. Try turkey sausage and bacon instead of pork. Substitute sea salt or Himalayan pink salt instead of table salt. Try plain (that’s important!) Greek yogurt instead of sour cream. Use spaghetti squash with your favorite pasta sauce instead of spaghetti noodles (or mix it in). Instead of white rice (it’s processed), try brown rice, or another grain like quinoa, bulgar, or pearl barley. Try out fruit spread (with no sugar added) instead of jelly; I find it to be just as sweet. If you use canned fruits, find the ones that are canned in their own juices instead of syrup. You can always search the web for more substitutions. (Side note: when baking, this can be difficult. You might need to search for a healthier version of your recipe instead of substituting the flour or sugar in your recipe cup for cup.)
Organic is always a perk, but it’s expensive, so do it when you can, but don’t feel bad when you can’t.
4. Better your breakfast.
If you don’t want to stop eating cold cereal, try using milk with less fat, and choose a cereal that stays under 7 grams of sugar per serving (Rice Chex and Multigrain Cheerios are my favorite). If you like it sweet, add fresh berries or sliced bananas or peaches to your bowl. If you’re a hearty breakfast lover, scramble or fry your eggs in olive oil (toss in some spinach for an added boost!), sub in some turkey bacon, and eat a whole wheat toast instead of a biscuit. If you like oatmeal or cream of wheat, use honey or pure maple syrup instead of sugar to sweeten it, or add in some fresh fruit! I love waffles and pancakes for breakfast, and my kids do too, so we use vanilla extract instead of sugar to add sweetness and flavor, and we add some ground flaxseed to our batter, and sometimes a homemade fruit puree (strawberry and banana are the favorites) to make them extra sweet. Almond milk and coconut milk are good substitutes for cow’s milk in those batters as well.
5. Kick it up a notch.
You don’t have to have a flavorless meal to eat healthy. Add all the spices you want—and try it before you add salt or butter. When you add garlic or other strong flavors, you might not need the extra salt to make it delicious. When using salad dressings or pasta sauces, it’s always healthier to make your own, because you don’t need to add preservatives that way. Try out some new recipes for both, and you’ll be just as pleased with them as what comes out of a jar. Balsamic or citrus vinaigrettes are a good place to start for dressings. Tomato-based sauces are typically healthier than cream-based sauces when it comes to pastas. If you’re making a salad, switch to (or add in some) spinach—I even like kale or chopped up brussels sprouts in mine. Add some veggies like carrots, celery, cucumbers or radishes, and a boiled egg, and you won’t go away hungry. Try out blogs like Skinnytaste, Sprouted Kitchen or A Couple Cooks for new, healthy, and delicious recipes.
This might seem overwhelming, but take the “get healthy” journey one step at a time. No one is perfect! You do have to readjust your eating habits, but trying to do it all at once can be too difficult. Choose a few things to start with, and as you get used to them, add more healthy choices in. Before you know it, you and your family will be making the healthy choice more often than not. Good luck!
You’ll also like How to Go Gluten-Free (Without Hating It), 6 Practical Tips When You Want to Get Healthy, and Can I Be a Hippie in Heels? Balancing a Healthy Lifestyle