Aside from potty training my oldest son, learning to eat healthy ranks right up there as one of the most difficult things I have tried to do. So sad. I would like to tell you otherwise, but I would be lying.
One simple rule that might help you: stay to the perimeter of the grocery store. This is where you will find the whole foods that are what some refer to as “real food,” more things like your great-grandmother would have had access to.
I spent months reading books on food from the library and watching Netflix documentaries trying to determine what I believed to be true about food. Five other people could read and watch the very same things and come to an entirely different conclusion. You must determine what is important to you. Are you concerned about animal cruelty? Do you think meat is bad for your body? Do chemicals scare you? Is sustaining the local economy a priority for you? Do you simply want to fuel your body well?
Here are some tidbits that helped me get started:
1) I checked out cookbooks from the library and tried out some new recipes. I also found web sites with healthy recipes. Jason and I made an agreement that failing was fine. We could always throw out something and heat up a can of soup. That took a lot of pressure off. I only had one recipe that was completely nasty from a vegan cookbook. Be brave to try things you think you might not like. I found myself pleasantly surprised many times.
2) Don’t make all of the changes at once. Try one new recipe a week and add what you like to your files.
3) Make simple substitutions. We added in a lot of roasted vegetables like squash, zucchini, sweet potatoes, carrots, and cauliflower to replace the staple green beans and corn from a can. A little olive oil and kosher salt helped us to expand in this area. We also started substituting ground turkey and chicken in recipes that called for ground beef. This makes your dishes less fattening, and after a while you don’t even notice the difference.
4) Sam’s Club is a great place to buy vegetables. Their huge container of salad costs just over $4 and you can eat off of it for days. We have really expanded the kinds of salads we make at home and this can make for a quick dinner. They also have spinach, which is great to add to sandwiches, smoothies, rice, or by itself. (I think TV brainwashed me as a kid about spinach being gross).
5) If you are married, agreeing to do this as a couple helps a ton. Just having anyone for accountability would be helpful. Find a friend you can exchange recipes or information with.
6) Jason highly recommends getting an app for your phone where you can track your calories if you are trying to lose weight. The app can also show you if you are getting too much fat or not enough protein, for example. The process is tedious in the beginning, but helps tremendously. MyFitnessPal is one such app.
I don’t want to overwhelm you, so I’ll stop here for now. Included are a list of titles of books/documentaries that I found helpful, motivating, or just plain interesting. I know most people don’t have the time to devote to so much research. Also, you might want to read my previous post on the insanity of this process if you haven’t already. You’ll get a few laughs.
Any changes you make are a step in the right direction! Feel free to suggest any other tips in the comments.
In Defense of Food, Food Rules, and The Ominvore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan (He also has a new one called Cooked, but I haven’t read it)
Real Food by Nina Planck
Food Matters by Mark Bittman
Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead
Forks Over Knives
Super Size Me
Hungry for Change