We talk a lot on this blog about our family’s journey to become healthier eaters. It’s a big journey that we’re on, and we know as well as anyone how daunting it can be to try and change the biggest part of your lifestyle all at once. So, we thought we would put together our quick guide to the most important things you can do to start eating more nutritiously! We hope they’re helpful.
One big thing that’s important right off the bat is to cut down on meat, especially if you’re anything like our family. We used to eat at pretty much every meal, whether it was hot dogs with mac and cheese or ground sausage in lasagna. Now we aim to eat one serving of meat a day, to get our protein in, but no more than that. We also started observing Meat Free Monday as an incentive to cut down further and get more creative with our cooking. We find that the less we rely on meat, the more vegetables and plant proteins we end up eating. Eating less meat lowers your cholesterol, fat intake, and bad things like antibiotics that end up in farmed meats.
Once you cut down on meat in general, you want to focus on lean meat instead of red meats. So, you should be eating more poultry like chicken and turkey, because they’re the least fatty of all the meats. You want to avoid red and processed red meat like sausage, pepperoni, bacon, and things like that. Lean steaks are fine if you want beef, and some pork chops can still be good, you just want to get away from the fattier cuts. Red meat and fatty meats are full of saturated fats that are really bad for you, and the World Health Organization officially said that red meat can lead to a way higher cancer risk, even in small amounts. We still have some as a treat maybe once a month, but it’s definitely something we’re trying to get away from!
Fish is also a really good alternative to land meat, especially things like salmon that are full of healthy oils and things like omega 3s. We never used to eat much fish, but now we have it one or two times a week. Just be careful about mercury, because that can be really heavy. We always look for stickers that show testing for low mercury when we buy fish, and especially canned tuna for the kids’ sandwiches.
Ok, so after changing up protein habits, the big key is to start eating more fruits and vegetables. We weren’t doing very well with that before we started making big changes, maybe a salad and some fruit every day, but definitely not more than that. We also always thought you were supposed to get 3-5 servings a day, but it’s actually 7-9 now, which is a new requirement. It’s definitely hard to get that many in, but we started with making sure we had fruit in cereal for breakfast, some OJ, and a salad at lunch and dinner every day. That got us halfway, and then we really just add in snacks, like carrots and hummus, or apples and peanut butter through the day. Oh, and you’re supposed to get that all fresh, not cooked. It’s still good to add veggies to dishes, but they’re not as nutritious as if you eat them fresh.
Those are the big ones. Aside from the produce and protein categories, the other change we’ve been trying to make is to get our carbs less processed. Our nutritionist says that it’s really not a question of how many carbs you eat, even though that obviously has an impact on your diet. But it’s how much they’re processed. And she says that if you eat things like whole grains, you actually don’t end up binging half as much, because they’re actually filling, as opposed to cookies and things with just white flour which basically go in one end and out the other, except they make you fat on the way through. Basically, you have to get rid of as many processed and “snack” foods as you can.
Ok, that’s about it for the big changes, but of course there are lots of other little things to watch out for, like avoiding artificial ingredients and buying organic, but we’ll make sure to cover those in other posts. We wish you all the best of luck in staying motivated and changing your diet for the better!