At 45, I look back on some of the choices I made about food when I was younger and I laugh. Eating healthy wasn’t top of mind. I’d dash to work and grab a cup of coffee and a pastry from a local café. I worked at a publishing company on this road in Dallas that has at least 100 restaurants. I’d go out to lunch with a bunch of my coworkers, and we’d meet up after work for happy hours. Dinner consisted of margaritas and chips and dip. I was single, living alone, and my cooking skills weren’t anything to speak of at the time. Meals out seemed easy and fun. Sometimes, I’d stop at a restaurant for take-out on my way back to my apartment. Looking back today, I realize there was so much I didn’t know. The portions, calories and type of food sure wasn’t doing my waistline any favors.
Working at team Get Healthy U with Chris Freytag for several years now, I have learned so much about how to eat healthy, but still enjoy food. GHU recipes are easy and helped me build up my confidence in the kitchen. In fact, I use GHU to plan weekly meals, make snacks and mix up breakfasts so my husband and I don’t get bored. (Oh, and Chris believes in desserts with a healthier spin, so there’s no deprivation either. Bonus!) But I am getting ahead of myself. If I could go back in time, I’d say these six things to my younger self about eating healthy:
Healthy eating doesn’t have to be complicated.
Growing up, my mom did all the cooking and I don’t think I helped. As an adult, my cooking skills were closer to the character Bridget Jones in the movie Bridget Jones Diary (think blue soup) than Martha Stewart. Today, I am a mom and I realize healthy eating doesn’t take sous chef skills. You can make turkey chili that takes no more effort than dumping ingredients into a slow cooker. You can buy a rotisserie chicken and steam up some veggies for dinner. You can make your own smoothies and freeze them. Or whip up your own energy bars. As I got into my 40s, I got into the fun of cooking and I like elaborate recipes now, but the point is: you don’t have to get fancy to eat healthy. And you can build up your cooking skills, so don’t fear the kitchen or eating at home.
Healthy eating doesn’t have to be expensive.
When you are just starting out post-college, you probably can’t spend $300 a week at the grocery store throwing whatever you want into your shopping cart. Good news, you don’t need that kind of budget to eat healthy. Let’s face it, when you eat out all the time, you can spend a lot of money fast. Eating healthy doesn’t have to break the bank. Choose seasonal produce because it’s more reasonably priced. Load up on healthy staples that are inexpensive like eggs, black beans, brown rice, oatmeal, as well as frozen fruits and veggies. Shop with a list so you only buy things you need. Then you can buy some slightly pricier items that can go far, like a bag of quinoa or steel cut oats.
You can constantly make tweaks toward healthier choices.
I used to think cereal and yogurt were healthy, even though I was eating types loaded with sugar. Today I use the Fooducate app and research my food before buying. To move away from boxed cereal, I opt for breakfasts made with real ingredients. A healthy breakfast can be super simple. Sometimes I buy bananas, chia seeds and almond milk to make a chia pudding for breakfast. (Mash it up to the consistency you like, keep it in the fridge overnight, and voila! instant breakfast in the morning!) Another one of my favorites is to just whip up a smoothie with a banana, frozen strawberries, almond milk and a scoop of almond butter. It’s delicious, easy to make and I could have sipped it while stuck in Dallas traffic on my way to work. I especially love one of GHU’s recipe for overnight oats. All of those choices are far healthier than an egg and cheese croissant or a cheese danish.
There are a lot of healthier choices for lunch than nearby restaurants.
If I could go back and do it again, I’d bring my lunch to work more often. It’s healthier than a nearby restaurant, and it would have helped me prevent weight gain. Plus, I could have avoided that 3 p.m. afternoon crash when you feel like you are dragging. Loading up on restaurant portions in the middle of the workday doesn’t help your energy level, productivity or your waistline. I’d pack up a hard-boiled egg, some steamed spinach and some fresh fruit. Or I’d take a frozen smoothie for lunch. Maybe I’d pack a salad loaded with veggies. Or take cottage cheese, fresh fruit and some nuts. Even leftovers, from your healthy dinner the night before are a great healthy lunchtime idea.
A little food prep goes a long way.
I spend just a few minutes on the weekend sketching out the meal plan for the week and my husband and I buy groceries according to that plan. I love Chris’s idea of using Sundays as a prep day. I can whip up a Thai Quinoa salad and have it all week for lunch or a side dish. Hard-boiled eggs can be the perfect afternoon snack. Veggies and fruit washed and pre-cut can be an easy to grab snack. There are so many snack ideas I never thought about. A little preparation can make it easier for you to stick with healthy eating when your work week starts.
Eating healthy can be fun and makes you feel good about you.
Starting my day with a healthy smoothie or eating six veggies in my salad at lunch are choices that make me feel good about me. Making my own salad dressing with coarse ground mustard, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar is easy and delicious. My choices about food now are aligned with the kind of lifestyle I want to have: active, healthy and fit. While I still love to go out to eat, I view dining out or having cocktails with friends as planned indulgences.
When I was younger, my choices about food weren’t congruent with the lifestyle I wanted. I talked about how I wanted to be fit, but I wasn’t. My choices about food didn’t match my words or goals. I’ve always loved exercise, but I was eating too much and eating the wrong kind of food, so that made my work at the gym harder. With a little planning and effort, I could have enjoyed the amazing perks living a healthy lifestyle a whole lot sooner. Fortunately I now have the opportunity to teach our twin girls the value of healthy eating, so hopefully they can make healthier choices as young adults.
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