OK, it’s time. If you’ve stuck with me through the first 3 parts of Healthy Eating 101 – organization and planning, bad news about processed food, and good news about real food – you’re probably giving serious thought to changing the way you and your family eat. (Includes affiliate links)
Wonderful! Since there’s no “perfect” or “convenient” time to begin eating well, why not begin today? Here are some practical Healthy Eating 101 strategies to help you get started.
Healthy Eating 101 – Let’s Get Started!
• Keep reading and learning – Every week, learn something new about real and whole foods, organics, food additives, and other healthy eating topics. One of the easiest ways to pick up new information and strategies is to follow a couple of high-quality blogs that focus on eating well, like The Kitchn and The Lean Green Bean. In addition, read books like Food Rules by Michael Pollan, Real Food: What to Eat and Why by Nina Planck, and What to Eat by Marian Nestle.
• Identify potential roadblocks and plan to overcome them – If you start changing your family’s diet, you will run into roadblocks – it’s pretty much guaranteed! So think ahead and try to anticipate them. Are your children used to a steady diet of fast food? Is your husband hooked on salty snacks? Are you too busy to cook? Is your family’s schedule so hectic that no one sits down to a family meal?
Think ahead, be aware of potential objections, and plan how you’ll deal with them. (Also, remember that your husband is an adult, not one of your kids. You can encourage him to eat healthier foods along with you, but he should be free to make his own choices about what he eats.)
• Take one step at a time – Some people can make sweeping changes to their diet all at once, but for most of us small changes work better – especially if we’re bringing family members along for the ride! So consider making one or two changes and allowing them to become part of your family’s routine, then making one or two more. Over time, you’ll transform the way you and your family eat, improving everyone’s healthy and vitality.
• Just start! – You don’t have to be an expert or know exactly the right way to do this. Just pick one thing and start. Here are a simple, practical Healthy Eating 101 ideas you can try this week:
- Serve two fruits or vegetables with every meal. They don’t have to be fancy – apple slices and carrot sticks are great.
- Organize and package healthy snacks on Sunday so they’ll be ready to grab and go on weekdays – things like grapes, berries, whole grain crackers and peanut butter, carrot sticks, and cheese cubes.
- Use kitchen appliances that make healthy cooking easier. In I use my programmable Crockpot and Instant Pot to save time (and reduce stress!) several times a week.
- Plan at least three sit-down family dinners each week. They can be simple meals like baked chicken, baked potatoes, a steamed vegetable and some fruit; grilled fish, brown rice and a salad; or a large salad topped with grilled chicken and shredded cheese.
- Make extra dinner and enjoy the leftovers for lunch (at home or at work).
- Replace some of your family’s white/processed grain foods with whole grain foods, such as whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta, or brown rice.
- Buy the best quality meat and chicken you can afford. We can’t afford grass-fed beef, but I try to buy hormone-free/antibiotic-free beef and antibiotic-free chicken whenever possible. Those meats do go on sale sometimes, so look for sales and stock up.
- If you bake, begin using some healthier ingredients in your baked goods.
- Avoid foods that contain high fructose corn syrup, and anything that has sugar as one of the main ingredients.
- Start shopping more on the perimeter of your grocery store and less in the middle aisles (where most of the processed foods are located).
- Begin visiting a farmers’ market or farm stand every week.
- Plant a garden or grow some vegetables in big pots.
- Begin easing soft drinks out of your family’s diet.
- Eat the real thing – butter instead of margarine, half and half instead of coffee creamer, cheese instead of “cheese food,” ice cream instead of frozen dessert.
- Serve “real food” breakfasts – oatmeal , low-sugar whole-grain cereal, whole wheat toast with peanut butter, smoothies you make with real fruit, milk or juice, and yogurt.
If you find that you’re too busy to eat well, take a serious look at your schedule (and your children’s schedules). If you family is going to eat healthy foods, some activities may have to go.
These are just a few ideas to help you get started. If you have already begun a healthy eating journey, I would love to hear from you. What has worked for you? What challenges have you faced? Please share them in the Comments.