The idea of “clean eating” sounds great, but the reality can be intimidating. When you are used to processed foods, it can be difficult to make the switch to healthy eating. The body becomes physically addicted to high levels of sugar and salt, and it can be a challenge to change our normal rotation of “go to” foods.
Why make the transition to eating real food? A healthy body is a prepared body — ready to make quick decisions, ready to protect home and family, ready to move as far and as fast as necessary. Many preppers have rooms full of stored food and prepper supplies, but they’ve neglected their most important asset: their own bodies.
How to make the switch to eat real food
There are two ways to introduce healthier foods into a diet. One is to replace foods you currently eat and trying to stick as close to your usual foods as possible, and the other is to change how you eat entirely, making a new routine with new foods. Both of these methods have their benefits and drawbacks, so I have found that a combination of both works best for me.
For example, if you usually eat boxed cereal for breakfast, try replacing it with fruit and cottage cheese, yogurt and granola, or muesli. These foods are higher in protein and whole grains and lower in sugars and fast burning carbs.
You will feel more energy for a longer time, but since your body may be physically used to a sugar rush first thing in the morning, you may find yourself craving something sweet. This is when a break in routine can help, and instead of trying to force yourself to hold off til lunch, or cracking and reaching for the chocolate, try having a piece of fresh fruit to hold you over.
Remember, that all simple carbohydrates, such as bread, doughnuts, fruit juice, and most packaged cereals will cause a spike in blood sugar levels. Now is the perfect time to begin deleting them from your diet.
Tips for making the transition easier
Fresh Fruit Tip
Prep your fruit ahead of time. It may seem like a pain or unnecessary, but you will thank yourself later. To me, a cut apple or peach is much more appetizing than having to deal with a drippy, messy, whole one, and cut fruit can even be eaten with a fork if you are busy with work.
At lunchtime, instead of processed lunch meats which can contain unwanted sodium and nitrites/nitrates, try using leftovers from dinner to make your own sandwiches on whole grain bread or put the sandwich fixin’s on top of a big salad. We make our own chicken salad by cutting up leftover pieces of roast chicken or chicken breast. If you make a roast beef or pork roast, try slicing off thin pieces to use in a sandwich the next day. Take the extra time to add lettuce and tomato to your sandwiches, you’ll need less meat and will get an extra serving of fruit and veg.
You can also vary the “carnivore” routine and make a lunch of hummus and crackers, avocado on toast, or peanut butter and banana.
Sandwich Bread Tip
If you can’t get used to the taste of regular whole wheat, try pumpernickel or 12 grain. An even healthier choice is sprouted bread, such as the Ezekiel brand.
Instead of drinking sugary soda during the day, try homemade iced tea, which is easy to make ahead of time, or cut up fruit and put in a pitcher of water. I love to cut limes and put them in seltzer for a fizzy drink that is healthier than soda. A fruit shrub is another type of healthy drink you can make with a variety of different fruits. Most restaurants will serve seltzer or sparkling water if you are looking for something more interesting than water but want to skip out on the soda.
For an afternoon snack, instead of a bag of chips, try dehydrated fruits or vegetables. You’ll still get that snacky “crunch” without all the MSG and other scary ingredients. Just make sure to read the labels and beware of “natural flavorings” as well as eating too much of the dried fruit with all their sugar. A handful of nuts is another healthy option. Almonds, in particular, are high in protein and won’t give you that bloated feeling from too much sodium.
Homemade dinners can be a pain, especially when you take the time to use fresh vegetables and wholesome ingredients that are not prepared ahead of time. Eat for what your body needs. If you need iron, incorporate red meat. If you want to lower your cholesterol, eat lean meats like chicken breast and ground turkey.
Do yourself a favor when you make healthy recipes and double the batch so you’ll have enough to freeze for another night or for lunches later in the week. Doing this will not only keep you off of frozen pizza and takeout, but it saves time and money in the long run.
Here are some “Don’ts” to make the transition to healthier eating easier:
- Don’t go to the health food store and buy lots of expensive food that you have never tried, hoping you’ll like it.
- Don’t try to replace items you usually use with their “low fat, high ingredient” counterparts (eg. switching butter for margarine, or coke for diet coke). Many of these foods that may seem healthier but are not actually good for you. They contain many harmful ingredients like fake sugars and hydrogenated oils.
- Don’t force your family to eat food they hate. If your husband hates ground turkey, there are other healthy meats you can try instead.
- Don’t buy the lie that healthier versions of your usual recipes will taste just as good. I made this mistake with whole-wheat pasta and couldn’t figure out how to use it for a long time because I was using it as a replacement for white pasta. Whole-wheat pasta has an entirely different flavor and so I needed to find new recipes that worked well with that flavor.
All in all, you’ll have to find the way that works for you, but incorporating fresh foods and healthier choices into your lifestyle is not as hard as it seems. In my house, the “big change” did not happen all at once. I started incorporating fruits and vegetables into our meals, experimenting with healthier options, and in about one summer we had made a complete lifestyle change!
Some websites you may find helpful
Guest post by Michelle Brown.