Eating Well Doesn’t Have to be Complicated
by Nancy Oglesby
Diets, right!?! I’m not a spring chicken, so I can’t help but shake my head when a ‘new’ diet rolls around and catches people up in their hand-picked ‘science.’ I won’t name names, but there are a lot of 20th Century diets recirculating in fancy 21st Century jargon.
Just for the record, there is a massive amount of solid, scientific research proving that the absolute healthiest way to eat well is to combine a multitude of plant foods with, if necessary, small amounts of lean, quality poultry and/or fish. "A diet of minimally processed foods close to nature, predominantly plants, is decisively (emphasis mine) associated with health promotion and disease prevention." Whole grains, beans and legumes, fruits, vegetables, and plant-based fats … There is your diet.
Americans tend to be either so hyper-focused on macronutrients (fat, carbohydrates, or protein), or they simply don’t pay any attention to diet and eat whatever suits their fancy. These days it’s a challenge to find people who simply eat a whole, real food, balanced diet.
I’d like to share a few ways to incorporate healthy choices into your busy lives without having to hyper-focus on anything, rather learn just a few new, simple habits. Try to make one simple change at a time, rather than changing everything, and those simple changes will add up to one seriously BIG change over time!
The best thing you can do for your health, starting right now, is to add in fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables. More than 25,000 phytonutrients are found in plant foods! That’s 24,997 more than the macro-obsessed group are focusing on and a multi-vitamin, which might have 50 nutrients; it isn’t even close.
Simple choice #1 is to add in a variety of plant foods. If you or your loved ones don’t like them, or only eat a limited variety, try blending them into sauces. Other than darkening your spaghetti sauce a bit, kale doesn’t seem to affect the flavor. Rather than using sugar to cut the acidity of a tomato-based sauce, try blending in carrots. It’s easy to do: blend a portion of sauce, along with the veggies, until smooth, then add back to the pot.
I use a slow cooker a lot, so I blend before I even get started. Things I’ve added: sweet potatoes, spinach, kale, carrots, zucchini, summer squash, onions, and if you’d like a peppery twang, try adding cabbage.
Simple choice #2 is to prepare or purchase a veggie tray and set it out while you’re preparing the meal. This will give you and your family something to munch on (put out some hummus, guacamole, or salsa for a dip). This is a great way to solve the munchies while everyone is waiting for dinner!
Simple choice #3 is to start your day with a smoothie. You can use a flavored, plant-based protein powder (email me for my faves!) which gives you a nice level of fiber and protein, then add in fruit and veggies to your delight. I start every day with a smoothie, made with vanilla protein powder, nuts (great for your cholesterol profile!), banana, kale (truly doesn’t add flavor, but adds so much in the way of nutrition), and carrots, all in an almond milk base.
Eating out can be a challenge if you’re not prepared, but our internet-based world makes it so much easier! Check the restaurant’s menu online before you leave. This will allow you to make a healthy choice before you get so hungry you want to eat the table! You’ll be able to decide, without distraction, what you want on the salad, or as a side.
Good planning sets you up for success. Before I started doing this, I would forget to ask for an alternate dressing to the calorie-dense creamy dressing, or to leave off the cheese and croutons. It also gives you an opportunity to see what fits into your budget, and you can ask them to add grilled salmon or chicken breast to a dinner salad.
Don’t forget that most chefs’ main goal is to make food taste amazing, and they often do it at the expense of your waistline. There’s a reason their tomato bisque tastes that good, and the reason is cream. “I have never had broccoli that tasted so good! I just love that touch of garlic!” Yeah, mostly it’s the butter that the garlic is sauteed in. The salad dressings are typically high fat, sugar, or both. Desserts? Cream, butter, sugar. Aim for crisp and clean and you can eat out with few worries.
Have you tried to go gluten or dairy free? My clients find it easiest to choose one food at a time. If you want to switch to non-dairy milk, try mixing half and half for awhile, then move up to ¾ non-dairy and eventually 100% non-dairy. The biggest challenge for most people when they aim for dairy free is cheese. Two good alternatives are CHAO and Follow Your Heart slices. They both make a wicked grilled cheese sandwich!
That grilled cheese sandwich can even be gluten free by using Udi’s Millet & Chia Whole Grain GF bread! I haven’t found a GF bread that I like untoasted, so keep that in mind. A GF friend has told me that Glutino Whole Grain English Muffins are fabulous.
Whatever change you choose, make it one simple change, track it, try different options, and aim for success!
Nancy Oglesby, Certified Integrative Nutrition Coach, a 2011 graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, her passion is to make healthy lifestyle changes accessible to everyone. In January 2017 she published the first book in a series on creating a healthy lifestyle, No Kale Required: Healthy Eating Ideas for the Rest of Us. She is a popular speaker, coaches, designs wellness programs, does lunch & learns for businesses and organizations, is a Juice Plus+ Franchise owner and writes.