I’ve devised my 7 Tips for Healthy Eating at Home because I feel like crap. What the heck is going on? I’m a healthy guy, I’m not overweight. I exercise more than most people. I was the Executive Chef at a large hospital, so I know about nutrition and I can cook.
Why do I feel lousy? Why am I exhausted by the television at 9:00 pm? Why do I sleep 8 full hours and wake up tired? Why do I feel like I need a nap in the afternoon? Why is my attention-span shortening? Why does my memory seem to be duller? Why am I irritable sometimes? Why is this happening to me?
I’m very “busy”. Whew! I have so much to do! Perhaps I can chalk this up to the all-encompassing “stress”. That’s it. It’s just that I’m busy and I’m stressed. Regretfully, I don’t think that’s ever going to change. The question is now, “what CAN I change to feel better”?
The answer keeps coming back to me – diet. I don’t use the word “diet” like a fad-diet best seller. I use the word diet like the controlled sustenance they give to zoo animals. Diet is what you normally eat every day, not what you eat for a few weeks. Since food is fuel, and I can control what I eat, I need to scrutinize my overall diet.
These 7 tips for healthy eating at home are either small or large changes you can join me in making in our lives. Again, I’m healthy, not overweight, and I exercise a lot. However, I’ve found these small changes can make a big difference in returning my energy, wellness, and mental acuity.
1) Grocery Store Choices – The items you toss in your grocery buggy are your weeks’ fuel. Do you choose high-octane or low-quality fuel? Many food writers and bloggers advise that you shop around the perimeter of the grocery store. That’s where the vegetables, meats, and seafood are. The interior aisles of the store contain the chips, canned, and processed foods.
The problem is that the perimeter of the grocery can be more expensive, calorie for calorie, than the interior. Our Food Scientists have designed it that way. One dollar in the fresh produce section will yield a bag of spinach for about 15 calories. However, a bag of potato chips will give you 150 calories for the same dollar. Is this more fuel for the money, or just cheaper fuel?
Choose whole foods, those with less than 5 ingredients on the label, preferably only one ingredient on the label. If you like to eat beef, buy “beef”, not processed Steak-umms or frozen dinners that add fillers and empty calories to weigh you and your energy level down.
You can’t control what goes into take-out and restaurant foods. Honestly, their main objective is to make their business profitable, not improve your health. They will provide delicious food, hitting on all the comfort points the human tongue can perceive. They’re not looking out for your health and energy level, only you can do that.
Buy foods as close to their natural state as possible and you’ll have better results from what you eat.
2) Use Healthier Cooking Methods – All the other healthy eating tips can be absolutely ruined if you are cooking in a manner that adds unnecessary fat and calories to weigh you down. It’s not your fault if Grandma taught you to pan-fry everything in 2 cups of oil, or 2 sticks of butter. That’s the way she did it, but it’s time to consider alternative methods to increase your wellness and energy level.
The best methods for retaining the nutrition of the food you purchase are those that don’t add calories, but enhance the natural flavor of the food. Steaming is best for delicate items like fish and shellfish. Roasting or grilling are excellent methods for tougher items like beef or chicken.
The best and quickest way to turn healthy ingredients into healthy dishes is with Saute’. Saute is the stove-top method of applying intense heat directly to food through your sauté pan. The difference between sauté and Grandma’s pan frying is the amount of oil used.
In sauté, the object is to use as little fat as possible. The fat in this method is used to conduct heat from the bottom of the pan to your food item. It’s not meant to flavor or retain moisture. Saute cooks too fast for that.
Skip the breading. Chicken Parmesan is just as good with a grilled chicken breast than with a flour/egg/crumbs mixture adding calories and fat.
Cooking methods that use indirect heat like roasting and steaming, or direct heat like grilling and sauté are the best ones for healthy eating. Being able to duplicate these techniques with a variety of foods will result in more wholesome, nutritious, flavorful items.
3) Better Cooking Ingredients, Less Condiments – Choose real ingredients when you cook, but use less of them. Whatever you goal in improving your diet at home, removing the fake or inefficient foods in your diet can push you past the finish line.
If you must have a sweet taste in your beverage, use real sugar not a sugar-like substance from the food laboratory. Your body has no idea what that fake sugar is. If it has no idea how to categorize it, your body stores it as fat. Slowly train your palate to use less and less real sugar, skipping the chemicals.
The same is true for cooking ingredients. One tablespoon of real, flavorful olive oil will give health benefits and enjoyment that a full cup of hydrolyzed corn oil can’t.
If you learn to make your own simple sauces, you can avoid the additives in jarred sauces. Again, you have no control over what goes into a jar sold on the interior of the grocery store. A simple roux of one tablespoon REAL butter and flour will satisfy you much more than purchased Alfredo Sauce bound with modified cornstarch.
4) Start Portioning and Portion Correctly – Not every meal needs to be an endless buffet. That second helping may make you feel better at the table, but it’s what is keeping you awake at night.
The average adult will eat 12 ounces of food each meal. This should be 4-5 ounces of protein like chicken, meat, fish, or beans. Also, 3-4 ounces of starch like potatoes, pasta, or rice; and 2-3 ounces of vegetables.
Figuring these portions starts at the grocery store and ends just before the cooked food is placed on the plate. If you have a family of four, don’t cook 6 chicken breasts! Just don’t do it. Weigh your potatoes, pasta, and vegetables before cooking and only cook that amount.
Force-feeding leftovers because “they’ll go to waste” is another cause of over-eating, poor nutrition, and eventual lethargy.
5) Stop Snacking, or Eat Healthier Snacks – Respect meal time as the time to eat a meal. One of my best tips for eating healthy is not to eat “in-transit”. Stop eating in your car, stop eating engineered foods in a mylar bag as you move from place to place. This is where the empty calories are consumed that will make you feel lousy the rest of the day.
However, if know you are always hungry at 10am and 3pm, prepare for this eventuality with healthier snacks. I don’t mean carrot and celery sticks, that never lasts. But, switch from potato chips to pretzels, or from pretzels to nuts and dried fruit. If you’re on a special high-protein diet, your snack can be the leftover chicken breast that you planned to cook, but didn’t eat last night.
Plan your snacks, don’t be surprised by hunger, and your actual meals will be better accepted by your body, giving greater energy and happier outlook on life.
6) Drink Water – I’m not the first person you’ve heard say this. Soft drinks, drink powders, coffee drinks, and energy drinks can spike your metabolism, dehydrate you, and confuse your body with artificial sweeteners.
This can be the most difficult step for many people, as kicking the Coke habit can be as difficult as kicking the cocaine habit. An addict’s an addict. If you feel that you MUST have a can of soda, that should be a red flag to you. Your body is hooked on something and is now controlling you. Nobody is hooked on broccoli. Broccoli is not engineered to hit all the pleasure centers in the brain. Sweetened and carbonated drinks are.
Water is flavorless, but crucial to help in the digestion of all the other positive food improvements you’ve made. Start replacing everything you drink with water and you’ll see immediate results in your energy level. Buy yourself a cool new stainless steel water bottle and save the environment at the same time.
7) Educate Yourself – Don’t listen to me. Don’t listen to Michael Pollan. Don’t listen to any single expert or guru. Listen to all of them and make your own plan and decisions.
Seek out the knowledge that will improve your life permanently, not just for a short period of time. Ask friends about their eating habits. Read books on health and nutrition, not fad diets. Subscribe to websites and newsletters that focus on healthy eating and lifestyle. Watch television shows that will improve your diet and approach to eating.
The information is available to you, but nobody is going to simply plant it in your brain. Nor will anyone give you the motivation to seek out this knowledge. It’s all up to you. Find what your healthy eating goal is and find the people that have gone before you. Study them, follow what they do and you can do the same.
You’re not too busy. It’s not too hard. You don’t have to be smart, educated, wealthy or famous to make small changes in the way you interact with yourself. What do you believe you can do? What do you believe you CAN’T do? Either way, you’re correct. You can only do what you believe and you definitely won’t accomplish what you don’t.
You needn’t use all of these 7 tips for healthy eating at home. Start with one of the tips that fits most comfortably in your life. When you start to notice that you’re sleeping better, have more energy, are nicer to your kids, lowered your blood sugar, lost body fat, don’t have allergic reactions, or just feel better, you’ll be motivated to try another tip. Then another tip, then another. Now, you’ve changed your life and lifestyle, not just your diet.
Source: Chef Todd Mohr