Healthy eating does not have to be difficult or complicated. As an advocate for healthy living, understanding food and basic nutrients is important to me. I believe that to change your body (and physical health in general), you must start with your mind first, then your food, and THEN your exercise. You can’t outwork a bad diet, and you’ll never enjoy a lifestyle of healthy eating until your mindset is right about food.
Rather than re-creating the wheel, I’ve simply gathered some resources from the MyFitnessPal Blog that does a great job of simplifying the basics of healthy eating. I like these linked articles because they explain the importance of often persecuted food groups and defends my personal opinion that eating a balanced variety of foods is better than any restrictive “diet-of-the-month” that requires you to cut all carbs or fats. Take some time to read these links and educate yourself. Consider this your crash course in healthy eating.
Want your family to eat healthier? It all starts with a healthy shopping list. If your cupboards and fridge contain mostly healthy foods, everyone in your family is likely to eat better. If the junk food is not in your house, you can’t eat it. Duh.
Surprisingly, healthier eating can lower your grocery bills, too. It’s true that ready-to-eat meals and packaged foods save time, but they can cost more and some have too much salt and fat. I was skeptical of this claim like you are, until I tried it myself. If you want real, sustainable change in your health, you’ve got to get the food part right. The good news is that it’s not that hard to do.
Follow these tips to get the most nutrition bang for your buck.
Stock Up With Staples
These pantry basics will give you the foundation you need for better family nutrition at home.
– Fresh, frozen, canned, or dried fruits and vegetables
Canned: Look for low-sodium vegetables and no-added-sugar fruits. We use a lot of canned green beans. Warmed up with whole wheat pasta and some lean meat for a super simple meal.
Frozen: Use what you need for a meal, then put the rest of the bag back in the freezer. We use a ton of frozen mixed veggies. I like to nuke the frozen veggies with raw broccoli. It steams the broccoli perfectly in 2 mins. Added to some pre-cooked chicken breast and whole wheat pasta or seasoned sweat potato chunks for a delicious healthy meal.
Dried: Check the label for and avoid added sugar, especially on fruits. I like raisins and dates. They are super sweet on their own to help satisfy my sweet tooth.
– Whole grains, such as whole wheat bread, brown rice, and non-instant oatmeal
Steel-cut oatmeal costs just pennies per ounce and is a good source of fiber. I’ve cut a lot of bread out of my diet lately, but I still go for super cheap Quaker Old Fashioned Rolled Oats. No need to pay for the fancy stuff.
– Beans, lentils, and peas
Packed with protein and other nutrients, they’re a great way to stretch your food dollar. Save! Use them in everything from soups to chili to burritos. Packaged dried beans cost less but take some planning to cook. Low-sodium canned beans are another option. Rinse canned beans to lower sodium even more.
– Nuts like almonds, pecans, pistachios, and walnuts
– Lean meats, poultry, fish, and eggs We eat lots of chicken breast, natural deli turkey, 93% lean ground turkey or beef, and eggs. Lots of eggs. So cheap and filling when mixed with veggies in a stir fry or omelette.
– Low-fat or nonfat milk, yogurt, cheese, and other dairy products
Children under age 2 should have whole milk unless otherwise directed by your doctor. Yes, you can eat cheese. Real cheese though. Velveeta is not real cheese. Read the ingredients. We like Sargento Cheese. Yogurt and cottage cheese is tricky. Read the ingredients.
Buy Healthy Snacks
How to keep your kids from going overboard on chips, cookies, and other snacks? Make it easy to find the healthy stuff. We’ve learned that kids will adjust to the food you have. Don’t assume you must have junk food snacks for the kids because that’s all they will eat. You are in charge.
Keep these healthy options on the center shelf of the fridge: (this list is on our fridge)
baby carrots and low-fat ranch dip
And these on the counter:
dried fruit and nut mix
whole-grain crackers and peanut butter
3 Surefire Healthy Grocery Shopping Rules
To keep your food choices on track with your family’s health goals, follow these three basic rules as you cruise the supermarket aisles.
Don’t shop hungry. Ever notice what winds up in your cart when you shop with hunger pangs? Eat a nutritious snack beforehand so the munchies don’t take control of your shopping.
Make a healthy shopping list. Even if you know what you need, a list saves time and prevents impulse buys. Organize your list into sections according to the store’s layout. Shop for the healthy items first, picking up the treats last. We use the Kroger ClickList to automate our shopping. When you shop from home via internet, you are far less likely to add items to your cart that aren’t on the list. Saves buckets of money!
Hug the walls — most of the time. Stay focused. Avoid parts of your grocery store with the unhealthy choices. The edges of the store (the perimeter) tend to have the healthiest choices. Detour down center aisles for beans, whole-grain pastas and cereals, and canned and frozen vegetables and fruit. Skip the aisles with chips and other temptations, or get only the items on your list. When you’re grocery shopping with kids, the temptations can be especially distracting.
Let us know your healthy grocery shopping tricks to save time, money, and sanity.
SOURCES: University Cooperative Extension Service, Iowa State University: “Convenience costs;” “Snacks for healthy kids;” “Stretch your protein dollar;” “10 tips for saving at the grocery store;” “Ways to save money in 2010;” and “What’s a good buy?”American Dietetic Association: “Raising healthy eaters from preschool to high school” and “Save time and money at the grocery store.”The University of Maine Cooperative Extension: “Winning ways to grocery shop with young children.”WebMD Health News: “Baby Milk Recommendations Changed.”
Ah, the New Year. Everyone is talking about the tricks to making this your best year yet. But “have the best year yet” is a pretty lofty resolution that probably gets ditched before Groundhog Day.Am I right, or am I right?Instead, why not resolve to make small changes that add up to a great year – starting with eating healthier – cuz it seems everyone vows to eat better in January.
Here are 10 healthy-eating resolutions to help you feel and look your best, no joke. The great news is they’re all easy — so you can choose one or all 10! Regardless, I promise even one small change from this rock star list will lead to a healthier you.
1. DITCH THE PACKAGED PRODUCTS
The first (and best!) way to clean up your diet is to ditch the packaged products lurking in the pantry. That’s right, the ones that are full of all of those chemical preservatives and fillers you can’t pronounce. Read the ingredients list and not just the nutrition label. Ingredients is king when it comes to healthy eating. Cookies, crackers, canned soups, instant grain mixes and microwave meals: Pitch them all and start fresh with a clean pantry.
Now that your pantry has been cleaned of packaged products, you’ll need to restock with healthy grains, herbs, spices and ingredients that will help you transform all that fresh, seasonal produce into delicious meals! Great olive oil, lemons, whole grains, legumes and a nice loaf of whole-grain bread are good places to start!
3. DRINK MORE WATER
Healthy eating means healthy drinking too. A super simple way to keep yourself full and reduce the portions you eat is to start each meal with a large glass of water. Many of us don’t drink enough water anyway, and there are so many health benefits to being well hydrated. Substitute your daily soda with water and watch your body change! You will feel better, have more energy, and you will lose weight with this one thing.
4. BUY A RICE COOKER, SLOW COOKER OR AN INSTANT POT
If you’re still making everything on the stove top a la minute, you’re missing out on a great healthy eating hack (and therefore missing out on a nearly-no-brainer way to make healthy meals). Pick up a rice cooker, slow cooker or Instant Pot and completely revolutionize the way you cook and eat this year. The model you choose depends on how you eat; slow cookers (recipes) are the least precise of the bunch, but high-end rice cookers have functions for every grain you can imagine wanting to cook and they’ll cook it precisely while you’re out playing, working or getting in your workout. (Your rice cooker will even cook oatmeal perfectly while you’re sleeping so you wake up to a delicious breakfast!) Instant Pots are great, too, and cook entire meals in pressure-cooker style. Regardless of the model you choose, picking one of these counter top helpers sets your healthy eating on the right track.
5. EAT FOR COLOR
Having great ingredients on hand is key to making and eating healthy, delicious meals but pairing the foods together to make them nutritious and balanced is also vital. Aim to get 4–5 different colors in your bowl at each meal. It’s easier than you think, and certainly more fun. By adding colorful foods to each plate, you’ll add interesting flavors and appealing textures — and each of those ingredients brings a whole lot of nutrition to your meal. Crunchy purple cabbage, brilliant orange pumpkin, vibrant and fresh cilantro and crunchy black sesame seeds are all great examples of ingredients that might not be in your repertoire but guarantee you’ll never have one of those boring green salads again! And, if you find yourself in a pinch, you can always add acolorful smoothie to your lunchbox or breakfast spread.
6. BYOL (BRING YOUR OWN LUNCH)
Bringing your own lunch is another super-simple way to guarantee a great, healthy meal in the middle of the day. It’s a money saver, too. Practice the eat-for-color rule above, and prepare yourself a little mini-picnic with great leftovers from last night’s dinner. It doesn’t take much more than a bit of forethought to produce a great packed lunch. By bringing your own meal, prepared in your own kitchen, you’re doing something good for your body and your wallet.
7. BATCH COOK FOR THE WEEK
This year, make a vow to have leftovers. Really! And, promise yourself that every week you’ll spend a little time preparing them — all at once. By picking a day each week to batch cook for the week ahead, you’re setting yourself up for a week of healthy meals. Select a protein, grain and several colorful vegetables to prep and have on hand so meals come together in a snap. This makes colorful eating and lunch packing a breeze, and means you’re never feeling left in a lurch when it comes to dinner.
8. MAKE BREAKFAST AHEAD
When life gets crazy, breakfast is the easiest meal to miss. But, we all know it’s also the most important meal to eat. Eating a balanced breakfast helps keep your metabolism running and is vital to loading up your system with healthy nutrients you’ll use throughout the day to work, play or exercise. Without them, your body and brain get sluggish and you lose motivation and focus. By making breakfast ahead in Mason jars to take with you as you rush out the door in the morning, you’re making sure you never head into a nutrient deficit, and instead head into the day feeling ready to face it! I love having mydaily dose of dense nutrition for breakfast every morning. It’s technically made ahead, takes only 2 minutes to mix, and keeps me full until lunch.
9. MAKE SALAD FOR DINNER
Even if you batch-cook and fill your pantry and refrigerator with beautiful, healthy ingredients, there will be nights when you realize you just really didn’t think about dinner. For nights like that, keep a bunch of kale or spinach on hand and make it your salad for dinner night. Even just once a week, you’ll find that this lighter, fresh, healthy, balanced meal is a nice way to re-balance yourself. Alternatively, you can have breakfast for dinner to mix it up.
10. SWAP YOUR SWEETENERS
No healthy eating strategy should be without healthy treats, so vow to swap out refined sugars for healthier options at every meal. Think about the source of the sugar and consider using maple syrup or honey instead of refined sugar. And, when you’re reaching for dessert, try having fresh fruits and antioxidant-rich dark chocolates instead of their super-sweetened counterparts.
Special thanks to Lentine Alexis for doing the heavy lifting on this article and for my friends at 90/10 Nutrition for helpful links that make this article a great resource.
Even though I researched Shakeology’s ingredients and thought they were amazing, for a long time, I was into making my own real food smoothies.
Due to budget constraints, I thought that making my own smoothies from scratch was the best I could do, and the best I could afford. They were healthy all right, but they didn’t taste very good!
But when I decided to take a chance on the 100% money back, bottom of the bag guarantee, I ordered a Challenge Pack, which came with a 30-day supply of Shakeology, and signed up as a Team Beachbody Coach to get the biggest discount.
A short time later, Angie appreciated the many benefits of Shakeology so she needed her own supply if we were to both drink it daily. Now we buy 2 bags of Shakeo every month (Vegan Chocolate and Vegan Tropical Strawberry), and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
I know what you’re thinking: Dang, that’s expensive, so how can I swing it?
Well, with just a few tweaks to our spending habits we found it extremely doable. Here’s how we do it…
How I Can Afford TWO bags of Shakeology Every Month
Things we DO NOT buy:
• We DO NOT buy fancy coffee drinks. This sounds crazy to some of you who “need” coffee like air, but we don’t do coffee at all. This is easy for us. It is possible to wean yourself off coffee. Take baby steps; reduce the drive thru trips at first, and pay yourself for the money you save. That jar will add up fast. You can replace your foo-foo coffee with a much cheaper home brew. Ask yourself why you need coffee. Is it the taste of coffee (and all the sweetners that go with it), or is the the caffeine shot? Either way, the Cafe Latte Shakeo has you covered.
• We DO NOT buy gum, candy, cookies, snackie things, or desserts. It wouldn’t make any sense to care enough about our health that we buy the best shake on the planet to nourish ourselves with and then turn around and tear down our health by filling our body with junk food. Truth be told, you will occasionally find treats in our house – for special occasions, for Brandon, etc., we are human after all. But we are quite picky about the ingredients of our treats (whole grain tortilla chips, Kind bars, fruit popsicles, etc.)
• We DO NOT eat out very often. Some months, we eat out twice (or order in), and other months, we eat out zero. We buy good food from the store and make good meals at home.
• We DO NOT subscribe to cable TV. We watch so many things online. We haven’t paid for cable in 15 years and don’t miss it at all.
• We DO NOT have a fancy phone or expensive plan. Angie’s phone is 3 generations old, and I’ve never owned a phone other than what is provided for work.
• We DO NOT have a gym membership. Instead, we work out right in the living room, at the touch of the remote, with Beachbody On Demand programs that are created by some of the best trainers on the planet. Plus, it costs me ZERO gallons of gas getting to and from my workouts.
• We DO NOT buy extra vitamins and minerals. Because Shakeology delivers dense superfood ingredients, and with our healthy eating strategy, we do not need additional supplements. Note: I’m not saying you can immediately quit ALL vitamins/ supplements recommended by your doctor to treat your special circumstances, but it’s very possible that you can!
Why I Think Shakeology Is a Great Deal
• Shakeology helps curb my junk food cravings.*† Because it’s so nutritionally dense, Shakeology gives my body what it needs in a form that can be easily absorbed. Plus, it’s so incredibly delicious that it feels like I’m having a treat. It’s the best of both worlds!
• Shakeology is super convenient. Just add it to water and it mixes easily. Or take 2 minutes and blend it with ice, banana, frozen fruit, peanut butter, or whatever suits you (find tons of delicious recipes here) to make a super filling meal. That’s how we roll.
• Shakeology is packed with nutrient dense real food. I used to buy separate “superfoods” to add to my smoothies. Then I realized that I was spending way more on my separate ingredients per month, even from discount sources, than I would spend on Shakeology.
Compared to what I used to spend, I’m actually saving money by purchasing Shakeology!
Why My Body Loves This Stuff
Before becoming a Shakeology fan, when I looked into the ingredients of other shakes there was always something in them that made it a compromise for my health goals.
I have a digestive health issue, so there are some ingredients I have to watch out for. Shakeology is the first shake that is filled with ingredients that are ALL the ones that I can have. I drink the Plant-Based Vegan flavors and have been thriving on them.
During the time that I thought I could not afford Shakeology, even though I was very impressed with it, I still thought I didn’t need it. But once I took inventory on the benefits I was experiencing (regular digestion, less bloating, more energy & mental clarity, improved skin, boosted immunity, etc.) I realized that I was not getting this result from all the other homemade tricks I made, or the cheap powders and potions I tried. I was convinced that Shakeology is all that I was looking for, and more.
And yes, I drink it every single day! It’s “bottom of the blender good.”
My Secret Weapon
I believe that Shakeology affects my body in the best possible way when I drink it every day. If I only drank it every other day, my results would not be as great. If I only drank it a couple times a week, my results would be even less.
I get great results because I drink it every single day. It’s my secret weapon. It wasn’t until I had been using it every day for a while that I realized what a difference Shakeology could make in my life, and I can say with 100% confidence that it works.
It is so powerful, simply because it is a blend of some of the most densely nutritious ingredients that money can buy — and to me, it’s worth it. I am worth it. My health is worth it.
Ready to take the next step?
Then set yourself up for success with a Beachbody Challenge Pack: You get Shakeology, a full year of unlimited workouts on Beachbody On Demand, and a free Team Beachbody Coach (me) who can help support and motivate you to stay on track. Start here!
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
†Vitamins C, B6, and B12 contribute to normal energy-yielding metabolism.
These days there are so many so-called superfoods and labels on packaged foods that it’s hard to know what’s really healthy and what’s hype. Why does a green juice need to have “vegan” on it or a salsa need to say “gluten free,” when both foods are naturally those things? “On one hand, ‘buzzwords’ definitely work as far as traction and traffic go — they can help get someone to read an article that may be very helpful and informative, and they are what everyone is Googling,” says Keri Glassman, RD, founder of Nutritious Life. “But it’s important to keep in mind that many times a buzzword is just that and you need to read beyond the word.” This is especially true because not all buzzwords have a standard definition, nor do they mean a certain food is healthy. “One of the things that happens is that they create a health halo around a particular food. We think, ‘Oh, that’s going to be better because it’s a non-GMO gummy bear,” says Leslie Bonci, MPH, RD, owner of Active Eating Advice. “So then we overlook the fact that it’s still a cookie or a cheese puff, and we consume unnecessary calories and spend more than we normally would.” Be especially wary of these seven buzzwords dietitians are sick of hearing:
While it may seem as though, ‘Duh, who wants to eat something unnatural?’, this term isn’t defined by the FDA, so from a packaged food standpoint, it can really be anything, Glassman says.
“Clean means free of what?” Bonci asks. “This is not a term that provides any useful or helpful direction.”
We can all admit this term is overused. First it was acai, then it was kale and then quinoa. Now almost anything gets labeled a superfood. “What makes one food more super than another?” says Bonci, noting that different foods are high in different nutrients, plus a lot of the claims about superfoods are just that — claims, not proven scientific facts. “Nobody can only eat acai berries and call it a day,” Bonci says. “And you’re not jeopardizing your health if you’re not eating superfoods.”
“Research has shown that fat is our friend,” Glassman says. “And it’s well known now that when fat is removed, other ingredients like sugar are added to make up for it.” That added sugar often makes fat-free or low-fat foods have just as many calories as the regular version. Plus, fats help the body absorb many vitamins in addition to keeping you full.
Bonci goes a step further and says to avoid a label saying a food is “free” of anything. “It doesn’t mean it’s any better, and oftentimes the foods never had that ingredient anyway,” she says. “It’s one thing if you need to watch out for gluten or dairy, but we have transcended that. There’s gluten-free water.”
“Here again, foods that would never have GMO ingredients in the first place get slapped with this label because food companies know many consumers are concerned about GMOs,” Bonci says. There are only eight genetically modified crops commercially available in the US: papaya, sugar beets, corn, soybeans, cotton, canola, alfalfa and squash. If none of those foods are on the ingredients list, then of course it’s GMO-free.
7. SIMPLY MADE
“Nobody is going to put ‘complicated’ on the label,” Bonci says, adding that “anything in a package had to go through some processing.” That doesn’t make the food any better or worse per se. Plus, “you don’t see ‘simply made’ on an apple, but it grows on a tree from the ground,” Bonci says.
About the Author: Brittany Risher Brittany is a writer, editor and digital strategist specializing in health and lifestyle content. She loves experimenting with new vegan recipes and believes hummus is a food group. To stay sane from working too hard, she turns to yoga, strength training, meditation and scotch.