Hello SOTGC community,
Do you pay any real attention to what you eat? If not, and you reside within the United States, then odds are your diet is not considered healthy. Our food supply is loaded with sodium, sugar, white flour and saturated fats, and this diet choice is taking its toll on our nation’s health. Many of our leading diseases- heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, some cancers and obesity (which recently became recognized as a disease) are diet related.
Most people would benefit from a diet that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables and leafy greens, whole grains, legumes, lean protein sources, and healthy fats like Omega-3 and Omega-9. For the health of our country, each of us can take the step towards managing our own health better by paying more attention to our diet and the foods available to us.
But how does one begin?
Here are 4 tips to get you on the right path to a healthier eating lifestyle:
Get Vocal: Visit the average supermarket and you will find aisle after aisle of processed foods. In many areas, the amount and variety of fresh produce for sale has diminished substantially. I have been in stores where there were more varieties of soda than types of fresh fruit! Nowadays even many restaurants rely on processed foods, and use food service companies to supply their soups, sauces and stocks. In some restaurants and eateries it is difficult to find any fresh fruits or vegetables, and sodium and fat-filled ingredients are often over-utilized throughout the menus.
Why is this so? In short, it is a case of economics. Fresh foods have a much shorter shelf life than processed foods, so naturally supermarkets push the processed foods because there is less risk of spoilage and waste. Fresh produce does take time to prep, and tossing foods into a deep fryer takes less culinary skill than cooking by grilling, sautéing, roasting or poaching, which can influence labor costs for restaurants. Whole grains can sometimes take more skill to make tasty than their stripped-down, processed counterparts.
Do you want more healthy choices at your favorite restaurants and groceries? If so, then you need to speak up and inform these businesses you are ready to buy. Ask for more Healthy Foods. Put economics to work for you: once they understand there is a good market for a particular food item, then they will consider putting it on their shelves or menu, so not to miss out on the potential capital.
Surround Yourself with Healthy Eaters: We all know the great value of having successful businesspeople around us when we ourselves are traveling the road to success. The same benefit also works for healthy eating. Surrounding yourself with people that understand the value of and follow a healthy diet may help you to build and strengthen your own healthy food values as well. This “lateral” passing of food and cooking information is especially helpful in modern times, as the number of families passing on food traditions and culinary education from one generation to the next has diminished. Too busy to take on a few healthy food buddies? Consider finding some influence online. Nowadays there are many healthy web bloggers, myself included, offering healthy recipes, advice and inspiration. A few minutes of healthy reading a day could be all you need to keep your motivation on track. One web group I belong to is the Recipe Redux, an online healthy recipe challenge founded and run by Registered Dietitians. On the first of each month we are given a food challenge, and on the 21st we post our healthy recipe makeovers. Belonging to the group helps motivate me to keep coming up with the healthy recipe posts, and of course testing the recipes before I post them means I get lots of tasty food to eat too!
Keep your Kitchen Stocked with Healthy, “Fast” Foods: The key to a healthy diet is keeping a healthy kitchen. If you only have healthy foods in your kitchen, then you will never eat junk food in your home. Too often busy women keep processed foods on hand because of their quick convenience and ease of preparation, especially for snacking. But there are many healthy foods that can work great as healthy snacks when time is limited. What I call nature’s “fast” food, most fruit just needs a wash and/or peeling before consuming. Clementines, oranges, bananas, and other fruits with peels can make great travel companions with their protective outer coating. Chopped veggies, including peppers, carrot, cucumber, celery, broccoli, sugar snap peas and radish, are great on the go and pair great with hummus or bean dip. Make your own trail mix with nuts, dried fruit and seeds.
Have the Right Kitchen Tools: The most important tools for a healthy kitchen are sturdy cutting boards and a good chef’s knife. Without them, every time you prep fruits and vegetables will feel like a chore. I prefer bamboo cutting boards; do make sure to keep separate cutting boards for raw meats to avoid cross-contamination. (Note: If you are very uncomfortable using a knife in the kitchen, you may want to consider taking a knife skills class. Many specialty shops, culinary schools and personal chefs do offer lessons.)
Other great healthy kitchen helpers:
- Peeler: Use for peeling vegetables and zesting fruits
- High-Powered Blender: Prepares soups, purees and smoothies easily
- Popcorn Air-Popper: Popcorn is an easy, fun food that’s whole grain too! Skip the butter and salt and toss with flavor-infused olive oil plus your favorite fresh herbs and spices instead.
- Slow Cooker: Great for making soups with leftover veggies, legumes and grains. Store soup in single-serve containers and reheat when you need a quick bite.
- Food Processor: Easily slice, shred and mix your ingredients
Hope you got some good pointers and next week I’ll share 4 more tips you get you on the right path to a healthier eating lifestyle.
Happy healthy eating!
Photo credit: thankyourbody.com