Food is the foundation of health, and can either support wellness or take away from it. Choosing better food is the first step in achieving your health and wellness resolutions. Why? Because eating quality food affects how your body and mind operates, and in the long run, your health becomes an accumulation of your food choices.
What does choosing better food mean? Let’s start with what it doesn’t mean. It doesn’t mean diets, deprivation, or extremes. Choosing better food does not require drastic or emotionally painful changes. In my experience, that sets you up for failure, both mentally and physically.
Below, I’ve listed what I consider the key points to choosing better food. While you put these in to practice, remember that you’ll want these changes to be with you for the rest of your life. So take it easy. Take it slow. Be aware of how your mind and body respond. Don’t deprive yourself…encourage yourself to eat better.
I used to be hooked on nutritionally deficient foods. Artificial sweeteners, refined food, processed food…basically crap food. I was tired, emotionally imbalanced, and evaluated the merits of food solely on calories and fat grams. Because I deprived myself on a daily basis, I was miserable and thought about food all the time. I didn’t realize all my suffering stemmed from eating so many nutritionally empty foods.
Now I focus on “real food.” Check out this short video to find out what that means. If eating real food is new to you, start slowly. Make small upgrades. Try brown rice instead of white. A fresh peach instead of canned. Mixed green salad instead of iceberg. Soda water with a splash of orange juice instead of orange soda. If you go slowly, you won’t be traumatized and the changes will stick with you.
We all have cravings, but giving in to refined and processed foods all the time will take a toll on your health. Those sweet, salty, crunchy, and chewy cravings have healthy substitutes. But if you have a craving for a specific thing (like Ben & Jerry’s Chubby Hubby ice cream) and nothing but that exact food will satisfy you, then for goodness sake have it so you can get on with your life! Enjoy it, savor it, allow a little squeal of glee.
When you make healthful food a part of your daily life, you’ll start craving those foods instead. Refined, processed foods will start to lose their appeal. I couldn’t believe the first time I woke up and couldn’t wait to eat some kale! I actually feel unsettled if I don’t eat vegetables every day, especially the green leafy variety. Now those are the kinds of cravings you can give in to whenever you like!
Choosing better food means planning ahead. If I have a busy week and know I’m not going to be up to taking much time to prepare my meals, I carve out a few hours the Sunday before to cook for the week. I clean and cut a ton of veggies, double or triple recipes, make sure I have essential oils/ingredients on hand…whatever I can think of that will cut my cooking time down to 10 minutes or less.
If you don’t have that kind of time, you can still eat nutritious food with little planning. Take a look at this grocery list:
- carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers
- pre-cut or frozen broccoli
- canned chickpeas and black beans
- brown rice
- Ezekiel bread
- salad greens
- extra virgin olive oil
- whole free-range chicken (already roasted) from the deli department
By incorporating spices and common condiments you have in the fridge, this grocery list makes lunch and dinner options that take very little time to make. Here are some meal examples:
- Salad with roasted chicken, veggies, and chickpeas with olive oil and lemon dressing (and spices)
- Stir-fry of brown rice, broccoli, and chicken (using olive oil, maybe lemon, spices)
- Chicken, salad greens, and tomato sandwich (using mayo, mustard, or olive oil)
- Chicken with beans and rice (using olive oil, spices)
I know these meals are all centered around chicken, but can you see how many quick meals you could make with a simple grocery list of versatile, nutritious ingredients?
Taking the time to plan out healthy meals will keep you eating right while saving you money spent on take-out and eating out.
Choosing better food means doing the best with what’s available and doable. Sometimes you’re at a friend’s house for a dinner and the menu’s out of your control. Sometimes you go to a restaurant that doesn’t have many, or any, healthy options. Sometimes you’re driving through the desert and the only place to eat is a tiny gas station. Sometimes you simply just want to order the amazing lobster mac-n-cheese! It’s OK. Shoot for eating quality, unrefined food 80% of the time. Do that, you won’t have to sweat the other 20%.