Many people face barriers in preparing healthier meals, including a lack of time and conflicting information about nutrition, and taste preferences.
Eating healthy. It’s something we all know we should do but it can seem like an impossible task. Often we feel so ingrained in our bad behavior that it’s hard to decide how to even get started.
I’m not an expert in the field and my eating habits are not perfect. I’m just a gal who’s trying to do better today than I did yesterday. I fall off the wagon just like everyone else and struggle to get on the right track again.
I have, however, picked up a few nuggets of knowledge along the way in regard to preparing healthier meals and I’d like to share a few of them with you!
Eat At Home (And Pack Your Lunch)
Americans love to eat out. It’s a fact. Studies show that we, on average, spend over 50% of our total food budget to eat food away from home 4-5 times per week.
Now, we all know the dangers associated with fast food but there are pitfalls at your local sit-down eatery as well. Restaurants are in the business of serving food that tastes good with little regard for how healthy it may be. The result is often an increased amount of fats and sugars compared to meals you would normally cook at home.
The bottom line? Those who eat more home-cooked meals are simply healthier than those who don’t.
And since you’re cooking dinner anyway, why not cook extra to pack for your lunch tomorrow?
Eat Your Fruits and Vegetables
The recommended amount of produce for adults is 1-2 cups of fruit and 1-3 cups of vegetables. (And, no, french fries don’t count.) This seems to be an area where many of us fall short. More than 90% of Americans don’t eat enough produce.
While a wide variety of fruits and vegetables are the optimal solution to good health, let’s be serious. We don’t all like every vegetable. Me? Not crazy about salads. Or at least that’s how I feel about the bowl full of lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers but I love this Mexican Avocado Salad and this Orange and Beet Salad.
Vegetables can take on a whole new flavor profile when combined with a small piece of bacon, some soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, or a few nuts. Sometimes, they can even be the base for your entire meal!
Smoothies made with whole fruits and vegetables (not juice) are a great choice, quick to prepare and easy to take along for the ride to work. This is one of my favorites but there are plenty of other options out there, both “green” or “fruity”. Really, almost any combo of fruits and veggies works well in a smoothie so use your imagination!
So, maybe it’s not that you don’t like produce. Maybe it’s just that you don’t like the way you’ve been preparing it!
Lose The Cans And Bottles
Marinades, sauces, dips, soups, canned fruits and veggies…the vast majority of these pre-made items are loaded with sugar, salt, fat and all kinds of additives. And P.S.? They don’t taste nearly as good as what you can whip up in your own kitchen.
OK, OK, you’re right. I’m not going to ferment my own vinegar or soy sauce. It’s stinky and it takes months.
What I can do is make a few key items when I have the time and store them in the freezer for when I need to use them. Applesauce, cranberry sauce, barbecue sauce and tomato sauce are just a few examples of things you can whip up in no time!
Salad dressings and dips often don’t hold up as well to freezing but it’s easy to throw together just the amount you need for the meal you’re having. Blue cheese? Yes, please! Thousand island? Honey Mustard? Making these will leave you unflustered!
And this ranch powder mix will happily sit in your cupboard for a long time until you need it.
- Make a meal plan. This doesn’t have to be complicated but it is important. It’s a fact that those who make a meal plan are more likely to have a healthier diet.
- Hit the store. Make a list of everything you’re going to need to make those meals and go shopping for everything you don’t already have.
- Prep, prep, prep. Prep all the food you just brought home from the store. Break the proteins down into serving-sized portions for freezing (so you don’t have to defrost 5 pounds of ground beef to make one meal) and pre-prep other items in advance (such as turning that head of broccoli into bite-sized pieces). It’s easier to prepare a meal after work if you’ve already done some of the work!
- Cook for the future. Since you’re cooking anyway, why not make enough for another meal? Many of my recipes, such as this pepper steak stir-fry, make 2 or 3 servings that can be used for several meals during the week. I love to cook a whole meatloaf and then freeze individual slices to use later in sandwiches. Uncooked meatballs can be frozen (make sure the ground beef hasn’t been previously frozen) and then thawed in single portions to make sweet and sour meatballs or pasta.
- Don’t be overzealous. This is a mistake I’ve made more than once. I mean, why not double this sausage and butternut squash skillet so it will last the whole week? Because I guarantee you’re going to be sick of eating it by day 3. Luckily, it freezes nicely so I was able to eat the rest a few weeks later.
Go Forth And Cook
The road to eating healthier meals can seem like a long and daunting journey but keep in mind that you don’t have to be good at this all at once. There will be missteps, missed exits and side trips. The important thing is to stick with it. Before you know it, you’ll be looking forward to preparing that healthy meal. I promise.
What strategies have you adopted to make things easier? Let me know in the comments below!
All my best,