Sometimes, healthy eating seems like one big secret, and we’re constantly searching for the Holy Grail. While there is no big secret to eating healthy, there are definitely some tips and tricks that make healthy cooking and living a heck of a lot easier.
Add these tricks to your regime and watch your week go from a boat load of stress regarding healthy eating and meal planning, to easy as pie ;
The greatest success when it comes to healthy eating is learning to plan: plan your meals, plan your grocery list, plan how much you want to spend on high quality items vs. items you can save on, etc. It all comes down to planning! When we take the time- 30 minutes, or even 10 minutes – one day a week, it can save us hours, and not to mention stress (see #10), later on in the week.
Block out a few minutes to go over what healthy meals you’d like to cook for you, your family, and/or your significant other. What meals can be freezer-stored? When do you have time to cook a fun dinner during the week? Then determine what ingredients you need, and the budget you’d like to stay within.
When you have all of your ingredients, you can not only prepare the designated meals you’ve chosen, but you can also bulk cook other items, like veggies, or prepare sides to meals, like wild rice or quinoa. Evening slicing fruit saves time during the week!
2. Buy healthy ingredients in bulk
When we purchase in bulk, we can save a lot of money! Good items to purchase include oats, rice, quinoa, and other grains, as well as soups and broths. When you get home, determine how much you’ll need for the week and prep it ahead of time! It’s also a good idea to invest in some durable containers so that you can keep all of your freshly cooked food still feeling fresh throughout the week!
3. Hold the salt (but not the sea salt)
We’ve heard that regular table salt isn’t the best for us, but sea salt can be very good, and it’s great for adding flavor to dishes! While regular table salt is very refined, sea salt actually contains some trace minerals, and has a slightly different flavor and texture to it. Though we’re talking about watching our sodium intakes, it’s also important to not go too low- having too little salt in your foods is just as bad!
4. Eat as close to the earth as possible
This doesn’t mean you need to eat everything raw- there would be no cooking in that ha! But when we stay as close to a food’s natural state as possible (i.e. its least processed state), we’re doing good not only for ourselves, but for our environment as well. Instead of buying a “healthy” frozen meal of lightened mac and cheese, use a gluten free bean pasta, a dairy free vegan nut cheese, and dairy free milk to make it at home. Add in some sauteed vegetables, like tomatoes and zucchini, to round out the meal (and the colors).
Focus on filling your plates with fruits and vegetables, and watch out for added sugar! You can still purchase “processed” items, like healthy breads and pastas, but it’s always important to read the ingredients label, making sure there’s nothing you don’t recognize and that it’s not 50 ingredients long!
5. Don’t resist indulgences
Have you ever told yourself that you’re being “good,” and then you’re offered a piece of cake (or a cookie or candy) and you start telling yourself you can’t have it…and then everyone is having some, so you really want it, but you keep holding strong. Then you get home, and you still want it, but because you resisted so much, you end up eating the whole cake rather than just having a slice? Yep, we’ve all been there.
When we resist something, we actually make it more enticing, and the craving heightens. We get it, healthy eating doesn’t have to be bland, but it does come with rules (i.e. no eating a bag of Oreo’s every day as a snack). However, by constantly restricting yourself from treats that are good for your soul (think Grandma’s famous apple pie), we end up doing more harm than good.
A good way to still keep up your healthy eating and cooking regime, but still enjoy life is to allow yourself a little. Whether that’s a healthier version of what you’re craving (there are so many healthy food blogs that have absolutely amazing recreations of traditional favorites!), having a piece of dark chocolate at the end of the night, or a little slice of cake at your friend’s birthday party, life is about balance! There is always a way to have your cake and eat it too!
6. Be mindful
We live in a day and age where most people are eating by themselves, at a desk and with multiple screens turned on and in front of their tired sleep-deprived eyes. Most of the time, these people will eat while working or scrolling, and they can’t even remember what the food tasted like, let alone with they were even eating.
The biggest favor you can do for yourself is turn off all screens when you’re eating and pay attention to the food. Even better if you have company to eat with (i.e. family, friends, a partner, etc.)! If it’s just you, don’t worry- it may sound boring at first, but really be present for the food you’re about to eat. Take a moment to savor all of the flavors, and think about the effort you went into preparing it, even how the ingredients had to be grown in order to make it to your plate!
When you have this state of mindfulness while you’re eating, food not only becomes more enjoyable, but you also develop a greater appreciation for food and life, rather than just viewing food as fuel to get you through your day (although that’s a great benefit to it!).
7. Use healthy fats
When it comes to flavor, fats are the carrier. Using healthy fats, like olive oil, coconut oil (in moderation- some people gain weight with saturated fat, even from plants, while others do just fine), and avocado oil helps to keep recipes and meals that don’t use a lot of ingredients flavorful and satisfying (so that you’re not hungry an hour later!).
8. Cook Seasonally
Contrary to popular belief, produce, even organic produce, can actually fit into a variety of budgets when purchased seasonally. When you shop in season, especially at a farmer’s market (so that you’re supporting the local economy if you can), it requires less effort than purchasing out of season (for instance, buying zucchini at the grocery store in mid February). By eating seasonally, you’re also exposing your body to the nutrients that it actually needs to get through the current season healthfully. At different times during the year, as well as places, your body needs different levels of nutrients.
For instance, someone living in Alaska needs a vastly different diet than someone living in Hawaii. Same goes for when we’re eating during December versus mid July. To get an idea of what produce is available when and where, you can check out this guide!
9. Embrace the herb life
Well, not exactly how we’re implying here haha! Herbs and spices are key to adding not only flavor, but variety as well to any healthy cooking regime. Keep a few dry herbs on hand, such as rosemary, thyme, sage, and oregano, and include a few fresh ones to purchase weekly, like basil and parsley. Then don’t forget to add your healthy fats!
10. Keep it fresh
Well, not only speaking about produce here. It’s important to keep it fresh, as in change up your routine a lot! The body actually gets used to processing and digesting foods that we repeatedly eat (for instance, if you have the same bowl of oatmeal and blueberries every morning). Not to mention, it can get pretty boring if you’re eating the same things day in and day out!
Make sure you include a few different forms of protein to eat throughout the week: chicken, fish, chickpeas, etc, as well as a variety of in-season fruits and vegetables. Or you can stick to doing certain fruits and veggies one week, and switching it up the next. That way, you’re not bored, and neither is your body!
Also, feel free to get creative with meals! Even if you meal prep, say, a chilli for the week, there are ways to keep eating it that are different (i.e. add different toppings, have some with a side salad one night, even make a healthy “sloppy joe” with it another night!). Have fun with this!
10. Watch your stress
Healthy eating shouldn’t be stressful, so if something is causing you more agony than joy, don’t hesitate to change it. That being said, it’s always important to look at the full picture. Is there a relationship that has been trying lately? Is something not working at work? While this is a healthy eating and cooking article, health is much more than just food. It’s only a small aspect of it. Stress impacts how we digest food, our moods during the day, how we sleep, our weight, etc. This ties back into point #6, but make sure you’re setting aside time to not only check in with what you’re eating, but also how you’re feeling while you eat, and throughout your day as well.
As Dr. Joe Dispenza says, you can eat all of the organic food that you want, but if you’re still operating by the hormones of stress, all you have is organic stress.