To anyone who is trying to be healthier, one of the easiest things to do is to cook more from home and “brown bag it” (to work). Not only will it save you money, but it’ll save you calories, chemicals, salt, and mystery ingredients. Another thing you MUST do if you want to be/eat healthier is to try new foods. Nothing too exotic like frog’s legs or escargots, but rather new ethnic dishes, ingredients like lentils and kale, and trying out new combinations of things you never thought of (like pasta with vodka sauce and smoked salmon). Eating is a way to achieve nutrition, variety, and fun! Cooking should be an enjoyable thing and the way to make it that way is to cook things that you would want to eat out, but make them at home instead. That’s the simplest starting point.
You can search “copycat” [insert restaurant dish name here] and you’ll get a wildly accurate recreation of your favorite restaurant’s dish that you can make at home. Oftentimes, you can pay the restaurant fee plus a bit more and easily feed a family of 4 (more food for the same $). Since restaurants skimp on quality ingredients like using oil instead of butter or preserved produce, you can get better nutrition, healthier food, and even TASTIER food by making it yourself. Following a recipe is truly easy as pie and even something that seems so complicated as Homemade Yogurt or Chicken Parmesan is really quite simple to do, and almost effortless! No lie! I was shocked at how easy both of these were to make, but initially I thought “too much work!”.
Another thing you can try is to use AllRecipes.com and search for a recipe based on 2-3 ingredients you have on-hand that you’d like to use to cook a meal with. Like “red bell pepper, feta cheese, and quinoa” and it’ll populate recipes that have all those ingredients in them. From there you can see pictures, ratings, and the ingredients list required to make that dish. If you make an account with them (free) you can save recipes you’ve made or put them in your virtual recipe box to make later. It’s nifty and one of the main sites I use when cooking!
Some of the best things a person can do in regard to food choices:
- switch to real butter instead of margarine
- use olive oil, coconut oil, or grapeseed oil (don’t use sunflower, canola, or vegetable oils)
- use less salt when cooking and eating
- eat whole-fat dairy products (It’s not fat in food that makes you fat. It’s excess calories and limited physical activity. Fat helps rebuild cells and gives a person a vibrant look to their skin, hair, and nails. Everything in moderation.)
- check ingredient lists and avoid anything with the word “hydrogenated” in it (one of the UNHEALTHIEST things you can eat. Primarily peanut butters and other “solid”-esque foods have this).
- make homemade salad dressing (most of them are a snap if you have a stocked basic pantry and fresh garlic, eggs, and onion on hand)
- if you want dessert, have some… just take 1 though (all we really want is a taste anyway- we don’t need a large milkshake. get a small and relish the taste more)
- try and get more pure water into your body (I have water delivered in 5-gallon jugs once a month and it’s instant cold water from the cooler, tastes great, is readily available, and way cheaper than buying individual bottled water)
- split a plate at a restaurant with someone at your table or get a kids-size meal (at Tijuana Flatts, the kids meal for a quesadilla comes with: quesadilla, chips, a small drink, and applesauce or m&ms for $4. an adult-size quesadilla is $8 with some chips and no drink)
- if you’re craving a certain type of food, then plan and make it at home! (I’ve successfully attempted a homemade alfredo sauce, thousand island dressing, and balsamic vinaigrette salad dressing. I’ve also made great vegan desserts and seemingly-difficult main dishes that are so savory and worth the effort.)
- plan your meals for the week, who’s cooking them, and what ingredients you’ll need and make note of the quantity needed (if you need cream cheese, make a note on your list of how many ounces. That way when you get to the store you’ll know whether to buy the mini pack or the sumo pack. I’ve learned this trick the hard way…)
- Try to incorporate 1 vegetarian dish and 1 seafood dish a week into your meals (not only will this help you save money, but it’ll expose you to new flavors and you’ll come to see that meatless food can be very satisfying! Also helps you get rid of pantry staples.)
What I eat now is drastically different from how I used to eat in high school. I ate mostly “kid food”. It was finally in college where I got exposed to vegetarian and vegan foods and I came to find out that I LOVED them! Our cafeteria had sections and one of them was a vegetarian section (I admittedly didn’t know that at the time) but so I would check out all the food available that mealtime and then decide what I wanted to have. Most times I would try the vegetarian stuff and I would like it about 70% of the time.
Being open-minded to new foods is probably one of the biggest roadblocks to eating healthier. We think we won’t like it, or it sounds too ethnic, or we couldn’t ever imagine eating lamb, veal, quinoa, or kale. But the funny thing is that every food was new to us at the beginning and yet we somehow managed to try stuff. Unless you’re repulsed by something (like for me: crawfish, lobster, and oysters) then you owe it to yourself to try it. Either make a 2-serving recipe of a dish you’re unsure about so if it’s trash, you haven’t wasted a lot of time or resources, and if it’s good, then you’ve got a new great recipe waiting to be made again.