Have we fallen in love with convenient, processed foods? With busy schedules, fast-food restaurants on every corner, and an abundance of comfort foods available (even at the local Starbucks), it’s no wonder we opt for all those fatty, salty and sweet foods. It just tastes so good. And it’s so easy to get. Food manufactures know exactly how to get us “hooked” without us even knowing it, and many of us have lost the desire and taste buds for whole, unprocessed foods. It’s time to go back to the basics and rediscover a love for whole foods. It may not happen overnight, but with these tips you may just have a new love affair for healthy and tasty “real” food.
Add Flavor With Spices and Herbs
Put down the salt shaker and start enhancing the flavor of your food with spices and fresh herbs. Not only do herbs and spices taste good, they are loaded with anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antibacterial properties. Turmeric, for example, is made from the turmeric root and often found in curry dishes. It also happens to be a powerful anticancer agent. Cinnamon (one of our favorites) can be added to any sweet or savory dish and gives both an earthy and sweet taste. Plus, cinnamon has been shown to help lower blood sugar in people who have diabetes or who are prediabetic. Fresh rosemary, thyme and oregano can be added to a pot of homemade chicken soup to help fight the common cold. Make sure to check the spices and dried herbs you keep in your pantry and buy new ones every six months as they lose flavor and potency over time (except salt and pepper, which last longer).
Shop Local and In Season for Fresh-tasting Produce
Do you have a farmer’s market near where you live or work? If so, make a trip there as soon as possible and check out what’s in season. Or check out websites like Natural Resources Defense Council and Epicurious, which provide information on what foods are in season in your area each month of the year.
Eating food that is locally grown and in season is less expensive and usually tastes much better than food that is grown in a hothouse or transported thousands of miles. Produce that comes from far away is usually picked unripe and transported in refrigerated containers, which affects its ability to properly ripen. Stick with local, seasonal food for better taste and to save money.
Healthy and Convenient?
There is something to be said about the benefits of pre-packaged foods. Sure, they’re easy and quick, but most packaged food is full of refined carbohydrates, sugar, bad fats and preservatives. Read the ingredient list and see what you find. If there's anything on that list that you can't pronounce, you probably shouldn't be eating it. Instead, make your own convenience foods that are healthy and tasty. The best snacks are a combination of protein and fiber as they work together to keep your blood sugar balanced and energy level higher for longer periods of time. Here are some ideas to get you started: an apple (or other seasonal fruit) with some almonds (or other nuts); veggies and hummus; black beans, quinoa, and salsa; a homemade muffin made with almond flour (for more protein and healthy fat); a snack-size baggie of mixed nuts, seeds and dried fruit; homemade egg salad; a container of Greek yogurt with some chia seeds and berries. Taking a little time each week to shop for ingredients and put them together into small packages will save you time and money during the week when you're on the go.
Turn Off Electronics and Tune Into Your Food
Everywhere we go, we see people on cell phones, laptops and tablets. We're wearing monitors that record every step, heart rate, calories burned and quality of sleep. And there's no turning back. While we're happy for all that technology brings us, there is a time and a place for it, and a time for turning it off. When you eat is a perfect time to turn off the computer, put down the cell phone and tune into your food and your body. Be present. Allow yourself to feel what hunger and fullness feels like. Distraction-free eating enables you to notice the flavors, texture and temperature of your food. And it allows you to eat at a slower, more relaxed pace. Not only will you be able to appreciate all the elements of your meal, you will walk away from that meal feeling more satisfied.