Many people think that eating healthy is daunting and difficult to do. But by
making small, gradual changes, the transformation will happen quite easily.I found this out during the 1990's while working at Whole Foods and was introduced to a new way of shopping, cooking and eating.
The very first thing I learned was not to use white flour, sugar and rice. While I do still use white flour in baking certain things, it is organic/unbleached and the recipe wouldn't work well without it. All bread products my family consumes are whole wheat, whole grain or mostly made with them. The rice we cook is organic brown, our sugar minimally processed and organic. In another post, I will cover the importance of consuming as many organic products as possible. The problem with typical "refined" flour is the process used, as it literally strips away any nutritional value. If there is no nutritional value in the products made from this flour, why eat them? You are consuming empty calories. Refined white rice and sugar are also guilty of this kind of processing. My favorite contradiction is fortified foods. After all the nutrients are stripped away during the refining process, then the product is fortified with synthetic vitamins and minerals!
Whole grains also score better on the glycemic index; how much glucose appears in the blood after eating a carbohydrate containing food. The nutrients in whole grains are slowly processed by your body and provide a steady flow of energy instead of a spike in glucose and then a quick drop as provided with empty calorie, junk food. The fiber in whole grains, brown rice, etc. is also good for digestion and promoting regularity.
I was pleasantly surprised that after only a few months of just this simple, initial change to my diet, I no longer craved junk food or sweets as before. A piece of dark chocolate (the darker it is, the better for you), a small scone or piece of uniced cake with berries became more than enough to satisfy my desire for a dessert. Gone are the days of eating Twinkies, Ding Dongs, etc.! While I still may like a potato chip once in a while, my "go to" crunchy snacks are mostly; nuts, seeds, popcorn and multi grain chips/pretzels. The sugar highs and lows along with empty calories, is not a good way to eat.
Buying less processed foods and making more meals from scratch was the next part of the transformation process. Simple, healthy meals needn't take that much time to prepare either. When time does allow, making soups, chile, salads or casseroles with organic ingredients is a favorite way of mine to have prepared foods last for a few meals. But an easy and satisfying dinner is as simple as roasting chicken, potatoes and carrots together. On some days, a meal will be a saute of vegetables and tofu over rice or ramen noodles. Another time it is just the vegetables over pasta. We have eliminated red meat but may occasionally have ham or pork on our mostly fish, poultry and tofu menu. This year, I started cooking fish or chicken tenders with vegetables in a parchment paper sack and it is a great way to prepare a meal! You can find good recipes on line. I eat eggs but my husband doesn't. I love them simply poached, scrambled and/or mixed with sauteed veggies. Organic dairy products are also small parts of my meals. Fresh, organic vegetables and fruit fill most of the cart when I shop.
Very little processed food is ever on my grocery list anymore. But when I do purchase any, there have to be as few ingredients as possible and all pronounceable. A good rule to follow is, if you can't pronounce the ingredient, you shouldn't be eating it. All my shopping is done at Trader Joe's and Whole Foods. If you want to purchase anything processed and not be concerned about artificial preservatives, additives, fructose, hydrogenated oils, etc., then Whole Foods is the store of choice. None of their products contain any of those. Trader Joe's is my first stop when I am shopping and most of their products are also free of what I listed, but you still have to read labels on some items. Whole Foods has a bulk food section and this is a good and economical way to try new grains, flours, nuts, etc. without buying an entire package of the product.
An occasional soda may find its way into our house, but only if it is made with real, natural ingredients. The same goes for juice and I purchase 100% pure, organic, not from concentrate, orange, apple, cherry, etc. The coffee I drink is organic as are most of the teas that fill our cabinet. Also lining the shelf are spices and seasonings which are a must for every kitchen. The health benefits from them are numerous while adding great flavors to the foods you prepare. A quick example is cinnamon. This wonderful spice helps regulate blood sugar and a piece of an organic cinnamon stick tastes so good in a cup of coffee. "The Prescription for Nutritional Healing" has a section listing herbs and their uses. Another good reference is The Herb and Spice Companion by Marcus A. Webb and Richard Craze.
Nut butters are another tasty way to get protein, healthy oils, vitamins and minerals.There are numerous kinds to choose from but the best for you are the raw, unsalted, no added sugar, organic varieties. It is eating the nuts in their purest form, only ground into a spreadable consistency and so delicious on bread, crackers, fruit or a spoonful right from the jar.
The right kinds of oils used for cooking, baking and on salads is another very important addition in your transition to healthy eating. The aim is not to eliminate fats completely from your diet because they are essential to the body, providing energy and supporting growth. But for an adult, only one third of your daily calories should come from fat. That third should then be broken down into thirds; saturated (animal products/dairy), polyunsaturated (corn/fish oil), monounsaturated (olive oil). Any trans-fatty acids should be avoided as they are formed when polyunsaturated oils are hydrogenated to harden the liquid vegetable oils into margarine and shortening. Many processed foods are now free of trans fats since the FDA, in 2006, required its listing on all products. The "Prescription for Nutritional Healing" has a concise section with all this important information.
The goal of eating healthy isn't really a diet, it is in fact a lifestyle. By eating natural, nutritious foods as much as possible, you are giving your body valuable nutrients for energy and cell repair. Eating healthy most of the time from foods I have purchased and prepared allows me to not feel guilty about eating an occasional meal out. You will feel the difference when you make the switch and your body will thank you too.
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I am not a doctor and do not claim to be one. These are just my experiences and conclusions.