Healthy Eating Tips (For Realz!)
In the past several months, I have turned up the volume on the fitness in my life, including boxing, running, circuit training, etc. It’s been incredibly rewarding and allowed me to look at things in a new way - including food.
You hear people talk about using “food as fuel” and let “food be your medicine” - which both have value. But as you know I also see food as a gateway to exploring the world, to connecting with people, to enjoying life, and so much more.
Cooking in particular, for me, is part creativity, part physical labour, part craft, part science, part mindfulness… I could go on. This thing has a lot of parts!
But the fact is, eating is also about giving our bodies what they need. These days, because things like performance, muscle recovery, energy, and overall wellness, are on my mind, I find that I’m looking at food slightly differently. General health is usually a priority for me (with some splurges of course… I am definitely a pro at throwing caution well into the wind when the time is right) but lately I’ve been giving the healthiness of my food even more concerted attention.
I’m no diet pro, but I have discovered a few tips that work for me, helping me to get as much good food into my body as I can, while still enjoying a multi-faceted, all around yummy eating lifestyle. So I thought I’d share.
1) Hunger is an opportunity, not a threat. I’ve gotten a bit hooked lately on fitness/health info and it dawned on me that hunger is often seen as an opponent. I can understand why hunger might be your foe if you have some serious weight to lose. But have you looked at the food guide lately? We are supposed to be eating a ridiculous amount of fruits and vegetables! Even if you love healthy food, it can be hard to get them all in. So if you keep healthy snacks at the ready, like cut up veggies, a hunger pang can be a chance to get in more of your daily quota. Admittedly you might be craving more than just some cut veggies, but for me, this change of mind-set encourages me to eat more of the good stuff first. And even if you incorporate a small amount of healthy foods into your snack, you’re still making progress.
2) Stock up on vegetables - d’uh. So obvious, right? But I discovered that, as a serial buy-what-I-need-for-dinner-tonight-only type of shopper, I was so often running out of healthy food. I realized that if I stock up and the veggies in my fridge I usually will find a way to eat them. Sometimes this scares me because I’m afraid of wasting food - but my health comes first, and more often than not, if they’re there, I’ll find a way to use them.
3) Start with the morning. I’ll admit to being a chronic breakfast-skipper - or at least, I used to be. I know, I know, everyone tells you to eat breakfast but at my old agency job I would dash out of the house and grab a huge coffee on my way to the office and that was usually it. These days I know better. If I can find the time, having a small breakfast and coffee at home sets a far better tone for the day - it’s not just better for me physically, it’s better for me mentally! And as long as I’m eating, I think about how I can fit in some fruit and veggies. It may be as simple as adding fresh fruit to my yogurt and granola or, if I don’t have the fresh stuff, sometimes I make a warm compote of frozen fruit and maybe a dash of vanilla (you can make this days ahead by the way) to add to the yogurt. I personally love Ryvita with cream cheese topped with slices of cucumber, tomato, pepper, baby kale, carrot shavings…whatever I have in the fridge. A similar option - make your own veggie cream cheese by chopping up last night’s roasted or grilled veggies, spinach, whatever else you’ve got, really, and mixing it into plain cream cheese. Do this the night before and it won’t take you long to spread on, say, a whole grain English muffin in the morning. Admittedly, these are all small doses but every bit counts, right?
4) Blend it yourself. Sometimes the Jamba Juices of the world come in handy, but I think we’ve all heard that these juices are usually ridiculously caloric and packed with sugar. I’m not a smoothie junkie but sometimes it is just the thing after a workout. My sister gave me a killer tip: buy frozen spinach (the kind that comes in nugget form) and add a few to your smoothie. It adds colour but doesn’t affect the taste. I’ve even added frozen kale (or fresh baby kale for that matter) and found it works well, too. Here’s my favourite smoothie. I like it because it’s got a mix of protein, healthy fats, fruit and even some greens. So I think it’s great post-workout food, and it’s super yummy, too.
- Half an avocado
- 1 banana
- handful (or more) of frozen mango
- few tablespoons (or more, whatever makes sense) of non-fat, plain yogurt
- couple tablespoons of hemp seeds (protein!)
- few frozen spinach nuggets
- a couple healthy splashes of coconut water to help it blend together (can add more depending on the consistency you prefer).
Oh, and make sure you blend really well - that’s the secret to avoiding any weird spinach taste, especially if you’re using the fresh stuff.
5) Start with the basics. Again, I’m not an expert in this. But a lot of people ask me about eating organic, gluten-free, or making other radical diet changes. It seems to me that there’s a desire to skip over the basics. My two cents would be this: put the core building blocks in place first. There’s a lot of stuff we don’t know about the science of food, but I think common sense counts for a lot: Work on eating a diverse diet, with as many plants/veggies as possible, some fruit, lean protein, some whole grains, lots of water, as little alcohol, processed foods, and other ‘vices’ as possible… add in exercise, sleep and stress reduction… and try not to take it all too seriously while you’re at it… in my opinion, that’s already a pretty tall order. If you can manage even some of that, it’s going to serve you well. If you’re already doing those things and something still isn’t working, or you want to ‘level up’ and find what is optimal for you, then I get it. But I think a lot of the answer is already right in our faces, and if we start there, we’re going to have a pretty solid starting point to work from.
And may I add, once again, my recurring piece of advice - enjoy your food. Appreciate it, celebrate it, taste it. That’s what it’s there for.