Making healthy changes isn't always easy. Add in the stress of jobs and family and plans and it can be even harder. When I moved into my own apartment after college, Michael was always over and we eventually began grocery shopping for two. It was around that time that we really began to take a look at what we were eating and became educated on what was going into and onto our bodies.
It hasn't been an easy or quick process, and the more we've learned, the more tweaks and changes we've made along the way. Looking back to our first year of marriage, there were a few simple steps we took at first that really made a big difference.
1. Read the labels. It's amazing how many artificial ingredients are FDA-approved to be in the food on your grocery store shelf. From MSG to GMOs and everything in between, our modern day foods are full of chemicals, preservatives, and artificial ingredients. Educate yourself on each ingredient and its affect on your body. Odds are, if you can't pronounce it, it probably doesn't belong in your body. Also, companies have gotten smart and learned to label their foods somewhat deceptively, using alternate names for those well-known "no-no" chemicals. Stay smart and educate yourself!
2. Have more food in your fridge than your pantry. When I was in college, my pantry was full. I had boxed macaroni, chips, pasta, and other processed foods whose expiration dates probably would still be good today. And along with that long shelf life comes not-so-good preservatives. My fridge was bare, aside from a half gallon of milk and some cheese. When you start to introduce real, chemical-free, whole food in your life, that pantry-fridge stock inverts. I realized that the foods that are healthy for me have a shelf life. There were veggies, fruits, meat, and dairy- fresh and hardly requiring any ingredients lists. This also means that when I shop at the grocery store, I shop the outer edges, produce to meat to dairy to the health-food section, and don't have a need to hit any of the middle aisles.
3. Stay organized. This one is probably the biggest factor in eating healthy. If I didn't prepare ahead of time, the drive-thru was my go-to for any meal. If I had nothing at home, I'd resort to eating out, which wasn't good on my body or my wallet. When I started to notice the biggest difference in our eating habits was when we planned out our menu for the week, including lunch and breakfast, and shopped accordingly. This usually meant that I spent some time after getting home from the grocery store prepping our food for the week, cutting up fruits and veggies. I found that this extra twenty minutes was well worth it if it meant that we were armed with healthy meals for the week or easy grab and go snacks.
I often hear people complain that eating healthy takes so much more work and time, and that it's much easier to just grab happy meals on the way home. In some ways, that's true. But once you get familiar with whole foods and how you like to prepare them, the process gets easier. Finding recipes that you love is important, too, as I've found that flavor is key to beating boredom with meals!
If you think about the effects of these so-called "easy" foods, many of them leading to hormone disruption, disorders, emotional problems, disease, obesity, and cancer, hopefully you'll realize, like I did, that the effort it takes to eat healthy and the benefits it brings far outweigh the tiny bit of time you saved eating something more convenient, but more dangerous, for your body. Don't get me wrong- I'm definitely not perfect at this and there are times when we give in to our old habits. This is still a work in progress for us, but the better we eat, the better we feel, and that's great motivation to continue bettering ourselves.
Do you struggle with eating healthy? Have you found anything that makes it easier?