Whether or not you’ll admit it “eating healthier” is on your list of resolutions.
It’s always on mine. Let’s face it, we’re only human and we don’t always make the best choices when it comes to food. We have so many options at our disposal from junk food to that pizza place down the street with the best crust ever. It’s hard not to give in every once in a while.
Now I’m not saying it’s going to be any easier this year, but instead of just encouraging you to face your resolutions head on I’ll offer up some tips and tricks that have helped me eat healthier and live better throughout the past year. I hope they’ll help you too!
1. Go meatless. It’s not just for Monday.
Ground-breaking, I know. I’ve spent an entire year creating meatless, and usually vegan, meals for my friends and family. To their continued surprise “it’s just as filling” and “still has so much flavor”. If you need some ideas I’m more than happy to share with you my personal list of recipes for (mostly) meatless meals. The internet is gold mine of tasty alternatives. I not only physically feel good after a plant-packed meal, but I also mentally feel good for taking a step toward a more sustainable future.
2. Choose the produce that’s grown nearest you.
Whole Foods makes this incredibly easy because they list the growing location on each price marker. Instead of looking at the price first though, look at the location. You’ll be surprised to find that local apples often have a lower price tag than apples from, say, Washington. Plus, they’ll oftentimes be fresher and packed with more nutrients. If you can find an indoor farmers market during the colder months, bundle up and actually go! Enlist the help of a friend or make it a day-date with your significant other if you need extra motivation.
3. Find (or make) a seasonal produce chart.
Know what foods are in season in your region. Incorporate more of these foods into your diet during that season. Foods will be abundant, often cheaper, and more nutritious during their natural growing season. Peas in spring, watermelon in summer, pumpkin in fall, cranberries in winter — is there anything better? You might even try something you’ve never eaten before. Challenge yourself!
4. Make smaller, more frequent trips to the farmers market and grocery store.
The time is now to waste less food. Don’t stockpile only to throw out nearly half of it in a week’s time. It is estimated that 40% of the country’s food supply is wasted every year, so let’s change that! Plan your meals and freeze the food you don’t think you’ll get around to using this week. Don’t be afraid to freeze things. The freezer is a modern miracle. Studies show that most produce will lose nutrients over time, some much faster than others.
5. Get your hands dirty.
Just do it! If you’re like me you make up excuse after excuse why not to grow your own food. My apartment is too small. I’m not home enough. I don’t know where to start. Less excuses, more growing! There’s only one way you’ll ever pick something you grew yourself. Plus, you could be saving money. You may fail, but you know what they say: It’s better to have planted and lost, than to not have planted at all. Or something like that…
6. Spend no more than 10 seconds debating it.
Oh that ice cream looks good, but which do I get? Less fat? All soy? Chocolate chip? Plain vanilla? 10 seconds are up. Move along. If you can’t make up your mind and the little angel on your shoulder is telling you not to get sugar in a carton, just move along. If you’ve been debating putting extra cheese on your pasta, make up your mind not to and just stick to it. I’ve saved myself from many a poor food decisions by simply walking away from the aisle or the Parmesan shaker. (This rule does not apply to fine wines, craft beer, or perfectly distilled whiskey. Those selections take time.)
7. Cut the junk.
Look at the labels. I always look out for HFCS and saturated fats. If I find what I’m looking for I can immediately put that item back down. If you’re trying to cut something out of your diet, you need to 99.9% commit to it. There are always exceptions. Weddings, a new promotion, the 4th of July — they all call for sweet celebration without labels and restrictions getting in the way. Every other day of the year, stick to your guns.
Full disclosure: these won’t always work. Sometime you just need that perfect pizza crust, but if this breaks you from the once a month pizza run to a bi-yearly cheesy treat then you’re already healthier than you think. Make these small changes and suddenly “eating healthier” doesn’t seem like a obscure and unreachable resolution. Best of luck to you in 2014!