Because it takes constant effort.
Also, many people are under the notion that eating healthy is costly, when it’s actually much cheaper than ordering out every night. What’s costly is eating organic.
Anyway, I’m not an expert, nor claiming to have it all figured out, but I did start a system that has worked for me (and my significant other). Of course, part of the reason it works so well is there are two people doing the cooking and cleaning, not just one, but still. I just want to share what I’ve done to help me stay on track with eating healthy in hopes that it may give you some ideas if you’re trying to eat healthy.
This is going to be a long article, but I will underline the main points if you want to skim it instead of read in detail.
First, what I’ve learned from reading health tips and the like:
Frozen fruits and vegetables are just as, sometimes more, nutritious as fresh. Why? Because they were picked and then washed and frozen (or washed, chopped, and frozen), so all the nutrients were immediately frozen with the produce. Produce that isn’t in season has been stored or shipped from far away, and produce looses their nutrients with time (apparently).
The fewer ingredients, the better (for shopping). When buying something in a can or a package, check the ingredients. If there are a lot of words on there you don’t recognize, it’s probably not that good for you. If they contain a few ingredients that you do recognize, then it’s been less processed and is likely much better for you than the one with a lot of unpronounceable ingredients.
Homemade is healthier. It has been less processed and uses more whole foods. But not everyone has time to home-make everything. I pick and choose what I think is worth spending time making. I like to make bread (though I haven’t had the chance to in a while do to messy roommates), granola, yogurt parfets, and meals. But I don’t bother with homemade soups that are part of meals, homemade pasta, or homemade juice. I just buy that pre-made and pre-packaged.
Variety, variety, variety. The greater the variety the foods you get, the greater the variety of good bacteria in you, the healthier you’ll be, and the better you’ll feel. Also, lots of yogurt.
Now, onto what I actually do to eat healthy without getting too overwhelmed with meal planning (it still happens sometimes).
First, I went to homemade by carmona and followed her meal planner (with some personal modifications): http://www.homemadebycarmona.com/menu-planner/ Yes, it took a lot of time to put it together, but it was soooo worth it. I’m still adding to it, as I have several cookbooks, but have stuck to a limited number of recipes in the past. The main modification that I did was change “breakfast, lunch, dinner” to “breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, drink/dessert” though I don’t often use that last one. By having meal and snack ideas in the back pages, when I plan meals I can easily flip through them and grab the stickies and move them to the appropriate day of when I want to cook/eat them. I put the recipe location on each one so I can easily look up the recipe when making a grocery list.
Next, I tackled the most difficult and frequently skipped meal: breakfast. I generally force myself out of bed 10 minutes before I have to leave for work, which leaves no time for breakfast. My father told me he drinks a glass of juice (something thick like the naked juice) with a scoop of protein powder and then follows it with a glass of water and he’s not hungry til lunch. Great, that’s easy. I also read the importance of yogurt and a recipe for homemade granola, so I got some plain, non-fat yogurt, fruit and berries, and made the granola. Now, part of my evening routine is putting together breakfast for the next day. Sometimes the SO helps and sometimes not – it really just depends on if there are dirty dishes or not. I put a little over two cups of juice and then two scoops of protein powder in my blender and blend until it’s well mixed and there are no powdery chucks. Then I pour it into our travel cups and stick those in the fridge and rinse out the blender. Next I pull out our parfet containers which are really designed to be salad containers. They have a little cup that sits in the middle of the lid that is supposed to be for salad dressing, but I use it for the granola. I simply get my 1 cup scoop and scoop out a cup of yogurt into each container, then top it off with fruit and/or berries and fill the little cup in the lid with granola (about 1/4 cup). Most often I’ll take half a peach and cut it up in to small squares and split it between the two containers then add a small handful of blueberries to each. This has become part of my nightly routine, so even when I’m dead tired, I still can’t get myself to go to bed before I’ve completed it. And it really only takes about 15 minutes.
Next is the other two meals. Dinner and lunch are integrated – lunch is always left over dinner. Dinner is picked out using my handy-dandy meal planner, and my SO will often do the cooking since I often tutor in the evenings. If he’s not cooking, then he’s washing dishes while I cook. When cleaning up from dinner, the leftovers go into two lunch containers for us for the next day.
Lastly is planning an afternoon snack. Since we’ve been including portion control to our healthy eating, we’re hungry mid-afternoon. And the way our work schedules are, I get home mid afternoon and he gets home late afternoon, so I always come home, clean the kitchen, and fix a snack for us. So far some of things I’ve fixed: carrots and peanut butter, hummus and pita chips, bacon wrapped artichoke hearts, and strawberry and banana smoothie. And once a banana colada, haha. I have cookbook that has a lot of healthy snacks in it, so I’m slowly going through those.
In summary, here’s what our daily food/meals look like: breakfast is juice with protein powder followed by a glass of water; mid-morning snack is fruit and yogurt parfet; lunch is leftovers from the night before; mid-to-late-afternoon snack is something healthy that I fix; and dinner is something we cook (and we usually eat a smaller portion than lunch).
The time breakdown: Breakfast/mid-morning snack takes about 15-20 min to put together the night before, lunch is put in containers we can just grab and go (along with breakfast and parfet), late afternoon snack takes varied time depending on what it is, and dinner usually takes an hour or so for cooking and cleaning. At most, we spend a total of 2.5 hours (usually 2 or less) preparing food and washing dishes a day. It takes me maybe 30-45 minutes to plan a weeks worth of meals and snacks, and that’s mainly because I’m still flipping through cookbooks for new recipes to try. Once I’ve gone through all my cookbooks, I imagine it will only take 10-15 minutes to plan a weeks worth of meals using my meal planner.
What are some health tips that have stuck with you? What’s your favorite healthy snack? Do you have any meal planning or implementing tricks that work for you? I’d love to hear [read] any thoughts, observations, ideas, personal stories, etc, that you’d like to share. 🙂