Do you want to learn easy ways to eat healthy without feeling like you are depriving yourself? What if I told you there are five easy and simple solutions to help you eat healthier that don’t include any of the fad diets? In this post, I’m sharing education based on science along with five practical and easy ways to eat healthy.
The Crazy Plant Lady
Five years ago I started learning about the benefits of a plant based lifestyle. I love this lifestyle but I didn’t go all in at once. In fact, I’m still on the journey so that’s why I’m sharing five easy ways to eat healthier. I believe that healthy comes from the inside out. Skinny doesn’t mean healthy and large doesn’t necessarily mean unhealthy.
If you learn about health on a cellular level then you will learn to love yourself and fuel yourself with exactly what foods your body needs. You learn to be in tune with listening to your body and what it actually needs. No need to feel starved or deprive yourself. Learn to dive in and eat all the yummy colors of the rainbow.
Four years ago I met a lady named Toni Branner (aka The Crazy Plant Lady) who is an exercise physiologist and former professor and director at UNC Chapel Hill. Seriously, she is one of the smartest people I know. Look her up and you will soon learn to love her too.
She lead a talk called Top 10 Reasons To Eat More Plants and Top 10 Solutions To Do So. It was life changing. Literally, she explained everything in very basic terms and I just got it. Have you had a moment like this where you can remember exactly where you were when you learned something that just made sense or that impacted your life on a whole new level? It’s a pretty cool feeling.
If you’d like to hear Toni’s full health talk please comment at the bottom of this post or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll forward it to you.
So What’s The Deal With Eating The Rainbow?
Eating the rainbow and adding in as many colors of fruits/veggies/berries/nuts/seeds/legumes/whole grains is the easy way to eat healthy. It’s not a fad diet. It doesn’t deprive you. It doesn’t leave you feeling yucky and low energy. In fact, it allows you to look at mealtimes in a whole new way. It allows you to ADD in a lot of the good stuff to your meals.
This just makes sense to me. I understand it like this: When we get back to the basics and eat more plant foods (fruits, veggies, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes/beans, and whole grains our body knows exactly what to do with it.
Eating a little bit of a lot of different plant foods allows our body to do exactly what it should. All of these amazing foods work together to give us more energy, better sleep, better skin, better mood, happier, clearer thinking, better attention, better digestion, more balanced immune system, etc.
When we fuel our body with plants, inflammation goes down. Our cells are repaired. Our body can heal from disease and we can even start to prevent disease from happening years from now. We don’t really feel disease happening so if we can do things to delay or prevent this I think that’s pretty cool.
For example, you didn’t JUST get diabetes or heart disease; it was years of damage and one day it showed up through symptoms and/or blood work. What if you could possibly change that outcome? Knowing you can possibly change the health of your future so you can live a long life with your spouse, spend time with your friends, kids, grandkids, and grow old doing the things you’ve always wanted to do. That is enough for me to add in more plants.
I’m not a doctor. I’m just a 40 year old, Mom of two, and a pediatric feeding therapist that believes in the power of food. I believe in making small changes that fit your family. I believe in using food as fuel and enjoying mealtimes as a family. My mission is to help as many families have positive mealtimes and eat as much variety as possible.
If you don’t believe just lil old me then check out Forks Over Knives website HERE and the documentary on Netflix is amazing.
How To Start Eating Healthy
I got super pumped then I got super nervous thinking about how my family would respond to such drastic changes in diet. I was ready to dive in and go completely plant based. But..and a big but…I have two kids and one very picky eater at the time and a husband who loved what we had going on in the kitchen. He wasn’t as all in as I was in the beginning. This was probably a blessing because it reminded me to take baby steps.
If I’m being totally honest with myself and with ya’ll I can tell you that I went ALL in on myself and started to become a little obsessed with “healthy” eating. I think it’s good to be a role model and eat whole foods so your kids have something to model but I don’t think it’s healthy to constantly talk about “healthy” foods and to obsess over it.
I’ve sure learned a lot over the years and my kids have a healthy relationship with food as they learned to eat until they are full, they eat for internal motivation and not from pressure or rewards, and our mealtimes are pleasant and happy.
With children in the home and especially if you have a child with any type of feeding delay or extreme picky eating then you know changing their diet over night is next to impossible and honestly not a good idea. The last thing we want to do is remove their safe/favorite foods. We want to first make mealtimes pleasant and then start to work on adding in foods rather than restricting them.
I learned that you take small, simple steps to a healthier lifestyle. That’s how it becomes just part of your life. So I came up with five easy ways to eat healthy that is doable for all families. Even the most pickiest eaters (adults too) and even the most stubborn people (cause you know we all have one or two of those in the family). 🙂
Five Easy Ways To Eat Healthy While Adding In More Good
- Pick a meal to focus on for the week. For example, maybe breakfast or snacks are the easiest meals. Start with those and make changes only to those for a week or two or for however long you feel needed until you get the hang of it.
- Pick one meal to go plant based for the week. For example, Monday nights can be “Meatless Mondays” or Friday lunches can be “Free From Meat Friday”. Keep it simple. Don’t make it complicated.
- Shoot for whole food based first. So many people come to me so overwhelmed with what to eat. I always say just think about real whole food. Not in a package. Just real whole grains, beans, fruits, veggies, clean lean meats or fish, etc.
- Pick your favorite type of meal and switch that up. For example, we loooove Mexican! Anything and everything Mexican! So, we made burrito bowls, enchiladas, tacos with beans, lentils, veggies with taco seasoning and all the yummy toppings. If your fav is pasta then make a big batch with lots of different veggies.
- Lastly, if you can’t imagine your meal without meat. Take a step back and don’t panic. Think baby steps. Next time you have grilled chicken then cut the filet in half and load the rest of your plate with veggies/sides. Or if you are making tacos use only half the pound of ground meat and include extra veggies (mushrooms/onions/peppers/etc) with the meat.
Focus On One Meal For The Week
Pick a meal to focus on for the week. For example, maybe breakfast or snacks are the easiest meals. Start with those and make changes only to those for a week or two or for however long you feel needed until you got the hang of it.
I recommend starting with yourself first. If your husband is on board then ya’ll can do it together. If he’s not on board then just focus on you for now. Keep the stress as minimal as possible. If you have children that are typical eaters (eat happily and eat a variety of food from a variety of categories) then incorporate them into the process.
Just remember to go slow and steady. Too big of a change can backfire, especially with kids. Also remember to talk less and just model more. Kids want food to taste and look good. We don’t need to shame foods, we need to enjoy food and have kids that eat for internal motivation and not from pressuring or shaming.
If you have a picky eater then I recommend not focusing on them during this process because most likely you are dealing with bigger fish and frustrations at mealtimes. Your focus should be on making mealtimes pleasant first and foremost. Learn more about how to help your picky eater HERE.
Pick one meal such as breakfast, lunch, or dinner to focus on for the week. This allows for you to find a couple meals you really enjoy for that meal and to work on those leaving your other meals as stress free as possible.
- Find 2-3 three recipes you would like to try
- Plan out meals for that one meal
- Prep on Sunday so you have your meals ready to go or ready to cook
- Pick recipes that are similar to already preferred meals you enjoy
Choose Themed Weeknight Meals And Add In More Plants To One Of The Meals
Pick one meal to go plant based for the week. For example, Monday nights can be “Meatless Mondays” or Friday lunches can be “Free From Meat Friday”. Keep it simple. Don’t make it complicated.
I love doing themed weeknight meals for dinner. Not only does it allow me to plan and prep ahead of time, it allows for predictability and routine for my kids. As a feeding therapist, having themed weeknight meals can be really helpful for those kids that come to the dinner table with anxiety. Kids thrive on predictability and routine so having a themed weeknight dinner idea allows them to know what’s coming at dinner. Thus, decreasing some of the anxiety around mealtimes.
I simply write the themed meals on a sheet of paper or white board and keep it on the counter in the kitchen. Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, Waffle Wednesday, Three Cheese Thursday, and Freebie Friday are some of our favs. My kids actually love this and are old enough where I can offer choices and they can help pick some items for the menu.
You can choose to go plant based or just add in a new food for these meals. Typically, adding in some extras is a good place to start for the whole family. For example, if you are having Meatless Monday maybe you have stuffed baked potatoes. Put the veggies on the side so everyone can fill their potato how they want. You can also serve a bowl of fruit in the center of the table (family style). I typically try to make sure there is at least one preferred food on my kids plate if I’m making something new.
If you are doing Free From Meat Friday you can choose to do cheese quesadillas, breakfast items, pizza, or tacos with beans. Even if you know your kids won’t eat tacos without the meat then just cut the meat in half and add a side of beans. Remember always add to the meal and try not to take away.
Eating Real Whole Foods First Is One Of The Easy Ways To Eat Healthy
Shoot for whole food based first. So many people come to me so overwhelmed with what to eat. I always say just think about real whole food. Not in a package. Just real whole grains, beans, fruits, veggies, clean lean meats or fish, etc.
Most people wanting to making changes are more likely to stick to eating healthier with small changes over time. Maybe going completely plant based just isn’t for you at this time. That’s okay my friend. But what is for you is eating more real, whole food.
This includes less processed foods and more foods in their natural form. Try to stick to leaner meats like organic chicken and fish, veggies, fruits, whole grains, and beans. This will keep all the extra preservatives down that are typically found in processed foods. Plus your grocery bill can actually benefit from not buying all that processed food.
- Shop the outer isles
- If you are buying canned beans or veggies to save on cost look for organic and BPA free. Most grocery stores have their organic brand for pretty cheap
- Pick 3-4 veggies to rotate through for the week
- Pick 3-4 fruits to rotate through for the week
- Plan meals that you can use half the amount of meat for for two meals. For example, buy a pack of organic chicken breasts and use half for fajitas and half for kabobs. Less meat and more veggies
- Think about baking, roasting, grilling, using the air fryer, or instant pot for meals instead of frying or eating out
- Buy brown rice or chickpea rice by Banza instead of white rice. Cook in low sodium veggie broth to add some extra flavor
- Buy veggies/fruits in season to save on cost
- Look up the dirty/clean dozen and buy fruits/veggies off this list to save on cost
- Plan at least three meals with very simple ingredients such as a protein, veggies, and whole grain and/or fruit
- Use a bowl of raw veggies or fruit in the center of the table as a side for the family to grab as they eat
Pick A Favorite Meal To Make A Healthy Meal For The Family
Pick your favorite type of meal and switch that up. For example, we loooove Mexican! Anything and everything Mexican! So, we made burrito bowls, enchiladas, tacos with beans, lentils, veggies with taco seasoning and all the yummy toppings. If your fav is pasta then make a big batch with lots of different veggies.
- Add an extra veggie to your favorite pasta dish
- Substitute processed white pasta noodles for something like 100% whole wheat, gluten free pasta, chickpea pasta, black bean pasta, or spiraled veggie noodles
- Use a red sauce over a cream based sauce
- Use veggie broth or water instead of butter/oil to sauté veggies in
- Think of your animal protein as a side dish instead of the main dish. Portion should be small and your sides should be larger so you can fill up on the plants
- For Mexican dishes, serve tacos over mixed greens, romaine, or veggies/beans. Top with a small amount of crushed tortilla chips.
- Swap out flour tortillas for 100% whole wheat, gluten free, cassava, cashew, or 100% organic corn hard shell tortillas
- Use wild caught/local fish for tacos instead of red meat
- Use organic ground turkey or chicken instead of ground beef for tacos
- Cut up potatoes, drizzle with a small amount of olive oil and cook in the air fryer for homemade fries
- Throw lentils into chili or spaghetti either as a meat substitute or in addition to your regular recipe
- Stir fry can be made with riced cauliflower, brown rice, or chickpea rice. Add in extra yummy veggies and/or beans
Including Animal Protein In Your Diet
Lastly, if you can’t imagine your meal without meat. Take a step back and don’t panic. Think baby steps. Some people want to eat more plants for health reasons, or to protect the planet and some people want to still continue eating animal protein because they enjoy it.
If you are the latter don’t worry. I believe people can still include a small amount of animal protein in their diet and still be healthy. I do believe if you can eat the majority of your meals plant based then you are on the right track.
Next time you have grilled chicken then cut the filet in half and load the rest of your plate with veggies/sides.
If you are making tacos use only half the pound of ground meat and include extra veggies (mushrooms/onions/peppers/etc) with the meat. If your kids are not into mixed food then cook the veggies first and put aside in a separate bowl to have as family style on the table.
Limit red meat
Substitute organic turkey or chicken for red meat
Eat a healthy fish once a week. I love to use Bob’s Red Mill GF/DF pancake batter as breading for a white fish and then pop in the air fryer. I coat with almond or rice milk first, then dip in the batter, then put in the air fryer. My kids love this.
Make homemade pizzas with fun/colorful toppings. A great way to get your kids involved and engaged with new food is to let them make one pizza for them and one pizza for adults. If they are not eating a lot of veggies right now just let them engage with the veggies by placing them on your pizza to start. No pressure to eat it, just to pick it up and explore them at first.
Lastly, Ways To Eat Healthy On A Budget
So many people think you have to shop at Whole Foods or Earth Fare to eat healthy. Ya’ll, you can shop at any store and still eat healthy. When you cut down on buying processed foods and junk foods you are left with real, whole foods. This can make a big difference in your budget.
Here are some ways to eat healthy on a budget:
- Plan meals ahead of time so you know what you need to buy
- Make a budget for the week. Figure out how much money you want to designate towards groceries
- Don’t go grocery shopping when starving or else you may end up buying a lot of impulse buys
- Cook larger portions so you have leftovers for lunch
- Use half the amount of organic chicken or other animal protein for each meal. This way you get two meals out of one.
- Substitute legumes/beans for animal proteins to save on moolah
- Cook at home more. Save eating out for Fridays or a special night
- Buy veggies and fruits in season (these are usually cheaper)
- Local farmers markets typically have great buys on fruits/veggies
- Buy organic frozen veggies/fruits.
- Buy organic store brands (they are often cheaper and a great cost)
- Freeze fruits/veggies that are going bad and use for smoothies. At the end of each week I take all the fruits/veggies that are starting to go bad and stick them in the freezer. This saves a lot of money and I have extra ingredients for my smoothies
- Stop buying so much junk food (pick two pantry snacks for the kids to pick out)
This is my mission. This is my passion that lights me up. I want to be there for my kids and husband; I want to be there for my grandkids and great grandchildren.
What do you want? You have all the power to make that happen! Don’t let bad health take away your dreams. Most importantly I want to help families create positive mealtimes and learn to enjoy food in a whole new way!
If you want more help with learning simple ways to eating more real, whole foods as a family then join me RIGHT HERE.