When you’re trying to get your health on track, you still have to maintain your routine. If you’re anything like me, you have more tasks on your list than hours in your day.
It can be overwhelming to find healthy meals that satisfy your hunger (and actually taste good) without going through a drive-through window.
This particular problem is what made fast food restaurants so appealing. They showed us “beef” burgers (that often weren’t), fresh crisp veggies (that rarely are), and used “sesame seed” in the description of their buns to give it a layer of respectability. Billions sold says their marketing worked. You can pick up fried chicken, pizza, and wings in your grocery store deli.
The “snack” food aisle is even worse.
Sugar addicted (and carbs will do) shoppers have their choice of every sort of sugary high, salty treat, or soda for a quick fix and on average, Americans are taking way too many of them home.
In the United States, we’ve been fooled into thinking food manufacturers are honest with us when they say “heart-healthy” or “natural” on their labels.
They created hundreds of ready-made foods packed with dangerous trans fats, chemicals, and sugar that nullified any good ingredients they might have included. There is nothing left to feed your body.
Those pre-packaged breakfasts, lunches, and dinners sell like crazy because people want that delicious meal in 30 minutes or less and they don’t think they can do it themselves.
The picture on the front looks like real food, a healthy meal that surely must be better than the local burger joint. Pre-packaged food becomes the lesser of two evils…but neither are really food at all.
Everywhere you go, it is so easy to eat fast.
It becomes a habit that you might not recognize until you notice the condition of your skin, you gain a few pounds, or your doctor tells you your blood test results are a reason for concern.
Healthy eating in a fast food world takes practice but I promise you that once you learn what foods work best for you, you’re going to love the way you feel from the inside out.
Choose to Make Your Health a Priority
I used to eat horribly. Even though I was a foodie, my average day was filled with something quick on the way to work, another sketchy meal at lunch, and eating better at night or on the weekends but not really paying attention to ingredients or portions.
As a result, I got to a place I look back on in shock.
My health was deteriorating and my weight was out of control. I was terrified and knew I had to make serious adjustments in my daily life or I was going to get sicker.
I started with major change in my personal life.
Removing myself from a toxic environment was a productive step that took the focus off what was happening around me and put it on what was happening inside me.
I stopped making excuses about my food choices and took responsibility for providing my body the pure fuel it needed.
My First 3 Steps to Healthy Eating
- I stopped “instant” food in all its forms. If it came in a bag or a box, I didn’t eat it. If the restaurant had a drive-through, I kept going.
- I removed my greatest addiction from my meals for one week to see if I could do it. Sugar in the form of pastries, cakes, cookies, and empty carbs in the form of refined starches like pasta and bread were gone.
- I made half my plate “clean” protein and the other half fresh produce (similar to my Whole 30 experience!). I could eat as much as I wanted of those two items but no refined grains, no flour, and no sugar were allowed.
When I started eating “real” food at every meal, I saw a difference in the first day. I wasn’t starving all the time.
I would make a protein and a veggie side and I ate until I was full. I seasoned with spices – no marinades, sauces, or condiments. Dairy was limited to one meal a day and usually in the form of butter or good cheese.
I felt so much more energetic after the first week that I didn’t stop.
I love cooking and I played with different food combinations. Finding more things I liked or doctoring recipes I loved from my favorite cooking shows to make them a healthy meal that worked for me. I made an effort to drink more water.
It was delicious. It was good for me. It also made a huge impact.
In week three, I could feel myself losing weight and the scale confirmed that I’d dropped ten pounds simply removing junk from my diet.
After a few months, I slowly worked in an exercise routine.
I kept it very low impact because I was recovering from a life-threatening blood clot. I was consistent, three days each week in the beginning for 15-20 minutes. I was out of shape, overweight, and unused to any kind of activity since I sat at a desk every day. At first, 15 minutes felt like an hour but I got better.
Over the course of 18 months, I lost more than 100 pounds from following this simple, common sense way of life. There was a lot that had to be addressed – such as my relationship with food to combat stress and depression – but this is it in a nutshell.
The Grocery Store – Decoded
The grocery store is overwhelming because they put the junk in the front to tempt you to impulse buy garbage you don’t need.
3 Tips to Winning at the Grocery Store
- Always make a list based on actual healthy meals you plan to cook, a few healthy snacks, and “just in case” foods that can be made quickly and still keep you on track. Commit that you will not buy anything that isn’t on it unless it’s a “helper” to a meal you already have planned or a household necessity. No impulse buys!
- Stick to the outside edges of the store. You probably have a favorite grocery store and know right where everything is. Put your list in order from the back of the store to the front, by department, and don’t spend too much time in the middle “dry goods” aisles. Those are the biggest junk aisles! Stay away from the bakery and deli. Frozen food is filled with temptation so avoid it if you can.
- Check off your list and get out. Don’t wander around. Shop, pay, and get out. If you are a person who is just starting to eat right, the longer you stay in a grocery store, the more tempted you’ll be by their “ready-made pizzas” in the hot case right beside the register. The more the bakery treats will be justified “this one time.” It’s a slippery slope and there is unhappiness at the bottom.
Now, I want you to know that healthy meals don’t have to be complex.
I sat down and thought about the last dozen times I’ve been to the grocery store and determined the top ten items I always buy.
I’m going to share them with you so you have an idea. I’ll tell you that the number one ingredient is something I can make in 12 ways and be happy every time!
Alex’s Weekly Grocery List
- Eggs (2 dozen organic)
- Butter (1 pound organic)
- Beef – steaks or ground (grass fed)
- Fresh arugula and spinach (for salad, a side, served cold or hot)
- Fruits and vegetables in season (I get as many of these as I’m in the mood for)
- Romaine (this replaced bread for me)
- Avocados (this replaces mayo in most of my recipes)
- Wild-caught seafood (frozen filets are available year-round)
- Cheese (eaten with fruit or over eggs, depending on type)
- Sausage and / or bacon (uncured, nitrate / nitrite free, and pastured – is critical)
Naturally, I buy other ingredients but these are truly standard items for me. They may be slightly more expensive (and I do mean slight) but the quality makes it worth it.
I always recommend you choose organic when you can to lower your pesticide and heavy metal load but I know the options aren’t that great in some areas of the country.
Next time, I’ll tell you what I actually do with these ingredients. I cook twice a day sometimes. Other times, I’ll cook enough for 3 to 4 meals. So I make sure every meal is healthy, delicious, and easier than you might think.
If you try my way of eating out, I’m sure you’re going to start to feel better than you have in weeks and I’m sure you’re going to feel even better in another year.
Join me in the healthy meal revolution!