With more time spent at home in 2020 and 2021, there’s been a rise in baking, cooking (and eating) across the country. As a new year begins, we can carry over some of our healthiest resolutions from the pandemic and focus on resolutions that are most important to us. Whether your goal is to eat less junk or processed food, lower your calorie intake, or learn how to cook with more vegetables, we’re here with a few simple tricks to help you achieve your goal to eat healthier in 2022! Here’s how:
1. Prepare meals in advance.
After a day of work meetings, virtual learning, chores, and other life stresses, it’s difficult to spend an hour or more on your feet in the kitchen preparing a healthy, homemade meal. It’s more tempting to take the path of least resistance and opt for unhealthy take-out food or T.V. dinners instead.
Set yourself up for success by preparing ingredients for the week’s meals in advance! On the weekend, spend a few hours cooking your meats and prepping the vegetables and other ingredients for the week ahead. When meals are planned and all the ingredients are prepped in advance, you’ll be able to easily "throw together" a delicious, nutritious (not to mention budget-friendly) meal in minutes.
If you do decide to order take-out, make sure you’re supporting your local restaurants. Review their menu and find ways to make your favorite dishes healthier. Order the side salad instead of French fries, opt for veggies instead of rice, or skip adding a soda. P.S. It’s typically best to order straight from the business vs using a food delivery app.
2. Make fruits and veggies the most accessible snack.
When we’re hungry, we reach for a snack that’s accessible and ready to eat. To improve your snacking choices, the next time you get home from the local farmers market with the produce you’ve purchased for the week ahead, invest time in prepping the vegetables and fruit before you put them in the fridge. Prepping will also save time when making healthy back-to-school snacks for your kids.
When apples and grapes and pears are washed and set out in a bowl on the kitchen counter or when celery and carrots and peppers are sliced and in a handy container in the fridge you’ll be more likely to reach for a healthy option the next time your snack cravings hit you. It’s also easier to whip together a quick salad for lunch when all your vegetables are washed and cut, ready to use. You'll also want to make sure you wash your fruits and veggies well. Even if you’re going to be peeling the produce, it’s important to wash it first to avoid getting contaminants into the part of the produce you’ll be eating. Even with fruits and vegetables, it's good to know food poisoning tips and tricks.
Pro Tip: Save the tops and scraps of your vegetables to make a delicious pesto using a food processor or blender!
3. Experiment with healthier substitutes.
The good news, if you’re trying to eat healthier this year, is that you don’t have to abandon your favorite meals; you can reinvent them with a few simple substitutes! Cauliflower rice can substitute for starchy rice, saving you hundreds of calories a day. And it can be cooked and mashed to substitute for calorie-laden mashed potatoes.
Zucchini can be cut into thin strips to substitute for processed, carbohydrate-dense noodles in your favorite pasta dishes. Plus, zoodles always make for an Insta-worthy picture!
By experimenting with substitutes for common ingredients, you can find nutritious alternatives that add a healthy twist to your favorite meals. A great example is buffalo cauliflower wings as a great healthy Super Bowl snack.
Substituting red meat with mushrooms is a healthy and delicious option when firing up the grill and having a Summer BBQ. Even meat lovers love a Portobello mushroom burger.
Pro tip: make cooking new, healthy dishes a competition between your family or roommates.
4. Pay attention to how food makes you feel
With many alternatives to dairy, soy, meats, and more it’s easier than ever to adjust your diet depending on your digestive needs. It’s important to pay attention to how your body feels after you eat so you can begin to eliminate foods to which you may be sensitive or allergic. Your diet can also affect your skin, hair, energy, and mood. Starting the day with foods that give you energy can mean the difference between a productive or non-productive day.
If you find it difficult to pinpoint the foods that are negatively affecting you, there are now many tricks and tools to find out what kinds of food may be causing issues, including at-home food sensitivity tests, elimination diets, allergy tests, and more. It may take a few weeks to months to determine the foods that you should avoid in your diet, so patience and diligence are key to your success.
5. Find non-food rewards.
Without even realizing it, we often use food to bribe, console or reward ourselves - and most of the time, the food we reach for isn’t healthy. The candy bars, cookies, cheeseburgers, chips, sodas, and beer that seem like easy fixes come with steep health consequences in the form of empty calories, extra fat, and fleeting satisfaction.
The next time you’re looking to reward (or console) yourself, find a non-food option to enjoy.
At Urgent Care, we’re here to help you and your loved ones stay healthy all year long! Save your spot online or just walk in.
Written by Sarah Thebarge, Physician Assistant