For some of you, I’m sure this is true: when you read blogs and cookbooks written by culinary health gurus about how to prepare healthy, it can be a bit intimidating and overwhelming. And perhaps it’s also true that spending time in the grocery store is not your favorite pastime, either. Maybe so, but the fact is, you’ve got to shop and cook in order to eat well. Although shopping and cooking are admittedly not as easy as zipping through the drive through and unwrapping a hamburger, doing these things doesn’t have to be a chore. It can easily become part of a pleasant routine that will add years to your life and life to your years!
STEP ONE – THE GROCERY STORE
A routine can make all the difference. If you want to get in and out of the grocery store in as little time as possible – pushing a cart loaded with nutrients and short on calories – here is a basic game plan:
- If they have the option, get a smaller cart. Really, you won’t be buying as much food as before, and since lots of it will be fresh, you’ll need to do it a little more often. The smaller cart will signal when you’ve likely bought enough.
- Shop mostly around the perimeter of the store. The processed, bad-for-you foods are generally in the aisles – with a few exceptions.
- Learn where the beans and whole grains are (oatmeal, whole grain rice, quinoa, millet, etc.), as well as any raw nuts, seeds, nut butters or all natural jams you might want to stock up on. You might prefer the convenience of a jar of all natural salsa, bean dip, or hummus. Strategically plan your visits to the sections where you can load up on natural sweeteners like maple syrup and stevia extracts, herbal teas and spices. Other than those items, you don’t need to hit the aisles.
- Start in the produce section. If possible, try to get to the farmer’s market as often as you can to stock up on local produce. But if that’s not an option for you, start your shopping trip in the produce section, and focus on colors and deals. Colors are indicative of various nutrients, and the more colors in your basket, the more variety of essential nutrients you’ll put in your body. Make sure your basket is at least halfway full with produce, leaving the other half for everything else. This ensures that your diet is rich in nutrients. (But if you can, get to the farmer’s market. You’ll save money, and it’s a genuinely pleasant experience to spend time with the people who grow your food.)
- If you want bread, get it from the bakery department, NOT in the aisle. Make sure it’s a genuine whole grain loaf – you can usually find several varieties baked fresh right there in the store.
- If you buy animal products, look for free range poultry and eggs, and lean cuts of grass-fed beef. Stay far away from processed and cured meats, such as bacon, sausage, and ham.
- Lots of people find that skipping dairy products altogether leads to amazing improvements in their health, and there are plenty of alternatives out there that might surprise you. Unsweetened almond milk is a great choice if you tolerate nuts; others prefer coconut milk or soy milk. If you do opt for dairy products, try to get whole food versions, and even raw milk based products where available, with as few additives as possible.
- The frozen food section is one aisle you can shop, and it’s your friend! Stock up on vegetables and fruits here for times when you might be short of the fresh variety. Frozen fruits and vegetables are just as healthy as the fresh kind – and in some cases, even have their nutrients better preserved. Other finds in this section would be the live sprouted grain breads, such as Ezekiel and Food for Life.
STEP TWO – THE KITCHEN
Again, no one way of eating works for everyone. But if you don’t like to cook, it makes sense to put some of your meals on autopilot, with as little “cooking” as possible. Here are a few suggestions:
- Breakfast: One large green smoothie (made with six cups of leafy greens, three bananas, and a 16 oz bag of frozen berries), one slice of Ezekiel raisin toast with a dab of clarified butter, one cup of chai tea with almond milk and sweetened with Stevia extract. Alternate: You can replace the Ezekiel bread with whole grain oatmeal, sweetened with a little maple syrup and sprinkled with cinnamon, or a bowl of Ezekiel cereal with almond milk, topped with blueberries.
- Lunch: One large green smoothie, all natural peanut or almond butter and jelly on Ezekiel bread. Alternate: Replace the sandwich with some carrots, celery, and falafel chips, served with hummus, or a handful of raw nuts mixed with raisins and dates.
- Dinner: One large green smoothie, one large salad, and one of seven meals you can rotate throughout the week, such as a vegetarian bean chili or potato leek soup (a crockpot is a best friend to someone who doesn’t much like to cook!), a black bean and salsa tortilla wrap, roasted eggplant, zucchini and squash, or a mushroom, onion, and bell pepper omelet with roasted red potatoes. Meals like these call for simple chopping, baking, or stewing, and are easy to put together in 15 minutes or fewer.
- Dessert: Yes, you can have dessert! Have a little dark chocolate infused with almonds and orange, a maple syrup sweetened cinnamon rice pudding, a frozen banana based mango ice cream, or avocado chocolate mousse. It’s not hard to find very simple recipes for these treats on the internet, and since there are so few ingredients, you’re doing your body good!
Find the simple but tasty meals that work with your routine, put as much on autopilot as you can, and you’ll be amazed by what food can do for you.
Do you have some favorite healthy, quick meals? If so, please share.