As we finish out this week of the challenge, my last tip has to do with the way you structure your meals. In our society, meals are usually built around meat, with other food groups coming in to take a supporting role. I'm asking you to flip this on its head. Instead, focus first on the vegetables and fruits and then add in your meat or other protein option. When you do this, not only will you increase the quantity of produce in your diet, but you'll also be filling up on those fruits and veggies, which may help with weight loss, if that is your goal. For some, this might be difficult. If you're so used to thinking about your meals with only one structure, you may feel lost for how to switch it up. To ease into this idea, a likely familiar option is a stir fry. Choose a variety of veggies that you love and cook them in a pan with a little oil. Then, consider your protein option, whether it be chicken, grass-fed beef, pork, or tofu. Serve over brown rice and you've got an easy, plant-centric meal that is sure to please everyone. Another great way to get inspiration for this style of cooking is to look at websites like 101 Cookbooks and Vegetarian Times or buy a couple of vegetarian cookbooks. Resources like these will often have recipes that are chock full of produce and you can always add in a little meat if that is a deal breaker for you. However, I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and try a vegetarian recipe now and then (come on in, the water's warm). By simply incorporating these recipes into your repertoire you'll start thinking about food in a whole new way and increase the produce in your life. So get out there and get cooking!
Frequenting your local farmers market is an excellent way to become more involved in your community. It also gives you access to locally grown, seasonal produce and the ability to talk directly with the farmer who grew it. Eating food that is in season and hasn't traveled thousands of miles to your plate means that the product quality is superb. The flavor of these foods is so much better than anything else you could buy. When I hear that people don't like a particular fruit or vegetable, I often wonder if the real issue is that they haven't had it at the peak of freshness. You may find that you enjoy something that you previously thought you didn't like at all. Another plus is that you'll be able to purchase produce that you can't find at the grocery store. From heirloom varieties of the classics you already know to vegetables you may have never heard of, the options will amaze you. Having this kind of variety in your diet will help to ensure you're getting all the nutrients you need, keep you from getting bored with your meals, and allow you to discover your knew favorites. To find a market in your area, check out Local Harvest or the USDA National Farmers Market Directory. Happy shopping!
Making soup is an easy way to get more veggies in your life that can be tailored to fit any taste. With a great recipe or a little creativity of your own, you can whip up something that can be satisfying as a meal, a side/starter, or even a snack. One of the best parts about soups is there are no rules. You can add in whatever ingredients you have on hand or use up food that you don't think you'll be able to eat before it spoils.If you make a big batch, you can freeze the leftovers and have your delicious soup whenever you want a no-fuss lunch or didn't make it to the store and have nothing to cook for dinner. This is also a great place to use any homemade stock. So go make some soup and enjoy the yummy results!
Moving into our next week of the challenge, our focus will be on increasing the fruits and vegetables in our diets. Improving your diet is so often about what you can't have, but this week is all about adding things in. When you add more produce to your diet, you will increase the water, fiber, vitamin, and mineral content. Also, eating more fruits and veggies can help with weight maintenance and weight loss as it will fill you up and help you feel satisfied, pushing out higher calorie options. This week, we will approach this goal from two different directions: adding more produce dishes to your diet as well as incorporating it into foods you may already enjoy. By doing both of these, it will be that much easier to amp up the amount of fruits and vegetables you eat every day. If you're not a produce fan, do not fear. Remember that the way you prepare a food can make all a difference. Don't think you like broccoli? Try steaming, sauteing, roasting, serving with a tomato sauce, or blending it into a soup. Also, it can take several exposures before you can really determine if you like a food or not and, because your tastes change as you get older, foods you may have despised as a child might taste delicious to you now. You don't have to like everything, but the more you try and experiment, you might be surprised to discover your new favorite vegetable.
As we close out this week of the challenge, we reach my last tip for getting rid of the junk food : buy ingredients, not products. This is a general rule that I follow and is a good thing to have in mind when doing your grocery shopping. When you're buying ingredients, you're most likely going to be buying whole foods. Now why this isn't always true (some would consider Crisco an ingredient, but I would call it a processed vat of trans fats), it should get you moving more in the right direction. This is important because when you are buying and cooking with whole foods, you're eating the same things our bodies have been consuming since the beginning of time, rather than something that was made in a lab a few weeks ago. Giving your body the fuel it was designed to use will result in you feeling better in your every day life and better health overall. So try a new recipe, switch up your routine, and get back in touch with the food you're eating! With love,
Quitting soda is one of the quickest ways to improve your diet and your health. First off, they are basically sugar-water with a few chemicals thrown in and have no redeeming qualities at all. Second, your body doesn't register liquid calories as well as food calories, so it's not going to fill you up the way an equivalent amount of food would. Third, they push out other healthful beverages in your diet like water and tea. To add insult to injury, they are most often sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup which is highly processed and made from GMO corn. Also, while diet sodas may be calorie-free, they still are in no way healthy and, in my opinion, are just as dangerous as their full-calorie counterparts. Bottom line: the soda has got to go.
However, getting rid of soda is easier said than done. Many people find themselves gripped by these beverages, especially the caffeinated ones. At one time, I myself was hooked on Diet Coke. It's lack of calories was seductive and it kept me awake at a time in my life when I was getting far too little sleep. I know how it feels, but I want to tell you that you can do it. And, trust me, once you make it to the other side, you'll be so glad you did.
Here is a quick recipe for you that may help if you're trying to get off soda, but are craving something a little more interesting than water. The key is to make sure you get 100% cranberry juice, not cranberry juice cocktail. Pure cranberry juice is low in sugar and calories but just a little bit really packs a tart punch.
Guilt-Free Cranberry Drink
2 tablespoons 100% cranberry juice
8 oz water
1. Mix cranberry juice and water in a glass.
2. Add lemon slices to taste.