These are my top 11 tips for ditching the bad eating habits and getting healthy in the kitchen. Eating healthy doesn’t have to be boring but it does take a certain commitment. Fortunately healthy eating pays off in the end, with more energy and a healthy body.
I am probably the last person on earth who would ever have given healthy eating advice. Several years ago, before I remarried I was a self-confessed fast food addict. There were days when I ate fast food meals three times a day. Needless to say I gained quite a bit of weight and felt sluggish. Getting off the fast food drive-thru track wasn’t easy. It was a die-hard habit and I absolutely went through withdrawals.
Do I still have pizza or burgers on occasion? Yes, but it’s the exception and not the norm. That’s one of the most important thing to remember when choosing healthy eating. There are a few things that kept me sane and yes, it does get easier to eat healthfully!
One thing at a time
Changes like this are hard to make overnight. It’s ingrained in you that you go out for breakfast after church each Sunday. Or that you always buy cookies for the kid’s lunches, because well, you’ve always bought them. Take things one at a time. Best to make a list of changes that you’d like to make and be specific. Several years ago my list would have said, “Eat more fresh fruit and vegetables, eat out less, control portions, eat a better breakfast, quit drinking Diet Coke”. I started with the portion control which is probably the best and easiest place to start. Then I moved towards eating out less simply by packing lunches each day and preparing a dinner plan so I wasn’t scrambling each night. I definitely eat more veggies and am still working on getting more fresh fruit (I do aim for an apple a day!) And I am proud to say that I am one month free of my Diet Coke addiction. Those resolutions took me several years, nothing happened overnight. Choose one thing off your list and start now. When you feel like you’ve hit your stride in that area, work on the next item!
Have someone who holds you accountable
There are times now when I’d love to pick up burgers and fries for the family instead of cooking. And I’ll admit it, sometimes we do hit In n’ Out but those moments are few and far in between and not the norm. My husband helps to hold me accountable for what we choose to eat. Do I think he’s a meanie sometimes when I really want to order a pizza and he says he’s grilling chicken instead? Yep! But that’s okay, because he has our family’s best interest at heart. And I know if I didn’t have him holding me accountable I’d be eating all sorts of junk that I shouldn’t. Do I still go out to pizza with my girlfriends? Yes, I do but I temper the heavy-calorie days by packing my healthy lunches and eating lots of fresh greens the rest of the week. Who in your life can hold you accountable for your meal choices? Choose someone you’ll still love and respect, even after they’ve given you that look when you reach for a second helping of dessert!
Choose freshly prepared
I grew up in a household that thrived on boxed rice mixes. You know the kind with the sodium-laden seasoning packets? I used to buy them too until I got my rice maker and realized how easy and inexpensive it was to make your own rice. A huge bag of brown rice from Costco is so cheap and our $25 rice maker stops when the rice is done so it doesn’t over or under cook. We add chicken broth or our own seasonings to the water when cooking if we want additional flavor but most of the time we eat it plain. Consider all of the boxed, canned or frozen convenience foods that you could be making in bulk on your own. It’s wonderful to know exactly what ingredients we are eating too. I’ve started mixing up our own salad dressings, cooking beans from scratch and only baking treats like cookies from whole ingredients.
Take it with you
I’m not a leftovers lover. I don’t really want to eat last night’s rewarmed meal but I often do. Some foods are better than others the second time around, naturally. Given a night in the fridge, meatloaf, lasagna and salad dressings have had time to let their flavors develop and meld. To avoid the temptation of hitting the fast food drive-thru or the office snack machine, make sure you are well-stocked with healthy snacks. Pack your lunch the night before so you only have to grab and go in the morning.
Every few hours snack on a little fat, some protein and a carb to keep up your metabolism (a cheese stick, a few almonds and a small piece of fruit is appropriate). Snacks should hover around 100 calories. Pack things in a cooler lunch bag if you plan on being out and about. My husband makes it a point to keep snacks with him at all times, usually a small bag or nuts to nibble when hunger strikes. It’s nice to have when we’re out running errands and we aren’t close to home. Having the snacks with us helps us resist the urge to stop at a convenience store for treats.
I love eating out. It’s nice to get something that you don’t prepare at home and to have someone else clean the dishes. But do I really think that it’s worth the $15+ plate of food when that could easily be enough to feed my entire family several meals at home? I very rarely eat out because it’s expensive, portions are too large and it’s unnecessary when we have food to prepare at home. When you eat at home you know what you’re putting in your food, how much salt or butter has been added to the vegetables and you can control the portions.
Switch out things in the pantry towards healthier choices. White rice for brown. Whole wheat bread instead of white. Fresh oranges instead of processed orange juice. Vegetarian night instead of a meat dish once or twice a week. Not adding butter or salt to the steamed veggies. A dollop of Greek yogurt in your taco instead of sour cream. Fresh fish instead of steak.
If your family is used to doing things a certain way, you may hear some grumblings. Believe me, I was a big time grumbler when my husband brought home a huge bag of uncooked pinto beans. I’ve never liked beans but after preparing them fresh, I actually enjoy them (don’t tell him that!) Think of little swaps that you could make in your meal planning that could remove fat/calories/cholesterol and move your dishes into a more healthy zone.
Cook in bulk and your leftovers will be your own “fast food”
When making things like beans, biscuits or soups, I tend to prepare double and freeze the leftovers. On those days when your cupboards are bare or you just know that you aren’t going to have it in you to cook dinner that night, simply pull out a bag and let it defrost. Voila! You’ll just have to reheat when you get home and have a hearty meal that’s healthier, cheaper and just as fast as anything you’d find in the drive-thru.
Love the slow cooker
Toss in fresh ingredients in the morning and have a healthy meal when you get home. Pair it with freshly steamed veggies and you have a balanced dinner (hopefully with leftovers to eat at lunch the next day). We never seem to have leftovers with this amazing dish by Fabio Viviani! A small amount of meat is perfect when cooked in a hearty sauce so you won’t need much to satisfy. Resist the recipes that call for a bunch of canned ingredients as this is going to increase the sodium intake and calorie count. A search for Healthy Slow Cooker Recipes on Pinterest revealed tons of fantastic looking recipes!
Start the morning on a good note
I am a terrible breakfast eater who is trying to reform herself. In the old days, a “good” breakfast was either a slice of pastry that my dad had bought at the grocery, a breakfast sandwich picked up from a drive-thru or a doughnut from the convenience store (with a Diet Coke, of course!). Talk about a major blood sugar spike that would have me crashing by 9:00 am! I have started waking up about 15 minutes earlier to cook my kids a healthy breakfast. Sometimes it’s scrambled eggs with a little cheddar cheese, toast and a half a banana. Sometimes they have oatmeal with apples and a glass of milk. I like to make myself a fresh fruit smoothie or just a single piece of wheat toast with a thin spread of peanut butter and a half a banana. I know that if I eat a healthy breakfast at home when I first get up, it’s helps satisfy the tummy-grumbles, gets my metabolism moving and I’ll be less likely to stop and grab junk food.
Log each bite
Definitely a great place to start, especially if you are a mindless in-front-of-the-computer nibbler like I am. Are you eating right now? *wink* Get a tiny note pad and log your food every day, even the small bites of your kid’s leftover mac and cheese. This is just to give you an idea what you are consuming and put your intake in perspective. At some point you’ll want to figure out the calories to see where you’ll been falling approximately each day. I’ve personally used the Lose It! app on my phone and love how I’m able to plug in my calories, scan bar codes, add in exercise and search for foods. It’s a helpful food log that you can check through the day to make sure you’re staying on track.
One of the “tricks” that I learned right away when I started on the healthier eating bandwagon was to drastically cut my portions. It really snapped things into perspective when I started serving myself half of my normal portions…and I was completely full and content! If you’re used to serving yourself two slices of toast with breakfast try just one. You can still have a cookie, just have two instead of four. Do you find that you’re still hungry? Double the fruits and veggies and continue to half the other portions. Serve up meal plates in the kitchen and promptly refrigerate leftovers to resist the temptation to go back for seconds.
I still struggle with certain aspects of healthy eating. But I’m human and I know that “slow and steady wins the race”. Any changes that I make have to be implemented slowly in order for them to stick! I am a work in progress and I’m happy with the changes I’ve made so far.
What are your healthy eating tips? Anything helpful that keeps you on track? Share below in the comments!
I am not a doctor so please consult yours before trying any of these tips.