How To Eat Heathier: Getting Started
Changing your diet can be a daunting task - especially if you grew up eating like a typical Midwesterner. You know how we do it… bread with dinner, a dollop (or six) of butter or bacon grease in the canned veggies, and—we cannot forget—the foundation of the Midwest food pyramid: frozen meals! Pizza rolls, chicken patties, pizza bread, mozzarella sticks, and fish sticks.
I've been spending more time with family and discussing making a healthy transition. It has been eye-opening to see where most people start their health journey... and funny how easily I can forget the way I ate only a few years ago. While True Co's recipes are the bomb.com (slightly biased here), they can seem like a foreign language when you're used to eating frozen meals.
When the only color in your grocery cart is from the vibrant graphics on your boxed foods, just know 1. you aren't alone and 2. it is possible to switch your habits. From a Midwest gal who has made the switch, stumbled along the way, and mastered the balance of eating well and fun stuff - hear out my best tips for starting your transition to eating healthier.
Start with a small, obtainable goal for the first 3-4 weeks.
Create a goal to make ONE meal per day compromised of 50%+ fresh or frozen vegetables. And, for good measure, count any veggie except for corn, canned veggies, and white potatoes. If this goal seems daunting, start with just one meal on weekdays then work up to one meal per day.
Why this goal? I've seen myself and others get tripped up on small issues when changing their diet. Many times, we dive too deep too fast - which leads to quitting. We've all been there - stressing so much over what kind of dressing we are adding to a salad when we should be focused on the fact that it is a HUGE win to eat veggies over pizza for dinner each night. Eating more vegetables is one of the harder switches to make (because most people don't like them), but it is a cornerstone to fueling your body so you thrive physically and mentally.
Ways to eat lots of veggies in one meal: A green smoothie on the go | An overstuffed omelet or frittata | A big, filling salad from a restaurant or local drive-thru (yeah - it counts!) | Eating your favorite meal, but doubling or tripling up on the veggies | Find “veggie swaps” like cauliflower pizza, veggie noodles, or cauliflower rice.
Get rid of the “I don’t like vegetables” mentality. You simply haven’t tried veggies prepared the way you like them! I used to think of “healthy eating” as grilled chicken, broccoli, and brown rice. I can tell you - if I had to eat that every day, I would get sick and live in the drive-thru lane.
Don’t shy away from flavor with your meals! Steamed vegetables are boring - get heavy handed with the salt + pepper, basil, cumin, etc - find flavors you love and add them to your meals. Also, flavor doesn't end with seasonings... get creative with salsas, hummus, citrus, herbs, or sauces.
Don’t overthink it. Eating a salad? Add croutons, cheese, dried fruits, and/or nuts to make it more filling. Even if you add some calories or sugar with the toppings, you are still eating a salad that packs a lot of nutrition and healthy fuel (like those carbs and fats in the toppings!) Don’t overthink it, then skip the salad, and go to get a burger + fries because you’re overwhelmed.
A lot of times, we get so focused on doing it “perfect” that we aren’t able to take steps forward on the journey to better eating. We think - if it can’t be perfect, I’m just going to cheat this meal. And that mindset continues until we are no longer working towards eating better. Make one goal at a time and master it - then try a new level! If you hit a plateau in your goals (like the way you feel or a fitness goal), THEN try removing the extras. Don’t get tunnel visioned on doing it all perfectly!!
Once you've mastered eating more meals with more vegetables, try one of these goals:
- Start removing heavy, processed carbs from your meals. You don’t have to go cold turkey on this - make a goal like doing this for your weekday meals. This means: don’t serve the roll with dinner. Swap pasta with spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles. Skip the Texas toast. Opt for a Cauliflower pizza over a classic store-bought pizza.
- Remove calorie-dense drinks from your home. This includes juices for drinking (even 100% juice), sodas, pre-made latte drinks, and energy drinks. Stick to flavored waters (using fruit, cucumbers, mint, etc), coffee, tea, sparkling water, or kombucha. If you love sodas or a special drink, start to wean yourself off of them or use them as a special treat once a week.
- Clean up your breakfast. Skip the cereal, pop tarts, and pastries for breakfast. Try something that will fuel you better so you have more energy, longer. Good swaps: Eggs, greek yogurt & fruit (or my favorite yogurt, Siggis), cottage cheese + honey, overnight oats, etc. If you’re always on the go, try making your own energy bars or “fat balls” as we call them.
- With very few exceptions, if it comes out of a box in the frozen section, don’t eat it. Chances are - it is highly processed (this means it won’t be as filling, has less nutrition that your body needs to thrive, and has nasty added ingredients that can make you feel icky). Opt for cooking or getting a healthy meal at a local restaurant (yeah - even a salad from Wendys would be better). If you need healthy meals that cook quickly, try out Unrecipe e-cookbook.