As you walk out of your doctor’s office after your yearly physical, all the many warnings and recommendations on what you need to change are running through your head. But one stands out – four words that bring doom to even the stoutest of hearts.
You. Must. Eat. Healthier.
Does eating healthy have to be a chore? No way! Nor does it have to be boring and lack flavorful. In fact, once the palate becomes accustomed to less salt and fat in the diet, the variety of natural flavors in whole foods becomes addicting.
The challenge is where to begin making changes that will positively affect your health that will not negatively impact your schedule, pocketbook or lifestyle.
- Do you have a long commute to work and tend pop into a drive-thru for breakfast on the way? What about taking a granola bar or, even better, a nutritionally balanced and complete meal replacement bar with an apple or banana instead? It is an easy switch and one that start your day off on the right foot.
- Coffee – how much do you drink? Can you slowly cut you intake down over time?
- Small things such as bringing a salad for lunch instead of potato chips or cookies will make a big difference and can be just as quick to throw together considering the pre-made salads available at most groceries stores. But a big bag that can be split into a week’s worth of lunches and the cost is nominal while the health benefits are substantial. And always choose the salad with the darkest green leaves such as spinach or a garden blend as these greens carry considerably more nutrients then pale leaves such as iceberg lettuce or hearts of Romaine.
- Snacks can be difficult at work. Usually we do not reach for a between meal snack until we are famished and then it is whatever is quickest and easiest. Keep a bag of pre-washed baby carrots on your desk or maybe some trail mix and snack before the light comes on for your internal gas gauge.
In our busy lives, dinner is probably the most difficult of all meals to prepare with healthy choices in mind. For those of us that live alone, cooking for one person seems pointless and those that have busy families rarely have the time to put the time and thought into what they are preparing. Plus, the bigger the family, the more likes and dislikes that must be taken into consideration.
If you live alone and cooking a real meal is a chore, try making enough for several nights and freezing extra portions. After a week of freezing two or three extra portions each night of various foods, your freezer will be well stocked and for the rest of the month all you need to do is reheat your dinner. The alternative is to cook one night and have leftovers for the next few dinners.
And if you have a family to feed, your freezer should be your best friend! Instead of buying pre-made simple and quick to prepare meals, make extra and freeze the leftovers for a quick reheat on the busier nights.
Eating healthy does not have to cost more either.
Fruit and Veggies: shopping at local farmer’s markets keep the cost of fresh fruits and vegetables to a minimum as well as buying only what is in season. Frozen veggies are almost as good as fresh and the price is not too bad. Canned is the cheapest way to buy vegetables but it is also the least nutritious as the added salt and preservatives detracts from the quality of the product and nutrients are lost during the canning process.
Meat and Dairy Products: A little goes a long way when it comes to animal products so one-way to keep the cost of high-quality meats is to eat less per meal. This may seem like a strange way to save money but the average North American eats far too much meat and dairy products so eating healthier will actually lower your grocery bill on these high priced items!
Grains and carbohydrates: Generally speaking, the healthy whole grain products are more filling then their highly processed alternatives so you need less of a good thing. Take rice for example – white rice is delicious with many spicy or flavorful dishes and it is hard to stop at just half a cup. Brown rice, however, is much more filling and a half cup serving is all the grain you need to feel satisfied. Although brown rice is marginally more expensive, by eating less per sitting you do save money in the end and same goes for most common grain products such as bread, bagels and cereal.
Fats and Oils: When reaching for a bottle of cooking oil, the healthier olive oil is more expensive then the more common canola or sunflower oil. But much like with meats and dairy products, part of eating healthier is eating less fat so your all over consumption of these products should be less so buying the olive oil is still cost effective. Plus, its richer flavor enhances food better then its paler compatriots!
Snacks: Reaching for an apple instead of a bag of chips actually costs less – period. Enjoy!
Eating healthy does not have to be difficult! It is only a matter of a little forethought and preparation to feel more energized, lower cholesterol, blood pressure and body weight.
Ready to make the change to a healthier you?