It’s a common refrain: healthy eating is soooooo haaaaaaard!! I mean, food is so delicious!! And ain’t nobody got time or money to eat healthy and I don’t want to be a rabbit anyway so… *devours pizza*
Ok, ok, I hear you. In fact, this was me not too long ago. As a latch-key child of the 80’s, I grew up in the heyday of convenience foods. I am a HUGE FAN of having someone else prepare my food and either a) deliver it to my door or b) allow me to chuck it in the microwave. As I’ve mentioned before, 2013 is the year I decided to take control of my body back, and with that was an evaluation of my diet. I did a fair amount of kicking and screaming through the first few months, justifying my choice of frozen pizza and wine for dinner because I was happy/sad/tired/worked out/didn’t work out so why bother. Buying “healthy” frozen meals that are like, the saddest thing ever. Technically, I have four jobs, so I’m constantly on the go- this gave me the excuse of “I’m too busy/tired/in the car”. But you know, eating this way just made me feel worse, both mentally and physically. Why do we insist on making healthy eating such a struggle?? Such a BURDEN?? I’m done, people. DONE!!
This healthy eating thing is actually not that hard- you just have to decide that it’s something you want to do. WHAT?! Yes. Decide. Choose better. And don’t think I’m about to drop a bunch of fancy pinterest recipes on you- I’m a terrible cook, for one, and for two, I still have four jobs and am tired/busy/in the car all. the. time. So here are some habits I’ve picked up that make me less crazy, and at the end of the day, make me feel really good:
Keep Healthy Options on Hand
First point out of the gate, and I know it’s one that you’ve heard before. But it’s 100% true. If I go to Costco and load up on great fresh fruit-apples, pears, bananas, plums, oranges, kiwi, mangos (I love Costco!)- I am highly likely to grab a piece or two of said fresh fruit* and snack on that later. You know what? I feel way better if I eat an apple in the middle of the day than if I eat a Snickers bar.
Other things I keep around:
- bread that is full of good things (sprouted wheat, Ezekiel, something your grandma made for you)
- Lunchmeat (the fewer ingredients on the label, the better)
- Rotisserie chicken
- Veggies, both fresh and frozen
- Plain Greek yogurt
- Feta cheese
*don’t give me any of that “fruit is full of sugar!” crap! Yes, it is. But it’s also full of phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals, water, and fiber. EAT THE FRUIT.
Also Sweet Potatoes
I start to panic if my sweet potato supply runs low. Sweet potatoes are THE BOMB, both nutritionally and in the way that they fill you up in that warm, rib-sticking way. They also fulfill my need to chuck something in the microwave and have it come out as a magic meal- poke a few holes in the skin, chuck it in, and press the “baked potato” button. Sometimes, this alone is my breakfast- it keeps my energy up during a run, or throughout a morning giving massages. I used to think you had to have butter on it, but honestly now I just sprinkle a little salt on it and call it a day. I will eat a baked sweet potato in the car on the way to yoga, or alongside some scrambled eggs and avocado toast for a Sunday breakfast. If you have a little more time on your hands, they are also amazing cubed up, tossed in a little coconut oil and chili powder, and roasted at 400 for 30 minutes. Perfect for burger night!
Eating on the Run
Some days, I eat my sweet potato for breakfast and then forget that I will be hungry later in the day and won’t be home until 9pm. I am a terrible planner. Two days a week, I put in a few hours at school, then high-tail it downtown to see clients- it’s about a 20 minute commute, give or take. I pass at least 3 McDonald’s and 2 Taco Bells on my way, and it would be soooo easy to just swing through the drive through. But you know what else I pass? About 4 grocery stores. These stores have my favorite invention ever: the salad bar. For $5, this particular container has roasted chicken, grilled tofu, a pile of delicious peppers and tomatoes (I think there were some carrots in there, too), and some fruit. I ate what I could during my drive, then had some fruit to munch between clients and for the way home later that night. I clocked myself at 6 minutes going from my car, into the store, checking out, and back on my path to work. Don’t have 6 minutes? Yes you do. Or, I suppose you could plan ahead and have all of these things prepped at home, ready to go, if you’re that kind of person. You know. One who plans. This would also be cheaper.
Keep a Turkey Sandwich In Your Purse
Yep. I am sorry to report that this is a real thing that I do. I’ll mash a little avocado on some bread and toss on a few slices of turkey and give some to my cat- this takes me about 45 seconds in the morning to do, and it has saved my butt more than once. I’m not one to get squicked out about lunch meat in my purse all day (it’s usually only a few hours), but if you are, then keep a peanut butter sandwich in your purse.
You can also keep other snacks in your purse. I’ve been known to bust out, say, a bag of red pepper strips. Or snap peas. Or a sliced up plum. This is a level of weird I have come to accept in the name of living to be 120 years old and still able to do burpees.
These Steam Bags? BRILLIANT
After a super long day (mine are often 10 hours, and I’m on my feet moving around), the chuck-and-cook method is the one I prefer. It used to be pizza, but now! I can dig in my freezer, fill a bag up with a few handfuls of veggies (I like broccoli, asparagus, and butternut squash), zap, add some leftover rotisserie chicken and some feta cheese, and have a perfect bowl of hot delicious nutrition in less than 10 minutes. Ziplock came out with these bags a few years ago, and I found some in my kitchen drawer recently. They’re kind of hard to find in stores, but both Target and Amazon carry them. I think they were ahead of their time, like Cappio.
Things To Do With Greek Yogurt
Some people recoil at the idea of plain yogurt, but it’s really pretty brilliant. Sure, it’s easy to chuck a single serve (super sugary) Chobani in your purse in the morning, and that’s better than nothing, but 2 minutes and a reusable container can give you a great breakfast, mid-morning snack, late night snack, sweet/crunch fix. Here’s my favorite:
Chop one apple. A good one! Life is too short to eat mealy apples. Anyway, chop this apple up into bite-sized cubes and put it in a bowl. Sprinkle generously with cinnamon. Stir in a quarter to half cup of plain greek yogurt. ROCK OUT. Need a little more food? Toss on a half cup or so of cereal, like Kashi GoLean.
Here’s another thing to do: Since I’ve been encouraging you to enjoy delicious vegetables, maybe you’re one who likes dip? I like dip. Especially ranch flavored dip. So take a packet of ranch dressing mix (don’t be fooled by the one that says “DIPS”- get the regular one. I don’t know why but it’s better!) and stir into 2 cups of plain greek yogurt (btw I prefer 2%). This makes a delicious dip and you’re totally eating your probiotics and healthy protein at the same time! And I promise, this is a good swap- not like swapping mashed cauliflower for mashed potatoes. That is terrible. People who tell you to do that are not your friend.
Stop Thinking That “Healthy” Food is Gross
*slap!* Snap out of it! Why have we, as a society, decided that healthy food is nasty?? This is annoying. Crunching into a perfect snap pea is one of the great joys in life. My favorite thing to do post-run is enjoy a carrot/ginger/wheat grass juice from the co-op. Grilled chicken and summer squash makes me feel alive and happy. I’ve come to realize that processed “filler foods” make me feel heavy, gross, sad, salty, greasy, and unsatisfied.
Ok ok- let’s be real people. I’m not totally turning my back on all foods that aren’t vegetables here. This past weekend, I enjoyed brats at Bratfest (and some fried cookie dough), had anniversary burgers and cheesecake with my husband, knocked back a few cocktails, and had two desserts at a cookout (worth it!). I love this life, and I do love a lot of this food! If I go to the movies, heck yes I’ll have popcorn (Sundance uses real butter!!), but I’ll also sneak in some peppers so I can munch without feeling like my intestines are shredded and my fingers are 4 salty sizes bigger at the end of the movie. I’ll enjoy a cupcake if I’m near my favorite cupcakery. I will always find a way for chocolate and wine to be part of my life. But I’ve started to think about how I’ll feel after eating these foods- yes, it will be delicious, but I won’t sleep as well, or if it’s going to leave a weird coating in my mouth, maybe I’ll pass, or maybe have less than I normally would. Notice I didn’t say I’d feel “guilty”. I’m choosing the things that I really WANT to eat, and that will do me good (whether in body or for my soul- hello, cookie dough) over the long haul.
So, in short, stop making things so hard! Make good choices. Eat things that make you feel good long-term. Move your body a few times a day. Smile at a stranger. Dance a little. This life is pretty amazing- let’s do it right!
I’m still learning, here, so if you have any great tips, comment below!
Disclaimer: I am just a girl, living on planet Earth, sharing my story. Please get your nutritional advice from someone with proper credentials!