Saturday, January 11, 2014

Eating Better in the New Year

Welcome to the first post in my series, "Doing Better in the New Year!" I don't really make New Year's resolutions, but I do like to take the opportunity at the beginning of a shiny, fresh new year to think about what I'd like to change or do better this year than last year. It's nice to set out in the new year with a few goals in front of me. One of the things I plan to do better in 2014 is eat better.

We don't actually eat that badly as it is. When it was just the two of us and we still had 25-year old metabolisms, I didn't really think that much about what we ate. We just kind of ate what we wanted, ate out when we wanted, and just didn't worry about it. All of that changed when Carsen was born. That's when I started paying attention not only to healthier options, but started buying more organic foods, started reading more information on healthy ways of eating and the latest research on nutrition, and watching out for things that really shouldn't be in our diet at all like artificial ingredients.

Three years later we've made a lot of progress and are eating much better than we used to, but there's always room for improvement. And even though we've learned a lot about cleaner eating, some of those habits can be hard to kick {choc-a-holic, right here}. We're a long way from perfect, but I'm a strong believer in taking baby steps to make a goal achievable. Changing small things at a time and conquering those tough habits one by one takes time but helps make the effort more manageable and less overwhelming. If I woke up one day and couldn't eat any sweets, carbs, dairy, or anything from a package, I might have a panic attack.

To be clear, eating better for me does not mean cutting out entire food groups. In fact, I find that as soon as I make something off-limits I want it even more than I did before. Instead, I try to focus on what I should eat, and still allow myself to eat the not-so-good stuff if I want it, just not all the time {kind of like an 80/20 rule, but maybe even more like 90/10}. I like knowing that I had the option but chose something better. For example, instead of making cereal totally off-limits for breakfast, I'll try to eat eggs with vegetables, or a fruit & veggie smoothie most days of the week. I find if the new options are interesting enough {eggs baked into tomatoes, yum!} and don't require too much work, then I'll be excited to have them every day. It's certainly easy enough to scramble or hard boil a big batch of eggs on Sunday to eat during the week and I'm definitely going to try some new smoothies like this one or one of these, and I really like this idea. I'd love to get the hubby and kids on board with some more vegetables and I think smoothies might be just the trick. Plus I can add chia seeds and other goodies that they'll never know about ;) There will always be times that I'm in a hurry or just really want a bowl of cereal. For those times I'll keep healthier cereal options in the pantry.

Kale & brussels sprouts salad - don't worry, it has bacon
When it comes to lunch, I often rely on the good ole turkey sandwich. It's quick, easy, doesn't require cooking, and simple enough to keep the ingredients on hand. However, it's not so great for you. Lunchmeat is processed and full of sodium, and bread is something {in my opinion} we should all try to eat a little less of. Again, I wouldn't swear off sandwiches, but for the every day I need to aim for a better lunch plan. A little bit of Pinterest perusing and I'm thinking about adding things like this, this, or this to my standard rotation. I also like a good cobb salad but it can be hard to find a salad dressing that isn't total junk. I found this recipe for a honey mustard dressing that I'm going to try out though and see if that can help keep me in the salad habit for lunch time! Of course, I'm sure I'll still have a turkey sandwich from time to time among other things.

Dinner has always been my easiest meal to plan. I usually just pick a meat, prepare it some way we like, and have a vegetable for the side. Or if we're going meatless, as we do for half of our meals {actually half, not just figure-of-speech half}, then it's usually beans, quinoa, or eggs as our protein source instead of meat. I don't believe in fake meat substitutes like tofu.

Coconut Cream Larabars - My Whole Food Life
Snacks... are my weakness. I have a sweet tooth. Actually it's more like a chocolate tooth. If I try eating an apple instead of chocolate, I end up eating 3 or 4 other things too because, really, an apple doesn't satisfy a chocolate craving. I have found that energy bars like Clif bars or Larabars do the trick since they taste like a treat but are also pretty satisfying. The problem is they're expensive, and you have to watch the ingredients in some brands/varieties. They're really meant to be more like a small meal than a snack, so they're higher in calories than you'd want a regular snack to be- another caveat. Thankfully, there's a great blog I read called My Whole Food Life which is full of recipes for all kinds of wonderful dishes, including homemade energy bars. I've made her most popular Coconut Cream Larabars before, but it was before I had my food processor so the texture didn't turn out. I wanted to wait until I had my food processor to try again, and I just got one for Christmas! I'm really excited about trying some more of her recipes like this one, this one, and this one to keep our snacks healthy and clean. Just to clarify, we don't currently snack on chocolate all the time. Carsen and I both love string cheese, cheddar, raisins, a variety of fruits, and nuts. I try to stick to those {or something similar} for the most part so she develops healthy snack habits. It's me personally who needs to have a better alternative when I'm tempted to grab a handful of m&ms!

Are you eating better for 2014? Trying to better yourself in other ways? In addition to eating better, I'm also trying to parent better, workout better, and better our home in 2014! Stay tuned for those upcoming posts and some others in this series :)

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