I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season! I'm sure many of you overindulged in holiday goodies like I did, so I thought now would be a good time to discuss how a healthy diet can help make you feel better. I know that I have mentioned diet in passing in the past, but this time I'll go a little more in depth as to what I do and how it has helped me. I thought I'd be able to do this as a single post, but the more I write, the more I realize that it's best to divide it up into a series of posts so that you won't get too overwhelmed with one massive, outrageous post.
We all "know" that we should eat well, but how many of us actually do it? It's just so easy to scarf down convenience foods or go out to eat, especially since people are busier than they have ever been before. And it's even worse for those of us with serious health conditions, because sometimes we physically can't fix a complicated healthy meal. But the catch-22 is, those of us with health problems need healthy food more than everyone else because our bodies require more nutrients to deal with our illnesses. So how can it be done? Planning, planning, planning. And this from the girl that HATES menu planning, but it's really the only way to consistently eat a healthy diet with my serious health issues. It doesn’t have to be rocket science, it just has to help you make sure that you don’t have times where you are starving and end up eating something that you shouldn’t just because you need food fast and don’t have anything ready. I’m not good about planning a whole week in advance, but I try to do at least a day or 2 at a time so that I have things a little bit more organized and am not panicking when 6:00 rolls around. Below are some ways that you can make eating healthy easier, and assist with meal planning.
- Prep foods ahead of time. I peel and cut a bunch of carrots all at once so that they are easy to grab as a snack or to quickly chop into a salad without having to go through all the peeling every time. Once you're already having to chop or peel some veggies for a recipe, it’s not that much additional work to just do a few more and save them. Just keep the carrots in your fridge, and grab them as you need them. You can also chop extra veggies when you're making a meal and keep them in the fridge for when you need them next time. Many veggies keep well when prepped ahead (carrots, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, etc).
- Divide up your cooking time. This one is specifically for people with health problems. I never seem to have quite enough energy to make a whole meal from start to finish in one fell swoop, and if I do it, I don’t have enough energy to eat the meal! The thing that I have found to be helpful is to break up the meal prep into chunks throughout the day so that I can get it all done without killing myself. For example, I might chop several things, then take a break for 30-60 min, then chop some more, or sauté and then set aside, etc. Just divide it up into chunks you can manage.
- Wash all your lettuce and greens at once and keep them in bags with paper towels and they will stay fresh for when you need them for a salad (makes it much faster to grab lettuce for a salad if you don't have to wash it each time). I recommend trying to eat a large salad each day with some protein so that you can get as many vegetables and greens into your day as possible.
- If you're cooking a meal, make extra and freeze it! You will have days where nothing can make you cook, so having meals in the freezer that you can grab and defrost will make a world of difference for you. Make giant batches of soups or stews, chili, etc to freeze and grab for a quick meal. Leftovers are your friend. I make meals that serve at least 4-6, so even if it won’t freeze well, I’ll still have leftovers for a day or 2.
- Make a large quantity of protein for use throughout the week. If I’m roasting/grilling chicken, I’ll make a huge batch and keep it in the fridge for lunch or dinner during the week. It doesn’t take any more work to roast extra, but it saves you lots of time in the long run.
- Buy some good quality paring knives. When I'm making a salad each day, it makes it much easier to just quickly chop them directly into the salad.
- Have a protein source with every meal or snack. This will help you feel fuller over the day. Protein sources can be nuts, beans, meats, or eggs.
- Buy high quality lunch meat (no fillers or crap in them) and use that as an easy protein on top of your salad. Other options are making extra protein the night before with your dinner to use on a salad the next day.
- If you need some quick convenience foods, make sure they are high quality without lots of junk in them. Trader Joe’s has some good quality items. Also, if you want crackers, Mary's Gone Crackers and Nut Thins are good options.
- There are online meal planning resources that might help give you ideas on how to start planning (there are many on the web):
· Sources of healthy, gluten free online recipes:
In the next post, I’ll describe what I have done recently that has improved my energy levels and made me feel better overall. I’ll go into more detail about what I eat, and what I avoid.