"Healthy" is such a big word. It means that you are prosperous. It means that you are vigorous. It means that you are sound. And there is absolutely no way that you can maintain a state of healthiness if you're out here eating tons of junk food, living in drive-thrus and frying everything on the planet. Yeah, as much as a lot of us may not want to hear it, if we want to be physically healthy, we've got to be intentional about what and how we eat.
Below, I've got 10 ways to ease into doing that. While you may be rolling your eyes on the front end, I think once you get a little more than halfway through, you'll realize that eating healthy doesn't have to be boring or tasteless or stressful. All you need to do is make a few tweaks here and there and you'll be well on your way to physically thriving more than you currently are.
1. Cook More Often
Aside from the fact that cooking at home can save you a ton of cash (the average household spends a whopping $3,000 a year on eating out), it can be really good for you, health-wise too. When you prepare meals in your own kitchen — you are aware of all of the ingredients that you are using, you will typically eat smaller portions and you are in control of the condition of the kitchen ('cause some of these restaurants and their health scores are a hot ass mess).
And what if even hearing all of that doesn't move you much because you hate cooking just that much? Check out an article that I wrote a while back on the platform entitled "10 Hacks That Can Make Cooking Easier (If You Hate To Cook)". It could make the thought of spending more time in the kitchen a bit less dreadful.
2. Use Fruit to Curb Your Sweet Tooth
Let me tell it, you can NEVER have enough ice cream. Still, with all of the sugar and cream that's in it, I've learned that my waistline and digestive system need me to scale it back a bit. Something that I've been doing more of is making smoothies instead of milkshakes. Or when I have a sweet tooth, I'll dip some fresh strawberries into some dark chocolate, make my own sorbet (which is basically sugar and fruit; but when it's DIY, you can control how much sugar you use) or snack on some dried fruit. Does that mean I never have a Nutty Buddy or a slice of cake? Sure, I do; however, going with healthier alternatives tends to hit the spot so that I'm not packing on pounds or setting myself up for a sugar addiction (check out "Ever Wonder If You've Got A Low-Key Sugar Addiction?").
While we're on this topic, I do think I should put on record that the Vitamin C and fiber in fresh fruit makes it a much better option than desserts 'n stuff; just make sure to keep your portions under control. Fruit contains fructose which is still sugar and could lead to health issues like diabetes, if you're not careful and you mess around and overdo it.
3. Go for the Dark Meat
Pun intended and not intended, I'm a dark meat kind of gal. Well, even if you're someone who prefers the white meat of chicken and turkey, let's not act like it's not typically drier and oftentimes harder to chew unless it's got a lot of condiments on it. And here's the thing — while dark meat oftentimes catches heat for having more fat and calories, on average, that's only around 10-15 more per serving. And since dark meat tends to be much more tender and full of flavor, it actually makes more sense to eat dark meat as you prepared it rather than white meat that's consumed with a ton of extra "stuff". By the way, drums of a chicken are dark meat while wings of a chicken are white (thought that should go on record for those of you who are big-time chicken eaters).
4. Take the Whole Grain Route for Pasta, Rice and Bread
My goddaughter often mentions to me how irritated she is that her parents don't keep bread in the house. I feel her pain. I don't have that rule. While I don't keep a ton of bread, pasta or rice around, I will indulge. I just try and make sure that whatever it is, it's whole grain instead of white because those kinds of white foods are processed in such a way that almost all of the nutrients are stripped away. As far as the health benefits of whole grain (which means it contains all of the grain — the bran, endosperm and germ) goes, it's a good source of fiber, calcium, plant compounds, manganese and B vitamins; it lowers your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke; it's easy on your digestive system; it reduces chronic inflammation and, it even increases longevity. So, enjoy your spaghetti and grilled cheese. Just go with whole grain when you do.
5. Consume the Skin
When it comes to eating healthier, if there are two mistakes that a lot of us make far too often, it's cooking food for so long that most of the nutrients are taken out (in most cases, the "rawer" the better) and/or it's removing skin from fruits and veggies that are better for us if we would just leave them on. The reality is that a lot of foods have skins that are loaded with nutrients, including powerful antibiotics and an incredible 30 percent more fiber than peeled produce does. So, when it comes to foods like apples, peaches, eggplants, zucchini, potatoes, cucumbers, kiwi, pears, tomatoes and grapes, eat them as is. It's a little thing that can make a really big difference when it comes to your overall health and well-being.
6. Sauté More Often
There is someone in my family who sautés collards and they are the absolute bomb.
That said, if you're someone who likes to use your cast iron skillet a lot (and if so, may God richly bless you), you should consider sautéing more often too. The reason why is because if you add a little extra virgin olive oil to whatever it is that you're preparing, that will kick the antioxidants in them known as phenols up a notch. This is good to know because those can help to prevent cancer, muscular degeneration and diabetes from setting in.
If you've never sautéed before, what exactly does that mean? It basically means that you put food into a pan and cook it in a short amount of time with a little oil and on high heat. You can check out a video for tips on how to do it here.
7. Bake Instead of Fry
Fried foods taste great. I'll be the first to say that. The reason why less is more when it comes to eating them is because they are usually prepared in oil and, since oil is typically a saturated fat, that makes it pretty high in calories. The alternative? Baking. You don't need oil (or at least as much) which makes it a better option. Or you can go with an air fryer. It's healthier than using a deep fryer. It can reduce the risk of certain compounds forming that come directly from frying foods. It also can reduce the heart disease risk. For the record, all of this is great, so long as you also keep in mind that if you're using an air fryer to fry food, it's still frying food. I know some of us feel like air fryers are miracles, but they still need to be used in moderation.
8. When Getting Takeout, Nix the Sides
There really is no way around the fact that cooking is healthier (and cheaper) than eating out. Still, I get that sometimes you may be too tired to prepare a meal or you simply want to "treat yourself" by picking something up or having it delivered to you. In these instances, try and order a main dish and still have sides at home. For instance, if you want some Mexican food, get the tacos or burritos, go without the beans and rice and have some carrot and celery sticks. Or, if you're craving burgers and fries, perhaps go without the fries and partner the sandwich up with a salad. You'll save a few coins and get in some extra nutrients this way.
9. Go Easy on Condiments
I've got an ex who used to say, "If you've got to rely on condiments to make your food taste good, you didn't prepare it right." For the most part, I totally agree with him. Not to mention that a lot of condiments contain a pretty high amount of fat, sugar and/or salt. For instance, on average, mayonnaise is 180 calories per serving; salad dressing is 130 calories per serving; tartar sauce is 120 calories per serving; maple syrup is 105 calories per serving and barbeque sauce is 100 calories per serving. Does this mean you can't enjoy condiments at all? I'm not saying that. What I am recommending is that you read the labels of condiments before purchasing them and that when you order foods that typically come with them, it's best to get your condiments on the side. That can significantly reduce the portion of them that you consume.
10. Drink More Water
OK. I'm thinking that you already know that soda isn't good for you. The main reason is because the amount of sugar that's in it is totally off the charts — literally.
For instance, there are 39 grams of sugar in one can of Coke. Now guess how many grams you're supposed to have a day — 24 grams. Exactly. To give you a bit more perspective, there is around 23 grams of sugar in fruit juice and 22 grams of sugar in sweet tea (depending on who makes it). Not to mention the calories that can easily be 120-150 per serving. This means that you can drink all of the calories that your body needs every day if you're not careful.
The alternative? Yep, more water. If the thought of that drives you crazy, remember that there are options like sparkling and mineral water (which assists with heart health, constipation and lowering your blood pressure) which adds some bubbly to whatever you drink. If you make a drink that is one-third juice and the rest is water, you're still getting flavor without as much sugar and calories. Or you can always go the infused water route; both are personal favorites of mine. It's one more way to make it easier to eat/drink healthy while still enjoying your food/drink in the process.
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