Monday Healthy Eating–Under the Wire!

Technically, it’s still Monday, so this counts. Thank you  all for your patience as I work through some family medical issues.

Today’s healthy eating is a small step to a larger goal. The ultimate goal is to learn to cook flavorful, healthful meals that you and your family will eat. Seriously, almost anything you cook from scratch will be better for you than something form a fast food place or a box, even if it uses nothing but butter, cream, and lard. Ever looked at the back of one of those fast-food boxes with the nutrition panel? I have, and I am still stumped. I have actually tried to pack that many calories into a hamburger, and failed. To this day I haven’t figured out how they even get the calorie-to-ounces ratio they achieve. It’s like the literally inject straight calories into their buns or something. Anyway, the point here is that it’s hard to do worse than processed food, so cooking from scratch is your biggest help in eating right.

That, however, is a pretty big goal, and it’s easy to get discouraged. So, just learn to cook one new, healthful meal each month. That’s not so bad, right? At the end of the year, you’ll have 12 new, healthy meals. That’s almost 2 whole weeks of dinners, or 1 week of dinners and lunches!

Where to start? The easiest place to start is with an old favorite.  Take a dish you and your family already eat, and see what can be improved upon. Use the internet (Google is your recipe friend) to search for healthy recipes, or even just for a healthy alternative.  Just changing an ingredient or two, or switching from canned vegetables to fresh or frozen, can make a huge difference in calories.

Some examples:

Your favorite: Mom’s meatloaf and mashed potatoes.

The switch: Lean ground beef instead of fatty (grass fed if you can), rolled oats to add some bulk, dice in some green peppers and onions, and tomato paste instead of ketchup on top. Whip up sweet potatoes with some cream of tartar, and if you need some moisture use a bit of chicken stock or skimmed milk. You’ve saved a boatload of calories, and added a lot of vitamins and fiber!

Your favorite: Spaghetti and meatballs with garlic bread.

The switch: Whole wheat noodles instead of white. Or, if you’re really adventurous, baked spaghetti squash (cleaned from it’s shell, it’s like noodles!) A can of diced tomatoes tossed into the blender with some herbs (fresh or dried garlic, oregano, basil, and maybe a splash of red wine) and blended to whatever consistency you like.  Whole wheat bread sprayed with olive oil, sprinkled with garlic powder and a freshly ground sea salt, then under the broiler just until brown.  Serve with a green salad if it’s the right season, or toss some kale, chard, or frozen green beans into the spaghetti.

You get the idea. Switch Greek yogurt for sour cream or cream, blended cottage cheese for ricotta in stuffed shells or lasagna, add a few veggies here or there…this doesn’t have to be complicated.

What if you don’t cook? That’s a different story. That means there’s no “old standby” favorites to start from, and you’ll have to learn from scratch. Don’t worry–in some ways, that’s actually easier, because it means no bad habits to unlearn, right?

So, how do you get started if you don’t already cook? Start simple. Possibly whole wheat pasta tossed with rosemary olive oil and vegetables, or maybe a quick stir fry over brown rice. It can even be something like chicken salad over greens, or you could do a breakfast (I like fermented oats, which I know sound awful, but are dreamy). Don’t go crazy until you’ve got one or two simple, easy, go-to recipes down. Once you feel like you can maybe do more, then absolutely do more!

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