The one thing that makes healthy eating so easy…actually I would say the secret to healthy eating, is to be prepared. What’s your block when it comes to eating as healthy as you’d like to? Most of us have some kind of a little or a HUGE block. This is normal, and human. Our modern lifestyle is not in our favor when it comes to eating healthy. In many ways we are swimming upstream, but with a few little adjustments you can easily indulge in a diet full of foods that will make you feel amazing.
I met a lovely woman yesterday who shared struggles with me of trying staying on the straight & narrow when it comes to diet. She has all the information she needs, she is well-read, very smart (not to mention funny), but she struggles with eating healthy. This is how it goes for her (and I’m sharing this because I think it’s true for 80% of people I know):
She starts of good with a healthy breakfast because she has the ingredients for oatmeal, quinoa, fruit, etc all ready and to hand. Others start of the day with on a good footing with a green smoothie. Fantastic…everything great so far. Then, for lunch she still does well because she’s prepared a salad to take to work with her. She eats that, and then as the afternoon creeps into the 3 0r 4 o’clock hour she begins to get hungry. She thinks about the apple in her on her desk…ugh…who the heck wants an apple when you’re hungry? Who the heck wants an apple or a bag of carrot sticks when you’re craving a serious treat? She calls it her “pet” apple because it never gets eaten! I SO get this, and this lady made me laugh so much because I feel the same way. So, she winds up reaches in frustration for something unhealthy (the hand goes straight into the Orea jar), and the rest is history. It’s a downhill struggle from then on because once you’ve eaten a little (or a lot) of junk, you either crave more, or feel so defeated and shameful that you can’t even fathom how you’re going to cook a healthy dinner. Especially if you’re going home to a meat & potatoes family! And so the cycle continues.
I’m sure you can relate to part of this story. I certainly can. I wasn’t always Ms. Squeaky Clean Healthy Pants. But I’ve learned a few secrets along the way that prevent the hand going straight into the cookie jar, and keep me gloriously plant-powered.
You all know by now that I advocate a mainly whole food plant-based diet. The scientific evidence just can’t been ignored any longer in this respect. Vegetarians, and particularly vegans, live longer, and have significantly less disease than their meat-eating counterparts. So without getting too extreme on you, I recommend trying to go 80/20 with the plant eating, or even better, 90/10. Interestingly, The Blue Zones (longest-living and healthiest people in the world) are 90/10 when it comes to a whole food plant-based diet. Meat or fish is reserved for a special treat, or considered a condiment.
So, back to the secret: It’s really is about being well prepared. My lovely friend (hand-in-the-Oreo-jar gal), fell off her wagon (the one she chooses to be on), because she didn’t have a satisfying afternoon snack that she wanted to eat. It’s that simple. It’s also my hunch that her lunchtime salad wasn’t big enough, and she wasn’t prepared for dinner. So, I’ve created 5 simple steps below to help you on your way.
- Eat more than you think you need! I know this flies in the face of most diet programs, but the one reason why most people are miserable on diets is because they are fricking hungry! DO NOT go hungry. If you eat a massive salad or veggie bowl at lunch, you should be okay. In that salad or bowl you need: a grain, some slow release starches such as roasted sweet potato/squash, healthy fats such as avocado, nuts, and seeds, and protein such beans. And of course, as many dark leafy greens as you can fit in there. The bowl should be big enough that you feel very full after eating it. This will signal the stretch receptors in your stomach to signal your brain that you cannot eat another thing. When I see friends eat a few lettuce leaves for lunch, I know they are headed for trouble. It never works. So go crazy with your salad/Buddha bowls my friends. Get creative now it’s summer. Get colorful…go nuts!
- Have an afternoon snack ready – which you actually want to eat! Almost every diet promotes having healthy snacks such as carrot sticks, fruit, a handful of almonds etc. While some days this will suffice, it doesn’t exactly set anyone alight! I need to have a snack to carry me through to dinner that I look forward to eating. It needs to have a sweet taste, and be soothing and satisfying. That snack used to be a muffin/cookie/brownie etc until I realized that it just spiked my blood sugar and created inflammation (you can get away with a lot more when you’re younger, right?), so I had to re-think this and create a healthy version of what I love. I’ve given some examples of healthy snack recipes below. But think of things like a warm latte made with plant milk, tea, and a healthy sweetener. A latte will fill you up. Or a healthy scone. Trust me, I’ve found a way to make all of those things with a healthy twist because I love my treats. The other option is to make a full 64-ounce blender of smoothie in the morning and take half of it with you in a cooler bag. When you hit a hungry patch in the afternoon, down a mega glass of smoothie. This will fill you up and give you tremendous energy. If you are fast-tracking it to healthy, this would be my preferred option for you, but go easy on yourself. Not everyone feels like a smoothie for breakfast and afternoon snack…and I get that!
- Dinner Prep – this is the hardest because we’re all so busy, but if you don’t prepare you’ll go blank when you get home and open the fridge. No one wants to face that crisper drawer after a hard day’s work. All those veggies that you had such great intentions for when you snagged them at the farmers market. They will mostly go to waste unless you have a plan. My advice, get out a pen and paper and flick through a recipe recipe books or blogs to find some veggie inspiration. I have quite a few good recipes on my blog. The other thing you might want to consider is Green Chef. It’s pricey but such a great investment because it will teach you how to cook plant-based step-by-step. Plus, if you are a bit of a food-waster, you literally won’t waste a bean with this plan. Green Chef is totally organic too, so factor that into the price. I have friends who actually feel they save money on Green Chef because they don’t eat out, don’t have to do that big grocery shop, and don’t buy things that won’t get used.
- Re-think your protein – We are culturally used to preparing a meal or a plate around a big hunk of meat or fish. It seems so much easier to slap a chicken breast on a plate and add a few veggies around the edge. It actually is easier because you don’t have to over-think things. Moreover, we’ve been brainwashed into believing that we need a huge amount of protein. Many people also feel that if they eat a big hunk of meat or fish, it will feel them up without the dreaded “fattening” carbs coming into play. But, chew on this for a moment (pun is totally intended!): Women only need 46 grams of protein a day. You can get this from plant sources pretty easily. You just need to be mindful of including things like beans, tofu, quinoa, seeds, nuts, plant milks, and avocado in many of your meals. If you are doing the 80/20 or the 90/10 things, you could add a little fish or high quality to meat to some of your meals. But to get around the big gap on your plate where the huge hunk of animal protein used to reside, you have to plan ahead. It doesn’t have to be complicated either. Think of hearty soups, chili, tofu scramble, Buddha Bowls, Veggie lasagna, veggie risotto etc. All of these are comforting, filling, and very easy to prepare. But you need your recipe all ready to go, and ingredients purchased ahead of time.
Healthy Afternoon Snacks
Easy plant-based Dinners