Do you want to be healthy and live more naturally, but you are overwhelmed and don’t even know where to begin? Don’t worry, you are not alone! I will cover five key areas and include tips to help you clean up your eating, living, and improve your health!
Step 1: Supportive Food
You are what you eat
It has been confirmed again and again that food is the most powerful source to either improve your health, or damage your health. I appreciate the view from Mark Hyman; a physician, scholar and New York Times best-selling author:
“What you put at the end of your fork is more powerful medicine than anything you will find at the bottom of a pill bottle. Food is the most powerful medicine available to heal chronic disease, which will account for over 50 million deaths and cost the global economy $47 trillion by 2030. All you need to do is eat your medicine and think of your grocery store as your pharmacy.
We should eat for enjoyment, but also to nourish and strengthen our bodies and provide energy. If we start viewing food as a fuel and a medicine, it will alter not only our choice of what we eat, but why we eat. Are you ready to start viewing food as medicine? Here are my tips for you to begin your journey of choosing food for health.
Start reading labels
It is an eye opening experience to begin closely reading the labels of packaged foods and realize how many ingredients are hiding in that innocent looking box or bag. Unfortunately, many people are frequently consuming high sugar foods that are Genetically Modified (GMO), and contain many unnecessary additives like high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated soybean oil, corn, and artificial flavorings and colors, just to name a few.
My easy rule is “if you can’t pronounce an ingredient, you are better off not eating it!”
Once you begin reading labels more critically, you will learn to easily recognize what foods to avoid, and which are okay to purchase on occasion. Packaged foods ideally should only make up a very small portion of your food intake, so striving to limit your spending on these items will support not only your health, but your wallet. If you are looking for inexpensive, supportive, and portable snack items, whole fruits (bananas, oranges, apples) nuts, dried fruit, or jerky, are much better choices than cereal bars or granola bars.
Reading labels doesn’t just apply to boxed and bagged items. Examine everyday items in your home like maple syrup, jelly, peanut butter, bread, pasta sauce, and yogurt, and read the labels. Peanut butter should contain peanuts and perhaps some salt. Maple syrup should be “the real deal” and not a concoction of high fructose corn syrup and artificial maple flavoring. Purchase real butter, not margarine or any other spread that comes in the tub.
I would encourage you to open up your refrigerator, freezer, and cabinets, and take a look at what is inside and read those labels. Being mindful of the cost of food, I won’t go so far as to say “throw it away”, but after you consume it, or give it away, please replace those items with healthy and supportive foods the next time you go grocery shopping.
Take the money you will save by not purchasing packaged items, and put it towards wholesome and real food like organic meats, fresh produce, non-gmo grains, healthy proteins, and fats. If your budget is tight, become familiar with the Environmental Working Group (EWG) lists and stretch your budget farther by choosing to purchase organic options only for the higher pesticide foods on the “Dirty Dozen” list, and opt for conventionally grown foods that are lower in pesticides and are on the “Clean Fifteen” list.
My family stretches our meat even farther by incorporating it into a meal instead of having an individual serving of meat. Topping salads with meat, making soups, or even having a meatless dinner or two during the week are easy ways to save money. I love that my eight year old son’s favorite meal is homemade lentil soup and that my kids get excited about a big bag of organic carrots. Switching to more nutritious and healthful foods is not only good for you, if you have children it will better support their growing bodies and is an exciting opportunity to teach them about a healthy view and enjoyment of food.
Invest in staple ingredients
If you don’t have food in your house to cook, you will eat out or order take out! If you don’t pack a healthy lunch or snack with you, you will be held hostage to whatever is available and might make some very unsupportive choices.
My family eats most of our meals at home, and my goal is to always have the following items in my home: Fresh and frozen meats, fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables, eggs, dairy (or dairy substitutes) coconut oil and olive oil, nuts and nut butters, honey and maple syrup, dried or canned beans, rice, gluten free pasta, diced tomatoes, natural prepared pasta or pesto sauce, wholegrain or gluten free breads, and healthy snacks on hand like natural popcorn, tortilla chips, hummus, salsa, and guacamole. These and a few other items are my staple ingredients and pretty much guarantee that I always have something we can prepare to eat, and it prevents us from feeling the need to eat out or requiring a run to the grocery store to pick up ingredients.
Think about the foods that you enjoy, and try to have a supply of staple items on hand so that you can prepare healthy meals at home. If you don’t have time to prepare scrambled eggs in the morning, perhaps hardboil a dozen eggs and peel them and have them ready in the refrigerator to grab and go. Buy portable fruits and veggies, or utilize leftovers from the night before for an easy lunch.
The most critical aspect of eating healthy is to plan. Don’t worry, I’m not suggesting doing a month long meal plan, because that may not be your thing and it definitely is not the way that I do things! I realized that I like being spontaneous with my meals and that I don’t want to be locked into a set meal plan for the week or month. Even without a set menu I am still able to cook healthy and supportive foods by keeping a good basic supply of my most often used ingredients on hand. When 4pm rolls around and I need to answer the “what’s for dinner?” question, I have options, and none of them require picking up the phone to order pizza, or having my husband pick up takeout on the way home! I pull out my staple ingredients and the only decision I need to make is if I want to make Mexican, Italian, Greek, or….?
Substitute unhealthy choices with supportive foods
Identifying some of the unhealthy and non-supportive foods in your life and finding replacements with healthier options can be a great way to get you started without feeling overwhelmed or breaking the budget. Switch from instant oatmeal to steel cut or old fashioned oats. If you are short on time, learn how to soak them so that they cook up more quickly, or cook them in advance and just reheat for an almost “instant” breakfast (without the additives!). Instead of making a boxed dinner, prepare a simple meal at home with a meat, veggie, and starch. Keep it simple and discover what you like to eat.
If you love snacking in the evening, but find yourself eating a whole big bag of Lays potato chips in one sitting, consider fresh veggies and hummus, or salsa and organic tortilla chips as a healthier alternative to satisfy your desire to munch. Even with healthy options you still need to be mindful of portion sizes, but you can often find healthy and supportive foods and integrate them into your life without too much effort.
If you want more information and practical steps on eating clean, follow this link for a free download of my “10 Simple Steps to Clean Eating”
Because eating clean can be expensive, get my tips on wholesome foods for less in my Organic & non-GMO food finds at Costco!
I love cooking and practically live in my kitchen, but I know everyone may not have the same time or enjoyment of cooking. Even if you can’t cook 100% from scratch, simply buying a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store can be a much healthier option, and it will save you money over fast food or takeout. If you keep some basic items in your fridge, freezer, and pantry, it should be relatively easy to grill, bake, roast, or saute a meat, throw together a quick salad (or saute some fresh or frozen veggies), and add in an easy starch (for those who need it) like my easy roasted potatoes or steamed rice. For easy recipes check out the Recipe Box page on my blog.
Simple Seasoning Tip: If you don’t know how to season your meats and veggies, you can literally never go wrong with a sprinkling of salt and pepper and garlic powder. For extra flavor, a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime can brighten up any cooked chicken or fish. If you like things spicy, a sprinkling of crushed red pepper flakes or a splash of hot sauce can be just what a simple dish needs to maximize your enjoyment and tantilize your tastebuds.
Want more practical tips?
I am passionate about natural living and I would love to help you on your journey! Don’t miss out on the upcoming blog posts in my “5 Steps to Healthy Living” series! Become a She’s So Natural email subscriber and receive my blog updates in your inbox. All you need to do is scroll to the top of this page and enter your name and email address in the sign-up box at the top of your screen.
What steps will you take to eat healthier this week?
Have questions? Please email firstname.lastname@example.org and I would be delighted to talk with you! If you have a comment please feel free to comment below.