When it comes to getting the fitness results you want, one of the biggest hindrances that people face is their nutrition. There’s a common misconception that as long as you work out enough, you can eat whatever you want, but sadly, that’s just not a practical approach if you want long-lasting, noticeable physical change.
As frustrating as it is to hear (at least for me), it is largely true that, “Abs are made more in the kitchen than in the gym.” Just think about it realistically: how much of our day is spent eating as opposed to working out? And while we tend to concentrate our efforts into getting our sweat on, it’s equally––if not more crucial–– to weight loss and health goals to turn our attention to what we’re putting into our bodies.
A major problem with eating healthy has to do with perception. This is particularly evident with the onslaught of “health-conscious” foods bombarding storefronts and advertisements, filled with buzzwords like “organic,” “all-natural” or “light” that sound great, but are often still applied to food devoid of the nutrition you need.
When it comes to eating healthy, conscious consumerism is key, as well as taking the time to educate yourself on what is legitimately scientifically recommended, as opposed to what you think is healthy based on your newsfeed or friend’s latest diet.
Let’s start with the basics. While you may have grown up with the food pyramid as the standard guideline for healthy eating, it was officially changed in 2011 to “MyPlate,” which, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, focuses on “variety, amount, and nutrition” across the five food groups (fruits, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy) and looking at “the totality” of what one eats and drinks as opposed to individual components. This allows for greater flux and variety to create healthy, reasonable plans based on individual diets and budget.
Certain guidelines, such as making fruits and veggies comprise half your plate at mealtime and lowering saturated fat, sodium and added sugar intake, are standard across the plate, but it’s ultimately up to you as to what kinds of foods you incorporate (or don’t). Healthy eating shouldn’t make you feel sad––you should be eating foods that you enjoy! You don’t have to eat chicken and broccoli every night to live a healthy lifestyle.
Once you start to be mindful of what you like and don’t like in your food, you can start to build a grocery list that works for your own physical needs and preferences. Just because #avocadotoast is all the rage doesn’t mean you need to like it! It’s about finding what works for you.
Another misconception about healthy eating is that it’s about deprivation, when it’s really about the opposite: filling your body with the best fuel it can get to keep you going. And sometimes, that fuel can be a cupcake or your mom’s homemade fried chicken. It’s all about creating patterns and balance that, overall, create a sustainable and lasting plan for a healthy and happy body and life.
And while it may be all well and good to know the types of food you like, cooking them can be a whole different ballgame. Fortunately for all of us, we have tiny computers at our fingertips! From YouTube tutorials to Buzzfeed’s hugely popular Tasty video, there is a virtually endless supply of digital resources out there for every diet and cooking skill level imaginable. And, if you’re old school like me, you can try reading a good old-fashioned cookbook! Or, better yet, tell your dad that it’s about time you learned the family’s coveted chili recipe. Cooking is not only a way to boost your health, but it’s an excellent way to cultivate relationships, creativity and invaluable skills that you can use for the rest of your life.
People often attribute time as the biggest hindrance to eating healthier, and as someone who is often crunched for time herself, I wanted to share some of my favorite quick and easy (seriously, these are SO easy) cooking ideas that aren’t only great for beginner cooks, but that will help you hit your food groups in ways you might not have ever thought of.
1). Breakfast burritos: There are few things I love more in life than breakfast food, and a good breakfast burrito helps me to start my morning off on the right note. The best thing about these options are that they’re super simple and customizable. Take a base of a whole wheat tortilla, eggs, cheese and a protein and pack in all the veggies, sauces and spices your tummy desires! I personally love using green and yellow peppers in my wraps, which adds some nice color and texture as well as boosting my veggie intake.
2) Green smoothies: Know you should eat more vegetables but feel like a 5-year-old and really don’t want to? Enter green smoothies! Spinach, broccoli, avocado, celery––you can throw any of these bad boys in with an almond or dairy milk base, yogurt, fruit and a natural sweetener like honey and you’ve got yourself a delicious, nutritious treat with countless options for next time. Bonus points if you add protein powder.
3) Stir fry: As opposed to greasy, calorie-laden Asian takeout, at-home stir fry allows you to utilize much lighter ingredients and sauces to keep the same great flavor without nearly as much fat or sodium. Once again, you have so many options for proteins, grains, veggies and seasonings here––I’d recommend starting with your own veggie fried rice or shrimp pad thai.
The best part about healthy cooking on your own is that you are the boss: you know the nutritional content, you size out the portions––you’re the one taking control of your health. And remember: healthy eating doesn’t mean it’s boring!