If a stranger were to ask me what was the single best thing they can do to eat well to nourish their bodies so that they maintain a healthy weight and maintain steady energy throughout the day, I would say “eat cleanly.” And what would I mean by that? It would be my polite way to say “eat real food.” And by real food, I mean eating and preparing meals with foods that are as close as you can get from the way that they were grown or raised.
For many of us, this isn’t easy. The ‘standard american diet’ is mostly made up of processed ‘food’, much of which our bodies do not even recognize as food. Companies spend billions of dollars to create products that will keep us coming back for more, not to mention the marketing dollars spent making us think that some foods are healthy. It is easy to grow up, as I did, thinking that these packaged items create a healthy diet. These feelings are very deeply ingrained in our way of thinking, and difficult to overcome. For example, I grew up believing that eating fat would make me fat. Even though I now know that healthy fats are essential to a healthy diet, it has taken time to switch the mindset to eat healthy fats without guilt.
If you want to make a switch to start eating a cleaner diet, a great place to start is by eating more vegetables. Vegetables should make up the majority of your diet, so I feel pretty confident in saying that most, if not all of us, have room to eat more vegetables. What kinds? Eat any and all of them, and keep up variety. Different vegetables have different nutrients, so variety is key.
As you make changes, have compassion with yourself and start small. If you are not eating vegetables daily now (and no, ketchup does not count in my book), then make a commitment to eating two servings a day. If you eat a salad every day for lunch, but otherwise have no to few vegetables, make a point to add 2 cups of vegetables to your breakfast in the morning, and eventually move to dinner as well. Wherever you are at, start adding, start experimenting, and slowly you can shape your plate to be full of mostly vegetables. Go out this week and pick one vegetable you have never cooked and give it a shot! One of the things I love about this approach, is that you are not starting out by limiting yourself. I didn’t say “stop eating processed foods”. Instead, just add some vegetables into your diet. As you add real food in, you will slowly crowd out the non-real food.
I would love to hear what new vegetables you try! Post in the comments: what did you choose, how did you cook it, and did you love it or will you try a different way to prepare it the next time around?