[Originally posted on July 19, 2017]
I think it’s safe to say that we all want to feel good in our bodies and to live our most healthy lives. Of course, there is a lot to think about in terms of living a healthy lifestyle. It’s important to be active by finding some kind of movement or exercise that feels good for you and fits well into your lifestyle. Self-care and stress relief are also huge in this day and age, and it’s crucial that you find the practices or the rituals that work for you (self-massage, face masks, meditation, journaling, essential oils, etc.). But a large part of living a healthy lifestyle starts in the kitchen by eating a healthy, well-balanced diet.
Eating healthy can be a daunting thing. A lot of us don’t feel super comfortable in our kitchens and often label ourselves as a “bad cook.” It’s just so easy to grab the quick processed foods that allow us to avoid our kitchens. Plus, there are so many fad diets out there and so much conflicting research about what we should and should not eat (A simple way to approach this is just try and stick to whole foods like veggies, fruits, legumes, and whole grains and avoid processed items). It can be super overwhelming when you are getting started, and it’s going to be a learning process that’s different for everyone. So, experimentation is necessary. But I wanted to just share a few of my favorite tips for taking control of your kitchen and making healthier food choices.
1. Learn More
Do your research! Take some time to dive in to some literature on healthy diets. Maybe this means you look up well-reviewed books on this topic that you can order from Amazon. Maybe you spend some time on Pinterest or on Google searching for articles or blogs about healthy living. Maybe you get on Instagram and search for hashtags that may lead you to recipe ideas or people in the industry to follow for inspiration. Whatever your favorite method of learning may be, take some time to do a little digging. Maybe you find a great podcast or documentary. Whatever works for you. Just do some reading or listening or watching. Learn a little bit about the human body and how it processes food. Become familiar with the benefits of eating certain things. Maybe you go into this with a specific goal such as weight loss/gain, heart health, blood pressure, digestive issues, energy levels, etc. Start your research around your chosen topic. See what foods may benefit you and what foods you may want to avoid. Again, we are all different, so this will be a bit of an experiment. Maybe a super healthy food might make you feel kind of crappy. So even though this particular food may be praised by people in the industry, if your body doesn’t process it well, then you will want to avoid it. But just take some time to learn more about food and what it can do for you. If you are serious about living a healthier lifestyle, this is a great way to start and a great thing to keep coming back to. The search for knowledge is a never-ending journey. Pursue it in a way that is enjoyable to you, and make adjustments as you learn more about your own individual body and its needs.
2. Be Creative
I truly believe that putting together a meal is an act of creating art. Whether you are cooking a beautiful dish, chopping up fruits and veggies, baking a delicious dessert, re-heating up leftovers from the night before, or throwing a snack together on a plate, I believe it can be done in an artful way. I think in every single thing you do in your life, there is room to make it your own. Every single task you complete has a little bit of space for you to sprinkle your own unique magic into it. Chop vegetables in a way that you think is cool. I’ve cut cucumbers into star shapes just for the hell of it. Put your food together on your plate in a way that is pleasing to the eye. I love making designs with fruits and nuts on top of my smoothie bowls. Maybe when you are choosing side dishes, think of the colors of the food and choose colors that would look good next to each other on a plate. One of the good things about veggies is that they come in all the colors of the rainbow! If you turn mealtime into a time for artistic expression, maybe it won’t be so daunting. Also, don’t be afraid to stray from the recipes a bit. Be creative with the foods you pair. Maybe you’ll come up with a bomb combination that no one has thought of before. Everyone has different tastes, so if a recipe calls for a combo that doesn’t sound great to you, tweak it until it does. Add some different spices or toppings. Try different methods of cooking things. Yes, you will probably find that some of your creative experimentation didn’t turn out so great. But that’s okay, too! Which brings me to my next tip…
3. Don’t Be Afraid to Make Mistakes
Trust me, you’re going to make mistakes in the kitchen. You’re going to burn things. Overcook things. Undercook things. Over-salt things. Combine things that should never be combined. Add too many spices or not enough. But you will learn from your mistakes. You will begin to hone your skills and learn the techniques that work best for you. Mistakes always leave room for growth. And growth comes with time and practice. Don’t use the excuse, “I can’t cook.” Everyone can cook. You just have to try. And you have to realize that everyone makes mistakes. Just because you burn your dinner does not mean that you should retire from the kitchen forever and wear the “Terrible Cook” badge for the rest of your life. You just have to dust yourself off and try again. Learn from your mistakes. Allow them to be your teacher. We all have to start somewhere, right? Don’t let it get you down. It’s just food. It’s always going to be there, and it will always give you a second chance.
4. Meal Prep
One of the most practical tips I have for eating a healthier diet is MEAL PREP. Yes, I realize that I shouted that in all caps, but that’s because I truly believe it’s that important. Meal prep is super duper helpful for me. Sundays have become my meal prep days. I usually get on Pinterest Sunday morning, choose a few lunch/dinner recipes, and write down the ingredients that I need to buy. Then I add any breakfast, snack, or dessert items to my list, and I head off to the grocery store. I try to stick to my list, because if I let myself loose in the produce section, I buy way too much, and it always ends up going bad before I have time to eat it. Not to mention spending way too much money. Plus, if I end up buying veggies that aren’t for a dish that I already have in mind, I end up forgetting about it and never using it. So, for me, it’s best to stick to my list. Then I go home, and I get to work. I make my two to three big recipes, and store them in tupperware containers – this way it’s easy to scoop out a serving to take for lunch or to reheat quickly when I’m hungry. Another thing I like to do is make a batch of quinoa, black beans, and some kind of roasted veggies. I store them in separate containers in the fridge, and then I either add them as sides or toppings to other meals, or I combine them all together for a meal on their own. I also chop up any extra fruits or veggies and store them in tupperware containers to make for easy snacking or smoothie making. For some reason, I am more likely to snack on pre-cut celery than to wash and chop a few celery stocks anytime I’m craving a snack. Lazy, but true. It’s just such a time saver. But anyway, after just a few short hours, my fridge is stocked full of healthy meals and snacks that are quick and convenient and ready for the week. Because no one wants to come home after a long day of work when you are starving and exhausted and have to cook an entire meal, am I right? But instead of grabbing a convenient processed snack to chomp on while watching Netflix, meal prepping earlier in the week allows you to quickly scoop out a serving of a healthy meal, reheat quickly, and do something good for your body while you relax in the evening.
5. Have Fun!
My final tip about taking control of your kitchen and living a healthier lifestyle is to have fun! Yes, it’s that simple. If you allow yourself to have fun cooking and preparing healthy meals, then you will be more likely to come back to it. Being creative with your recipes and meal presentation will help with this. But also, try combining other things you love with cooking your healthy meals. Listen to some dope music and dance around your kitchen while you stir ingredients together. Maybe you bring your laptop in and you watch Netflix or listen to a podcast. Maybe you sing. Maybe you and your partner or your kids cook together and turn it into a fun bonding activity. Maybe you meditate while you chop your veggies. Do squats while you’re waiting for your water to boil. Whatever calls to you. Just make it fun! Try not to dread your kitchen. You are doing something great for your body. Don’t turn it into a chore. Mindset is everything. If you start to look forward to cooking and experimenting and creating healthy meals in your kitchen, eating healthy will be easy! So, get in there. Do some research. Get creative. Get messy. Make mistakes. Plan ahead. And HAVE FUN!