tips for eating healthier & saving a little time

The first post of 2013! (And hopefully the first of many!) I'm really excited about this year. I can feel a lot of good vibes in the air :) I have some resolutions and goals I'd like to share with you all, but I think I'll save that for some of my coming posts. In the meantime, I've been wanting to write about today's post for awhile, and I figure now is as good a time as ever.

Eating healthy and losing weight may seem like a cliche/only-do-this-in-January-then-quit  resolution, but if you actually stick with it, you won't be part of the cliche! As a nutrition-obsessed foodie, I feel it's my responsibility to impart some knowledge about maintaining a healthy, wholesome diet. Believe it or not, a lot of people simply do not know the first thing about choosing healthful foods. Although some of it can seem like common sense, nutrition education is probably less prevalent than you think. It is actually something that I feel pretty strongly about, and hope to get involved with in the near future. The fact that my dad has asked me over the last few days how to make healthier decisions was basically the icing on the cake in getting me to finally write this. (Or should I say the peanut butter on the banana? We're on healthy terms now ;)) A little visual inspiration never hurt anyone.... :)

I wanted to put together a few tips that have helped my mind and body feel good, helped me save time throughout the week, and helped me make a slightly more positive impact on the environment. You may already know all of what I'm going to say, and if you do, that's really great. Also keep in mind that all of us come in different shapes and sizes, and although there are RDAs/AMDRs for vitamins/macronutrients geared toward the average person, I will not be posting anything about how many calories/grams/percentages you should be consuming.

*Remember that while what you eat is of course important, staying active is also imperative to your health and well-being.

whole grains, fruits & vegetables, lean meats,
low-fat dairy products, nuts/seeds, minimally processed foods

  • Cut out the white bread & replace it with whole wheat or honey wheat
  • Use brown rice instead of white
  • Incorporate rolled oats into your diet somehow. Sneak it into smoothies if you have to.
  • Cook with Extra Virgin Olive Oil rather than butter & use in simple, homemade dressings. EVOO contains the heart-healthy fats you want, and isn't refined!
  • Choose whole wheat pasta over regular (and read the box closely because some are only 50% whole grain!)
  • Choose chicken breast and ground turkey breast in place of chicken thighs/wings and ground beef. If you want to use ground beef, choose the leanest cut, which is usually a 93/7 combination.
  • If you can, cut back on the animal protein and replace it with more plant-based protein
  • Use fat-free/skim milk, or if dairy-free is desired, try Almond or Soy milk
  • Ditch the soda, fruit punch, diet soda, and basically anything that isn't water. My best advice to incorporate more water into your diet is to keep a water bottle on you at all times. I have a Camelbak with a water filter in it and it's become something I can't leave home without. Even when you think you're not thirsty, you'll want to grab for it and take a sip just because it's there. :) I end up refilling mine at least 3 times a day!
Just by making those transitions & making wiser decisions, you will consequently lower your intake of sugar/bad fat/ingredients you can't pronounce, and increase your intake of fiber, good fat, and wholesome nutrients you CAN pronounce :)

Processed foods are foods that have gone through extensive 'processes' to become what they are. Through that, nutrients can be lost, preservatives are added to extend shelf-life and stability of the item, and they are usually high in fat, sugar, and sodium. Candy bars, cookies, frozen foods, certain cereals, and certain granola bars (YES guys, those Fiber One's & other bars of-the-like can be deceiving!) are all examples of processed foods.

Instead, create your own meals from wholesome ingredients that actually offer value to your body. I'm not saying you can't have biscuits with dinner one night, or a warm baked potato with some real butter. But if you do, see if you can make homemade biscuits using whole wheat flour. They're actually quite simple and you know exactly what's going into it. As for the potato, maybe opt for a sweet potato that offers a bit more nutrients and will "make up" for that slab of butter if you must have it ;)

Not only are you helping the environment, but think of the all of the places and even pesticides your food has come in contact with when it isn't found local or organic. You can feel good about knowing you didn't just support your tomato coming from across the country in a semi, polluting the air and using tons of fuel.

Produce is usually cheaper at farmer's markets than supermarkets, and in return you are supporting farmers in your area and helping your local economy. It's a win-win :)

You may not be able to afford everything organic (and I totally feel you.) Here's a list provided by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) that tells you the top 12 (+2) produce items you should buy organic, since they have been found to contain the most pesticides. It's referred to as "the dirty dozen." They have another list on the same page deemed the "the clean 15" in reference to the foods with the least pesticides. Love it!!

A common complaint among people is that they don't have enough time to cook on weeknights, and therefore resort to ordering take out or having fast food. If you're able to have some prepping done in advance, you are much more likely to want to cook something later on. Set aside some time on your day off or on Sunday, and prepare some meals or snacks for the next week or two. Trust me it is so worth it! Here are some examples that have made my mornings a bit smoother and my dinners a bit faster :)
  • Mince about half a cup of fresh garlic and place in a jar or air-tight container. Add enough EVOO to coat the garlic and store the jar in the fridge. When you're ready to saute your veggies or make turkey burgers, simply scoop out a tablespoon or so. Getting the cutting board out to mince up garlic every single night just seems tedious and unnecessary. It's a little trick I learned from my grandpa and is not the same as buying minced garlic in the jar. I promise you it tastes so much more fresh this way. To be honest, I feel that the store-bought version has a weird taste to it, so I much prefer doing it myself with better tasting results! And as a little side note- garlic is good for you too!
  • Portion out smoothie servings & freeze, leaving you with just a few things to add in the morning. Buy some freezer bags, sort out your smoothie ingredients for each day of the week (your fruit, flaxseed meal, rolled oats, etc) label if you wish to, and freeze! In the morning, add it to the blender with your liquid ingredients and blend! No fuss with rinsing/measuring out your fruit and other ingredients.
  • Other things to make ahead of time: roasted vegetables for wraps, whole wheat pancakes (Good Life Eats has perfect tips for freezing/re-heating,) or even a couple of nut butters to add to your smoothies or crackers.
Maybe the first couple of weeks of making healthier decisions, you'll want to cut out the really bad sweets, but you should never feel like you're being deprived. If you want a piece of your favorite cake, have it, but only have it once a week. Truthfully, you may not even crave it anymore like you used to after realizing how much better you feel when you don't eat it. But as I always preach, if you want to indulge, whether it's sweet or savory, try making it yourself so you know what's going in it :)

  • If you're looking for something sweet you can have every day, I like to recommend a little bit of super dark chocolate. It will satisfy your craving while providing some antioxidants.
  • Sometimes I just need my frozen yogurt (you probably know that by now.) When I'm feeling that way, I try to opt for the low-fat vanilla, but sometimes my cookies-n-cream lovin' side gets the best of me. Just be mindful that the sugar content can be really high, and if it doesn't say low-fat or you don't read the nutrition facts, the fat content can be just as bad as ice cream. My favorite go-to store-bought brand is Publix Premium's line of fro yo's. Their vanilla is pretty good and it is very low fat :) I sometimes add it to my smoothies too.
  • As with anything, moderation is key. (At least in my opinion.)
It's amazing how much better you will feel when you are eating foods that actually offer value to your body, rather than filling it with unnecessary additives and non-wholesome ingredients. Sorry this was basically a novel, but hopefully you will consider it useful :)

Here's to a healthier lifestyle in 2013 and sticking to it!


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