If you’re currently not eating a balanced, healthy diet, it can be challenging to start.
However, healthy eating along with some form of exercise regularly is very important for maintaining a good bodily function and goes a long way towards living a disease-free life.
If you struggle with healthy eating, then you know that breaking unhealthy habits can be the most difficult part of the process. Sometimes we can be creatures of habit.
In my own journey before I became really conscious of my eating patterns, I had a bad habit in my rush with early morning commutes of stopping at a McDonald's on my way to work and grabbing a blueberry muffin alongside with a coffee with cream and a couple of packets of sugar.(The truth was I was consuming cake for breakfast.) This is alright in moderation, but as a daily habit, it is bad as it is void of nutrients. It would taste good going down, but it would happen without fail that I would be hungry within 2 hours reaching for something else. The reason being is that it was mostly carbs with no real protein or fiber or as they say "empty" calories!
I'm sure some of you can relate. It's not that we can't enjoy certain foods, but when we need to nourish our bodies, we need to choose foods that will sustain us for hours without feeling deprived and should energize us.
One thing to keep in mind is that preparation is a major key in maintaining a new healthy way of eating. You must take into consideration your schedule for meals.
If you often eat in a rushed hurry (as in my example) at odd times of the day, you are probably more inclined to grab a rushed meal which will probably do more harm than good. So plan ahead!
Instead of grabbing fast food, do some food prep ahead of time and bring a bagged lunch to work, such as a healthy wrap and some fresh fruit and vegetables. Remember not to forget your evening meal, a simple plan to have a meal ready before you get home would be ideal. Slow cookers have become my friend at times, so this could be an option for you also if you may be too tired to prepare something in the evening. You can keep it simple too by just eating salads for dinner with protein added that will nourish you without too much hassle.
A great first step when you want to start eating your way to a healthy lifestyle is to rid your home of all temptations that will make you weak from following better eating habits. Ideally it would be a wise to keep junk foods and beverages to a minimum out of your house so as not be tempted to snack on during the day.
If you’re worried about getting hungry, drink plenty of water, between meals and keep healthy snacks like hummus with carrot sticks, fresh whole fruit, nuts and seeds to have on hand. When you start eating better, your body will naturally not crave the bad stuff as much previously. However, eating healthy is a lifestyle that needs to be sustainable, so if you cannot give up on sweets, try keeping something tiny on hand like small dark chocolates individually wrapped. Eating a few, (emphasis on few) of these won’t ruin your healthy eating habits but also will give you that little sugary fix you may crave from time to time.
Another great step to healthy eating habits when you’re first starting the process, is to take a few moments to learn what foods are the healthiest for you and how they work within YOUR body. Most people understand that fruits, vegetables, lean proteins including plant based are good for you, but few people understand why. The key is learning about nutrients. When you understand how specific nutrients work and why you need them, it becomes more reasonable for you to make healthier choices for your body. Knowledge really is power!
Start with baby steps and remember as long as you are making additional new healthy eating habits, its all good. Even if you only replace one soda a day with a glass of water, you are really improving your calorie intake. If you eat fast food every day for lunch, try replacing that half of the time with better quality foods. When you start by taking small steps you aren’t cutting out all of the foods you love all at once.
By taking your time to learn about your eating habits and slowly replacing them with better meals, by taking the time to learn and understand why you should be doing that and making the necessary changes in an orderly fashion, you will feel much better within yourself physically, mentally and emotionally and well on the road to becoming as healthy as you can be.
Eat Good! Look Good! Feel Good!
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When I started paying attention to better nutrition, watching my carb intake was important.
Not, that I don't t eat carbs, but I have to be mindful of the "kind" of carbs I put in my body.
Because I'm sensitive to "simple" carbs such as white flour, sugar, regular pasta, white bread, etc, I limit these foods and made the switch to eating more "whole" carbs into my healthy lifestyle, such as spelt and wheat flours, whole fruit, beans, sweet potatoes and whole grains.
I still have the mindset, everything in moderation, so I am not on a specific way of eating, but most of my days I do lean towards "clean" eating. That means, I limit processed foods and tend to eat food more in its natural state.
So part of a healthy lifestyle is consuming nuts. They contain good fats, dietary fiber that helps to keep you full, with the benefit of having antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. They also are naturally low in carbs.
You can simply eat nuts on their own for a snack, but did you know most nuts can be purchased or ground to make flour?
By using nut flour, you will consume less carbs and in return get a healthy boost of nutrition!
Nut flours can be used in healthy baking. This takes some experimenting, but you can generally swap out some portion of the flour in your favorite recipes.
Also, nut flours are versatile and can be used to dredge chicken, fish or seafood instead of regular flour while also imparting great flavor.
One favorite flour that is simply delicious is pistachio flour. I use it for coating seafood and chicken but it is also tasty blended into a smoothie such as my Golden Milk Mango Protein Shake full of healthy ingredients and with the addition of ground pistachios, it won't disappoint your taste buds!
You can use another nut flour of your choice from my suggested recipe ideas, but if you are looking for a nut flour such as pistachio which can be a challenge to find in most stores, you can find it online at the link below.
Pistachio Nut Flour
As you can see, using nut flours can be a healthy addition that can be used for multiple purposes.
Eat Good, Look Good! Feel Good!
It’s no surprise that antioxidants are incredibly beneficial for the road to good health. It’s believed its presence in food can help aid in the prevention of cancer, reverse or slow down the aging process and can enhance your immune system.
With all of their beneficial properties, it’s astonishing more people don’t get enough fruits and vegetables, which is the primary sources of antioxidants. Most experts recommend a minimum of 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily.
One way to keep it interesting is to keep exploring different varieties of fruit and vegetables and one vegetable that I recently discovered is the purple sweet potato.
This variety is a good source of Vitamin C and the deep, bold, purple color is bursting with antioxidants!
I have been eating regularly the traditional orange fleshed sweet potato which I enjoy eating quite often, but I was curious to what the texture and flavor profile would be with this variety.
So what does the flavor of purple sweet potato taste like? Well, the flavor is quite nice. To me it seems slightly sweeter than the traditional sweet potato and has a slight fruit flavor.
The texture however, is different from the traditional with it being slightly denser and more starchier in texture.
As far as preparation is concerned, I have eaten them simply roasted covered with aluminum foil in my convection oven until fork tender, and also have made oven baked fries with them, which tend to crisp up better than the traditional sweet potato.
If you are interested on more information about purple sweet potatoes, you can visit this link below.
Stokes Purple Sweet Potatoes
Remember, food is meant to be enjoyed so keep it interesting!
Eat Good, Look Good, Feel Good!
Coconut oil is something I regularly consume because of its positive benefits.
However, there is a common misconception that coconut oil can be bad for you because of the concerns of it being a saturated fat.
But, did you know that there is good saturated fat? Coconut oil has certain saturated fats that will have a more positive effect in your body. Read on for these 4 reasons on why you should be using coconut oil in your diet.
1. Coconut oil doesn't turn to fat in your body.
Unlike many other common oils, like soy (vegetable) and corn, coconut oil won't make you fat when used in moderation. Coconut oil contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCT), which is a easy fuel for the body to burn, without turning to fat.
Most other cooking oils and fats contain long-chain triglycerides (LCT). LCT's are usually stored as fat. Since coconut oil is a MCT, it is more easily absorbed and converted to energy quicker.
Individuals who live in warm climates such as the Caribbean, have relied on using coconuts as a staple in their diet for centuries. They are known to consume decent amounts of coconut oil every day. Instead of putting on unhealthy weight, it helps keep them healthy and trim. When they switch from coconut oil to our modern day oils, they develop obesity and the health problems that come with it, which are not good!
2. Coconut oil increases your metabolism.
I was happy to discover in my healthy journey to eating better, that coconut oil increases your metabolism and also converts to giving you more energy quicker in your body.
Because this oil increases your metabolism, it can also encourage weight loss to assist in helping your body burn fat more effectively, due to medium-chain triglycerides (MCT). When you consume coconut oil regularly, it helps to burn three times more calories six hours after a meal than (LCT)'s.
3: Coconut oil has healthy benefits that most other oils do not.
Evidence is mounting that coconut oil has anti-fungal, antibacterial and antiviral effects when both consumed and also can be also be used on your skin to keep it healthy.
Most oils oxidize and can turn rancid quickly causing free radical damage in our bodies. Coconut oil is not easily oxidized and does not cause harmful free radical damage like polyunsaturated vegetable oils.
Coconut oil also helps our bodies absorb other nutrients more effectively, such as Vitamin E.
4. Coconut oil is one of the best oils you can use for cooking.
Because coconut oil has a higher smoke point it can retain higher temperatures better. There are several healthy omega 3 oils we can choose to consume, such as flax and olive oil, but they don't do well under the high heat we use for some forms of cooking.
Besides coconut oil being able to retain higher cooking temperatures, it's also shelf stable for a good length of time for up to a year at room temperature.
Now, you can see why I am a fan of this delicious and beneficial oil for good nutrition.
It is an oil that has been used for centuries and now it is being rediscovered for its wonderful health benefits!
Eat Good! Look Good! Feel Good!
Caesar salad is one of my favorite salads to eat, but lets face it. There is not much going on with the salad ingredients.
This classic salad in a nutshell has a base of romaine lettuce, salad dressing made with anchovies, croutons and Parmesan cheese. Although delicious, if you consume it at its most basic level, you won't be satisfied nutritionally.
Traditional recipes for Caesar dressing usually call for raw eggs, but like most, I choose not to consume raw eggs in this form of a salad.
Also, when consuming salads as a meal, I need a complete package including protein, a good dose of fiber and a decent amount of healthy carbs and fat.
To give my Caesar salad a healthy boost, my recipe calls for red bell pepper, with the addition of plant based protein of garbanzo beans, which compliment this salad wonderfully.
Another change that I did from just using romaine lettuce, the addition of curly kale is added for extra nutrition. Yes, I'm a dark green leafy fan!
Now, lets talk about the salad dressing. Making your own salad dressing from "scratch" always works instead of bottled dressings that has a laundry lists of ingredients and it just plain tastes better!
To give this salad dressing and extra flavor boost, I used roasted garlic instead of raw. The flavor of roasted garlic is way more mellow, creamier than raw garlic and my recipe uses a whole head. (No worries, as the flavor is way less intense without the sharpness!)
To roast garlic is simple. All you have to do is cut off the top, (not the root end) and drizzle the cut part with a drizzle of olive oil, salt & pepper and bake in an oven at 400F for 35-40 minutes until lightly browned. Wrap up in aluminum foil before popping in the oven.
My other addition from the traditional Caesar is that I replace anchovies with Asian fish sauce. It gives this dressing a delightful slight fishiness without the overpowering flavor of anchovies with slightly less salt flavor.
If you want to give my recipe a try, here is the link to my Roasted Garlic Eggless Caesar Salad with
details on how to make this from beginning to end.
Lastly, eating salads is definitely a healthy habit you can keep for a lifetime. They are easy to make, can be delicious and satisfying.
Eat Good, Look Good, Feel Good!
Vanessa LaBranche/Chef Instructor-Culinary Educator