One of the few benefits of 2020 and 2021 was that we were afforded more time at home. Because of that, there's been a rise in baking, cooking, and of course, eating activities across the country. As a new year begins, it's the best time to start good eating habits. Whether your goal is to eat less junk or processed food, lower your calorie intake, or learn how to cook with more vegetables, we're here with a few simple tricks to help you achieve your goal to eat healthier in 2022.
Preparing Your Healthy Meals Ahead of Time
For many years, you've tried to eat healthier, but every time you attempt to do so, you realize a couple of things: 1) it's quite time consuming to cook your food, especially if you're in a hurry, and 2) you're always inclined to eat "unhealthy" comfort food after a stressful day. After a day of work meetings, virtual learning, chores, and other life stresses, it's difficult to spend an hour or more on your feet in the kitchen preparing a healthy, homemade meal. So, it's more "practical" to take the path of least resistance and opt for unhealthy take-out food or TV dinners instead. To help you overcome this perennial challenge, you should learn to prepare ingredients for the week's meals in advance! On the weekend, cook your meats and prepare the vegetables and other ingredients for the week ahead. Then, when meals are planned, and all the ingredients are prepped in advance, you'll realize that it's easy to come up with a delicious, nutritious (not to mention budget-friendly) meal in a matter of minutes. There's nothing wrong with take-outs, but only if they're in line with your health goals (and make sure you're supporting your local restaurants when you can). Then, take a look at their menu and find ways to make your favorite dishes healthier. For example, you can order a side salad instead of French fries, or you can choose veggies instead of rice, or avoid ordering a can of soda.
Make a habit of snacking on fruits and vegetables
When we're hungry, we reach for a snack that's accessible and ready to eat. Unfortunately, we're used to eating whatever processed food we can grab. However, there's a way to improve your snacking choices. The next time you visit the local farmers market, make it a habit of buying vegetables and fruits. Then as you prepare your meals for the week, include preparing the vegetables and fruit before you put them in the fridge. When apples and grapes and pears are washed and set out in a bowl on the kitchen counter or when celery and carrots and peppers are sliced and in a handy container in the fridge, you'll be more likely to reach for a healthy option the next time your snack cravings hit you. It's also easier to whip together a quick salad for lunch when all your vegetables are washed and cut, ready to use.
Don't be afraid to try out healthier substitutes
Healthy eating does not mean that you have to abandon your favorite comfort foods. Sure, you have to give up on a few things, such as fries and soda, but overall, you don't have to let go of many things. Instead, you can reinvent them with a few simple substitutes! For example, cauliflower rice can substitute for starchy rice, saving you hundreds of calories a day. And it can be cooked and mashed to substitute for calorie-laden mashed potatoes. Did you know that zucchini can be cut into thin strips to substitute for processed, carbohydrate-dense noodles in your favorite pasta dishes? Aside from that, you can also try out Shirataki noodles as a pasta substitute. These noodles are ideal for those trying to reduce their carbohydrate intake but can't go on without eating pasta dishes. By experimenting with substitutes for common ingredients, you can find nutritious alternatives that add a healthy twist to your favorite meals. Pro tip: make cooking new, healthy food a competition between your family or roommates.
Pay attention to how food makes you feel
Food is more than just fuel for our bodies. Each micronutrient found in the food we eat affects our bodies in a million possible ways. So, while we advocate exploring healthier alternatives to your favorite food, you also have to take note that not everything healthy is good for your body. Many alternatives to dairy, soy, meats, and more, it's easier than ever to adjust your diet depending on your digestive needs, but you have to pay attention to how your body feels after you eat so, you can begin to eliminate foods to which you may be sensitive or allergic. Your diet can also affect your skin, hair, energy, and mood. Suppose you find it difficult to pinpoint the foods negatively affecting you. In that case, there are now many tricks and tools to find out what kinds of food may be causing issues, including at-home food sensitivity tests, elimination diets, allergy tests, and more. However, it may take a few weeks to months to determine the foods you should avoid in your diet, so patience and diligence are key to your success.
Reward yourself with something else
People sometimes have a habit of rewarding themselves with their favorite comfort food after a momentous life event—whether they did well at work, overcome a challenge, or survived a breakup—we can come up with all sorts of reasons to eat our favorite comfort food. We use food to bribe, console or reward ourselves—and most of the time, we're widely aware that the food we crave isn't healthy. The chocolate bars, cookies, cheeseburgers, chips, sodas, and liquor that seem like easy fixes come with steep health consequences in the form of empty calories, extra fat, and fleeting satisfaction. So, it's time to put this practice to rest, and as an alternative to reward (or console) yourself, we should find a non-food option to enjoy. Like anything in this world, beginning a new habit takes a lot of getting used to. But if we're serious about embracing a "new year, new you" mantra, then we shouldn't let a little bit of challenge stop us from following our new year's resolutions. To make a habit of eating healthy more attainable, you can try out Hugh Maguire Butchers' Fit Food collection. They can easily be prepared and incorporated as a substitute to your favorite meats, and they're affordable too! Check them out by following this link.