Many years ago, I didn’t know much at all about eating healthy. One day when I had two young daughters, we were sitting down to eat dinner. I had made beef stroganoff. I’m sure you all have this recipe somewhere in your collection. The white sauce consisted of cream of mushroom soup, sour cream, and beef bouillon (loaded with msg). My young daughter sat up to the table and asked me, “Mom, is this healthy food?” I stopped in my tracks. As a young 20 something mother, I hadn’t really thought about what “healthy” food really was. I knew that candy and junk food weren’t healthy. I knew soda, and fast food weren’t healthy. Here was a meal I had made from scratch, so I was thinking it was healthy, yet after I thought about her question, I couldn’t bring myself to tell her it was. Her innocent little question helped me realize that I needed to do some learning about what it really meant to eat healthy.
Over the years, as I’ve studied and learned about this subject, I’ve heard hundreds of different ideas about what it means to eat healthy. Everyone seems to have an opinion on the subject, and many of them contradict each other! It was extremely overwhelming and confusing. When I first tried to make changes in my own eating habits, I would often break down into tears, because I simply didn’t know where to start.
I’ve come a long way since the day my little girl asked me a simple question. Cooking healthy has become one of my passions. Learning to listen to my body and eat healthy has gotten easier as well. The biggest changes I’ve seen are that I rarely get sick, I have plenty of energy to get me through the day (without taking anything that has caffeine or any other stimulant), I am mostly pain free, my mind is clear, and I can be as active as I want! Notice that I did not say that I weigh a certain amount, or fit into certain clothes, because that is constantly fluctuating, and if I was basing my success off of those numbers, I would never be happy, content, and at peace with myself.
If you feel like you want to make some simple changes in your life, or even if you feel like you have some big changes to make, but you are feeling overwhelmed like I was, may I suggest four simple things to get started? These are the things I always go back to, when I feel I am getting out of balance with my eating habits. They help ground me and take me back to the basics. If I am too overwhelmed to do anything else, I do these four things, and I am amazed at how much better I feel.
- Eat more often
I know, it’s a bit of a paradox, but just trust me on this one! I have found that when I eat about every 2.5 hours, I do better overall. When I say eat more often, I am not talking about mindless snacking, or eating all day long! I have found that I feel my best when I eat about 5 times a day. My meals are smaller than when I am eating 3 times a day, so it’s not necessarily more food. I was surprised how little food I needed to eat in order to feel full. And keep in mind that I only needed to eat enough to last about 2.5 hours. When I first started doing this, I would panic a little, wondering if I was always going to feel hungry, but I was pleasantly surprised that I never felt like I was restricted!
2. Portion Control
As I mentioned above, eating more often didn’t mean I was eating more. I was seriously shocked that when I began to be aware of how much food I was eating, and purposefully cutting down on portions, I didn’t feel hungry or like I was restricting myself. I began to put less food on my plate, and only eat what was on my plate. I had to refrain from going back for seconds. One thing that I struggle with is that I LOVE to eat food that tastes good! I want to keep eating it, just because it tastes so good! One way that I’ve overcome that is that I slow down when I am eating! Slowing down, and savoring each bite gives me just as much satisfaction as if I had eaten more food, quickly. In fact, I think I even enjoy it more!
3. Drink Water
This one is almost too easy! Drinking enough water throughout the day has so many benefits, I could write a separate post about it! Our bodies are made of mostly of water. Our bodies cannot function their best without water! Think of a plant that is all shriveled and drooping when it doesn’t have enough water. That is what we feel and look like! But just like the plant, we can become vibrant, perky, and everything flows better! It can be a little hard to get in the habit of drinking water. What I did until I got in the habit, was to fill up two-three water bottles in the morning so they were ready for me throughout the day. I also like to keep them in different places throughout the house, so that wherever I am, there is water sitting there waiting for me! I just try to keep a water bottle with me all the time so that I can always be drinking it! Now, that my body is used to having water all day, I really notice it when I don’t drink enough.
4. Eat real food
You will notice that I haven’t even mentioned “what” to eat so far. Sometimes, figuring out what to eat is so overwhelming, that we don’t make any changes at all. If you are just beginning, I feel that eating real food is doable. What I mean by real food, is food that is not man made. If God created it, you can eat it! (Unless you are allergic of course! And remember…portion control!) I believe that God made all different kinds of foods for our benefit, and if we eat each of them in moderation, we can maintain a healthy lifestyle. I eat whole grains, meats (I keep my meat consumption to a minimum), fruits, vegetables, dairy (purchased at a local farm), herbs, and even sugars. (I try to keep my sugars natural. Honey and pure maple syrup are my favorites.)
These are just four simple steps to help get you started on the path to eating healthy, and feeling awesome! In our cookbook, Healthy Eating: The Happy Gal Way, you can find many more tips, ideas and recipes. Another thing I have found is that when I plan meals ahead of time, it is easier to follow through. Remember, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail!”
Our 7 day meal plan can give you a jump start! And as always, there are lots of healthy recipes on the blog!
I challenge you to choose at least one of these things, or even all four if you feel up to it, and try it for 30 days. Remember it takes about 30 days to create a new habit. If you can implement any of these steps, I promise you will begin to notice some changes!
We love to hear your thoughts about what is working, what you are struggling with, or ideas you have! Please comment below!
Image by Sandrine Hudgens at creoleartphotography.com