While most of us truly want to get healthier, the heartbeat of our culture seems to be quick fixes and fad diets. Most of us are starved of time and obesity is threatening our generation. The food industry and their ability to crank out thousands of new packaged foods every year doesn’t exactly make it easy to adopt a whole food lifestyle. Not to mention that the art of cooking seems lost to many.
However, I’m continually encouraged by the number of people seeking out information on nutrition. In fact, I’ve grown to expect a barrage of questions anytime someone finds out my profession. And this truly inspires me. I believe America is ready to do better, but we just don’t always know where to start.
My passion and the reason I decided to become a Dietitian is to help encourage others to find a healthy lifestyle that works for them. Right now, I don’t have the time to accept clients for healthy eating, weight management, and lifestyle modification (I’m hoping within the next year, I will be able to start accepting personal clients.) In the meantime, I’m sticking with blogging and I decided to put together a first lesson in nutrition for those wishing to adopt a whole food lifestyle. I hope that this will be helpful for those that feel lost and are unsure of where to even begin. My goal for this blog is to help assist you in this journey.
Meal planning is the first step in transitioning to a whole food lifestyle. If you don’t have a plan in place, it is so easy to fall into old habits, fast food, or processed food.
I usually start my planning with dinner. Starting with dinner will also allow you to consider if you will be able to use dinner leftovers for lunch. Unless you plan to cook dinner nightly with leftovers for the next day, it is likely you may need a few extra ideas for lunches. Once I figure out my dinner and estimate how many leftover lunches I will have I can accurately plan for the rest of my lunches. Finally, I generally plan something ahead for breakfast.
It’s easy to fall into a trap of processed food or items high in sugar for breakfast. Most cereals are full of sugar and other refined ingredients. Some of my favorite ideas for breakfast include:
- Oatmeal – You can use old fashioned rolled oats or an even less processed choice such as steel cut oats. Oat groats are even better. If you wish to prep ahead you can make my favorite overnight oats. My absolute favorite make ahead breakfast is this oat bake from iFoodreal.
- Eggs – If you don’t want to cook them every morning, you could make my easy 5 Minute Egg Bake or have hard boiled eggs already ready to go in the fridge.
- Green Smoothie – Smoothies are easy to whip up and can give you some wonderful nutrition. Add kale, spinach, or some other greens to help get in an extra dose of veggies. Adding greek yogurt can help you start you morning with protein and frozen fruit brings sweetness and a perfect texture to any smoothie. If you are new to green smoothies my apple cider green smoothie is a great place to start.
- Choose unprocessed meats instead of deli meats. You can prep a large batch of chicken or even turkey ahead of time in order to avoid the pitfall of processed meats at lunch.
- Make extra food for dinner and use this as leftovers at lunch time.
- Keep cans of tuna, frozen homemade soups, and hard boiled eggs for times when you are in a pinch for a quick lunch.
- Make your own yogurt cups by buying a large container of plain yogurt (no added sugar) and mixing in fruit. I buy plain greek yogurt (for extra protein) and use frozen fruit that I buy in bulk. Occasionally, I will make this homemade granola from 100 Days of Real Food to turn them into *real* parfaits.
Begin by figuring out several dinner meals you want to have for the week. Consider how many times you will be able to cook given your schedule. You may want to make extra to help fill in your lunches for the week or even dinner another night.
Here are some of our favorite whole food lifestyle dinners to fix on a week night:
- Taco Salad – This is our favorite, easy simple and delicious. I generally use my crock pot or instant pot to make shredded chicken taco meat, which we top on spinach or lettuce. Top this with black beans, salsa, my favorite Garden of Eatin tortilla chips (small portion of chips, of course), cheddar cheese, green onions and greek yogurt (in place of sour cream) and I’m set! What I love about this is when we make the chicken meat we make a really large batch so it will last us quite a few extra meals.
- One Pot Spicy Taco Rice Skillet by Sweet C’s Designs – I love the simplicity of one pot meals and this one is delicious! You can use ground beef or ground turkey.
- Mini Black Bean Turkey Burgers by Budget Bytes – The black beans mixed in these turkey burgers allow the meat to go further which not only makes a leaner more plant based dish, but helps to cut the expense of meat.
- Bangkok Coconut Curry Noodle Bowls by Pinch of Yum – This recipe takes a little more time, but is a delicious vegetarian option with a ton of flavor. Plus it’s something a little less traditional for us.
- Grilled or baked meat such as chicken, fish, pork chops, or lean beef served alongside roasted vegetables or a salad, and a whole grain such as wild rice or quinoa, makes for a healthy dinner option.
After you have your meal plan together it is time to create your whole food lifestyle grocery list. I try to keep stock at home of certain foods ranging from oatmeal, quinoa, olive oil, and spices to yogurt, meats and vegetables in my freezer, and ezekiel bread. Here are some basic lists on stocking your pantry, freezer, and fridge. As I make my list of food I need for the weekly meals, I also spend time surveying our stock and add to my list anything that may be running low.
Stick mostly to the perimeter of the grocery store with a few select aisles.
Shopping the perimeter of the store will help you to stick with the basics needed to develop a whole food lifestyle. Most (but not all) foods down the aisles are more processed. The perimeter of the store will include your produce (fruits and vegetables), meat, milk, and eggs.
Of course you will need to stroll down a few freezer aisles to get frozen fruits and vegetables. And another middle aisle will include whole grains like rice, whole wheat bread, and quinoa. If you need spices or flour that will be another aisle you may need to go down. But beyond this, you can plan to skip most of the other aisles which will certainly save you time.
Most of the middle aisles at the grocery store are stocked full of processed foods and beverages. There are dozens of aisles full of sugary soda, candy, cookies, ready made seasonings, crackers full of refined grains, and even flavor add ins for water.
Next time you go to the store, notice the multitude of choices marketed to us in each of these products. It’s unbelievable to me how many products the food industry tries to convince us we need that are entirely useless in a healthy diet.
Time Saving Strategies
If meal planning, grocery shopping, and cooking at home is truly just too much time for your lifestyle, perhaps you should consider one or more of these methods to assist you in your whole food lifestyle journey. I have tried all of the things listed below and believe they have a time and place in busy families.
- Menu Planning Service – I have purchased several subscriptions of The Fresh 20, which is a great whole food based menu planning service. I rarely (if ever) have to make substitutions due to my nutrition beliefs. The plans are built so that you can spend time once a week prepping many of your foods (cutting vegetables, sometimes even baking meat, etc) and they make weeknight dinners go super smooth! Check them out here and sign up for a free sample to see if it’s something you might be interested in.
- Meal Delivery Service – You can read my review of Hello Fresh here.
- Order Groceries Online – Many grocery stores in various locations are offering this, including places such as Wal Mart and Kroger…you can place your order online and usually pick up the next day. You may also consider Amazon Prime Now or another service that actually delivers to your door to save even more time.
Check out my list of Healthy Eating Resources for things I use in the kitchen and my healthy eating plans! I hope this list helps you get started on a path to eating and living well. Please share any tips you have for living a whole food lifestyle in the comment section below!