We’ve covered a lot of things to not do. So what SHOULD we be eating? The short answer – Food in its most natural form. The majority of the food we consume should consist of fresh fruits and vegetables, grass fed beef, free range chicken and turkey, sustainably caught fish and seafood, whole grains, healthy fats, and nuts and seeds.
So…where do we start? The best piece of advice I can give is to start small. I’ve said it numerous times, make small sustainable changes. Am I recommending you throw out everything in your pantry, fridge and freezer? Of course not, most of us can’t afford to replace every single food item in our home. What I am asking is that you make better decisions when you replace these items.
The majority of our food should come from the outer rim of the grocery store. This is where you will find the perishable food. Fill your cart with fresh fruits, vegetables and leafy greens – when I leave the store the majority of my haul comes from this section. Next, stop by the refrigerated area to pick up fresh cheeses, milk (if dairy is your thing, milk alternative if not) and eggs (more on eggs in a future post). Finally, visit the meat department and stock up on lean, natural meats.
Once we’ve purchased as much as possible from the fresh food sections, we can then visit those inner aisles of the store. The bulk food section is often a great place to stock up on healthy pantry staples like lentils, quinoa, beans, oats, nuts and coffee at an affordable price. However, stay away from the sweet treats that are often are laden with added sugar. The freezer section can also be a great place to stock up on staple items. Fruits and vegetables that are frozen at the peak of freshness can retain much of the nutrients without the use of preservatives and are also easy go-to’s on busy weeknights.
When we do purchase packaged food, read the label. If it contains ingredients that aren’t food don’t buy it. Side bar – Rule of thumb, if it can last on a shelf for years it probably shouldn’t go in our bodies. Hello fake cheese product. Out of convenience, I typically purchase sauces, marinades, nut butter, canned vegetables, jellys/jams and spices. Yes, many of these pantry items can be made from scratch but who has the time. And see About Me, I haaate to cook. But I ALWAYS read the label. Yes, I stand in the grocery aisle and read the label on every item that goes into my cart.
Last but not least, grains. Whole wheat and whole grain is the name of the game when it comes to our grain products. Think brown. Brown rice, brown pasta, brown bread, brown tortillas. As discussed in a recent post What is Processed Food?, white flour is made by stripping wheat of it’s most nutritious parts, leaving a white fluffy pile of nutritionally worthless junk. By eating whole wheat and whole grains, the wheat germ is less processed and as a result retains many of the vitamins and nutrients it once contained. White bread, white rice and white pasta is typically bleached, highly refined and processed.
Now that you’ve spent a hour or two at the grocery store, came home, unloaded the car, put the grocery’s away…it’s dinner time. And you don’t feel like cooking. Been there! I enjoy eating out as much as the next woman but it doesn’t mean we have to completely abandon our health goals. When choosing a restaurant, stay away from fast food (eeek) and chain restaurants. Identify and eat at locally owned establishments that are a scratch kitchen. A scratch kitchen is a restaurant that makes their meals from freshly prepared ingredients, usually has an actual chef, they prepare a menu, they shop locally (most of the time) and they make food from scratch in the kitchen. Just like we do at home. Except they are a much better cook than me and their food tastes much better. Chain restaurants on the other hand, often have pre-prepped food delivered, they keep it in large walk-in freezers, and when it’s time to prepare it they pop it in the microwave, a steamer, a pot of boiling water or throw it on a flat top for a few minutes. It’s not fresh food, often contains harmful ingredients and it’s not freshly prepared.
All that being said, if you want a piece of pizza, have a piece of pizza. Just like one salad amongst a sea of junk food won’t make you healthy, if you follow the guidelines above on a daily basis, having a piece of cake every once in a while isn’t going to make you unhealthy. Moderation is key.
As a reminder – I am not a doctor. If you have special dietary needs or would like to discuss a plan specific to you, please consult your physician.
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