Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The First Step (Part I)

There are a number of first steps you can take that can be taken on the road to eating real food. I'm going to share with you what I feel to be the easiest and where I got started. 

Add in fruits and vegetables.
These are the easiest real foods to start adding into your diet.  I'm not talking about those disgusting overcooked, over-salted or over-sweetened wannabes that come in a can. I'm talking about fresh, ripe, sweet, flavorful fruits and veggies that come straight from the plant and don't even have to be cooked (read quick and easy).  They're loaded with the good stuff your body needs. And they even come in their own God-made package.  How convenient is that?

I'm not even going to tell you to give up soda or stop eating candy bars or potato chips.  To be honest with you, that type of white-knuckle mentality may work for a little while, but it's short-lived.  Focus on the positive aspect of eating more of something good.  Here are some ideas of how to incorporate this into your diet:

Note: This post is divided into two parts because of length.  Next post will cover buying fruits and vegetables economically.

1. Eat a piece of fruit or cut up veggies as a snack. 
This one is so easy to do, yet I will confess to recently searching the Internet for unprocessed snacks for my family and coming across a blog that listed different fruits and vegetables as snacks.  Duh! 
I know, some of you are saying that isn't enough to fill me up.  Eat the fruit or veggies first, dip them in peanut butter or almond butter if you want or eat some nuts with it.  If you still want to eat chips, etc afterwards, go for it.  You've at least given your body what it really needs first and you're less likely to pig out on chips and still feel hungry later.

2. Make a salad to eat with dinner.
Start with romaine, green leaf, spring mix, spinach--you want to go for the dark greens, not iceberg.  Add cut up veggies, fruit, some almonds or sunflower seeds.  We commonly eat a variation of the following salad, changing it to fit what we have on hand:

A little Gouda or feta (sometimes)

Homemade Vinaigrette:
Two parts olive oil
One part vinegar (we like balsamic or red wine)
Italian seasoning (basil, oregano)
Minced garlic cloves (or garlic powder in a pinch)
Squirt of honey
A dash of Chipotle Tabasco Sauce

3. Cook a fresh vegetable to eat with dinner.
This honestly isn't rocket science, but you don't want to overcook your vegetables.  (They lose their flavor as well as their nutritional value.) Green veggies should still look bright green, not pale like the broccoli in school cafeterias.  They should still have a little firmness, not turn to a mushy, flavorless mess. (Again see aforementioned broccoli.)
An easy way to prepare vegetables like squash, zucchini, asparagus, broccoli, green beans, etc, is to wash them, cut them up however you choose, heat a little olive oil or butter in the pan, sprinkle them with a little basil, oregano, pepper and salt if you wish, and lightly saute them over medium heat. 
Another option is steaming them in a steamer basket over boiling water.  When I steam broccoli, I test one and turn off the heat just before they're done as they continue to cook a little from the steam after you turn off the stove. Toss with seasonings after cooking, if desired.
If you need recipes, google the Internet, but go for recipes that call for light cooking and minimal ingredients to keep it simple and "real." 

Alright, it's rubber meets the road time.  Pick one of the babysteps above to put into practice this week or make up one of your own.  Everyone's journey is different so your step may range from "Eat a piece of fruit for a snack this week," to "Every night before bed, cut up veggies to take for snack to work the next day."  This isn't a competition.  Any step in the right direction makes a difference!

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