One of coworkers asked me this question the other day, and I had a hard time coming up with a concise answer! My eating habits have evolved over the years, and are now more what I refer to as moderate and clean than anything else. I still have my times when I will have a packaged or processed food, because I am not perfect. I am also a very busy person that works long days, so if I’m crunched for time, sometimes packaged foods are the only things I have a chance to grab.
I have been making it a habit to cook for myself once or twice per week so I have food to take to work with me. This way, I know what is in it, because I have control over the ingredients. More on this later.
When I was younger, the low fat diet was “all the rage,” and that’s primarily what I followed. I was scared to death of fat grams. This was my mindset through college and for a few years after that. Then, I had some unhealthy years where every attempt I made to be healthy failed for one reason or another (alcohol maybe!?? Oh yeah, that’s it!) Now here I am! I’m the healthiest I have ever been in my life, and I want to share how I did/do it!
As far as general rules I have, there are a few that mostly apply to when I am eating at a restaurant or not making the food myself. I stay away from deep fried foods, creamy sauces or dressings, things drenched in cheese, and full calorie beverages. In fact, I try to stay away from coke and soda in general. I’ll have an occasional diet coke, but not the three or four per day like I used to. I also try to avoid things that are full of sugar and super high in fat (bad fat—saturated and trans.) I stick with grilled chicken or fish when I can.
One of the first steps I took when I started eating healthier was buying whole wheat instead of white things. Whole wheat bread, pasta, crackers, and everything else that had the option. Whole wheat pasta wasn’t very good when it first came out, but I still ate it. I am not that picky when it comes to pasta. I love it almost as much as I love cheese. I do not discriminate, lol! I discovered pastas that were enriched with omega-3 fatty acids, as well. One brand is called Barilla Plus.
It also has more protein and fiber in it than white pasta. The texture is nothing like that of whole wheat pasta. I think it’s a great alternative if you aren’t a fan of whole wheat. These kinds of pasta are not just empty carbs that have a high glycemic index and turn into fat. They will also satiate you more quickly, and keep you fuller longer.
I recently discovered quinoa pasta at Sprouts. It definitely has a different texture, but it’s great! It is also high in protein and fiber.
These pastas hold so much more nutritional value than plain white pasta that switching just this one thing is a huge step toward becoming healthier! What kind of alternatives to white pasta do you like?
As far as bread goes, I stick to whole wheat or whole grain breads that have high amounts of whole grains, fiber and are higher in protein. I am a huge fan of sandwich thins. They are made by a few different companies, and are only around 100 calories a piece. I also like the FlatOut wraps. I think I got those from Costco in whole wheat, but they can be found at the regular grocery store as well.
I have also incorporated more fresh fruit into my diet. I am not a huge veggie fan, but I have ones that I like, so I stick to them. I also juice regularly. I bought a Jack Lalanne juicer from Costco. It works great, and can juice everything from apples and oranges to kale, spinach and ginger. One of my favorite combinations is orange, apple, carrot, beet and an inch of fresh ginger juiced together. I’ll make a pitcher of it for the week and have it gone by Wednesday! I have been adding kale and spinach to this lately, and you can’t even taste the difference. When you juice with strong fruits, their flavors mask most of the flavors of the random veggies.
One thing that I have learned through reading healthy living blogs and talking to different people I that “fat” is not something to be scared of. Our brains need fats to function. There are obviously healthier fats than others. I still consume them in moderation, but am no longer scared to do so. A few examples of good fats I like are almond butter, coconut oil, nuts, extra virgin olive oil, and avocados.
Some people like to stay away from dairy. I don’t consume a ton of dairy products on a regular basis, but I still like Greek yogurt and cheese. Occasionally I will make overnight oats where I’ll stir oatmeal (the regular kind, not the sugary kind) into my yogurt before I go to bed, then add fruit, chia seeds, almond butter or slivered almonds in the morning. It’s perfect for when you are running out the door to go to work. A lot of times I will drink my fresh juice on the way to work along with it.
Another part of my healthy eating has been modifying recipes to make them healthier. Ari from Ari’s Menu is very good at this. I have gotten a lot of ideas from her on recipe substitutions, though I do have a few tricks of my own . Almost every recipe I blog about has had healthy substitutions. Making your own meals, as I said earlier, is nice because you have control of exactly what you use to make it. If you want to use organic everything, do it! If you are lactose intolerant, use almond milk or soy milk instead of cow’s milk. You see, you are in control of what you put into your body. They say that being fit and healthy is 80% diet and 20% exercise. I don’ know if I believe it to be that skewed, but I do believe it is extremely important to make good food choices. They also say you can’t out-exercise a bad diet. I do believe this!
It is especially important to fuel properly if you are an endurance athlete. Make sure you get balanced nutrition, and supplement where necessary. I take an A thru Z women’s multivitamin everyday. I also take fish oil, glucosamine/chondroitin, calcium, magnesium and iron on almost a daily basis. Everyone has different needs as far as supplements. (You know my disclaimer-ask your doctor before starting any kind of new diet or supplement regimen. Or, come to my pharmacy and ask me! Just don’t say I told you to on here, because I am just telling you guys what *I* do, k? ) I like to refuel with low fat chocolate milk after my long runs. It’s important to refuel to help promote healing and recovery.
As far as meats go, I stick to chicken, pork and fish for the most part. I will occasionally go for a lean cut of beef like a filet or a flank steak. Sometimes I’ll use 99% lean ground beef.
Like I said earlier, I still cheat on occasion. For example, the night after Ragnar was over, I had a small Philly Cheese Steak pizza from Dominos and two red velvet cupcakes. The next day, I resumed eating healthy again! I used to have the attitude that if I screwed up my diet for the day, I could just eat terribly for the rest of the day because I already screwed it up. It is SO important to just pick up right where you left off! If you have a fattening, unhealthy breakfast, start your day over (regarding food) and eat healthy from that moment on. It’s not easy, and it takes willpower. You can do it, though! I saw this on Facebook today, and it is perfect for this post!
It takes 21 days to make a habit. Make small changes every 21 days, and watch what happens! (This also applies to exercise!)
I am always looking for healthy eating ideas and recipes. Please comment below and let me know your favorite healthy recipes or foods! You can also leave a link to the recipe if that is easier.
I hope this helped any of you that were unsure of how to head in the direction of clean and healthy eating!