small steps to eating well

april 12, 2013

gorgeous vegetables from Tomten Farm in Green Bay, Virginia

gorgeous vegetables from Tomten Farm in Green Bay ,Virginia

We all want to eat better, and we all want to eat well.  When we feel the need to impose order on our eating habits, we tend to adopt the all-or-nothing approach :”Starting today, no processed or fast foods, seven servings of fruits and vegetables daily and no eating after 7PM!”

This shotgun approach may set us up for failure since, being humans, we slack off and indulge, inviting the inevitable avalanche of guilt and defeat.  Perhaps we can modify our sensibilities by taking small steps.  You make small changes, you get comfortable with them as they become routine and then you are ready for more small changes.

Small is good.

Herewith  a few – only three! – small steps to get us started.  This is a topic we will revisit  as we  add more baby steps to our plan.  I’m right there with you, as my plan to eat well is ever-changing and ever-improving.  Just remember : no guilt.  Be your own best friend and recognize that you are trying and you are capable of change.  Pat yourself on the back for your many successes and if you temporarily stray, think of Eating Well as a patiently turning merry go round you can jump back on with the next meal.

Eat Breakfast When you awaken, your body has been fasting and needs energy to kickstart your brain and other vital organs.  Meeting the day’s challenges requires more than a caffeine boost – you need food!  So many of us have trained ourselves to ignore hunger in the morning.  Or we grab a quick breakfast pastry  and call it a meal.

Your breakfasts don’t have to be elaborate.  A sandwich makes a terrific breakfast, as does a smoothie, especially if you add handfuls of vegetables like kale, carrot or spinach.  Oh She Glows has wonderful smoothie recipes.

If you like eggs, you could make the super quick version of my breakfast tostadas by making the corn tortilla shells days in advance, performing a fast microwave scramble of your lovely locally raised eggs or using hard boiled eggs and topping the whole with high quality pre-made salsa or hot sauce.  Packets of breakfast quinoa with toasted almonds, cranberries and chia seeds defrost easily overnight and may be enjoyed with milk or solo, warmed or chilled.  Filling and healthy, too.

The trick is to eat something (preferably something with a balance of protein, fat and carbohydrate) to start your day and prevent mid-morning slump and jittery consumption of snacks until your next meal.

perfect brown eggs from Harmony Hill Farm in Glen Allen, Virginia

perfect brown eggs from Harmony Hill Farm in Glen Allen, Virginia

Keep it Local Our monthly neighborhood breakfast group has one rule : no chain restaurants and only locally owned businesses.  We like to support our neighbors and fellow city dwellers.  Keeping your food dollars local helps local businesses grow and thrive.  Buying local foods means enjoying just-picked produce in season and at the peak of its nutritional value.  If your local farmer uses responsible and/or organic practices, even better.  But I almost always opt for local over organic if my only organic choice resides at the grocery store: organic goods may have traveled thousands of miles to adorn the shelves, and time robs produce of flavor, aroma and nutrients.

You are in luck if your area hosts local neighborhood markets like those patronized by satisfied RIchmond shoppers : Ellwood Thompson’s , Little House Green Grocery and Good Foods Grocery.

Farmer’s markets offer a kaleidoscope of local gems.  Many are open year round.  Short on time? Sign up for CSA shares and pick up your weekly bounty or have it delivered.  If you have a green thumb, growing your own is an option, even if your only effort is herbs grown on a sunny windowsill.  Local garden centers (like my own neighborhood Azalea Garden Center) tend to carry that which grows best in your area, and will give personalized advice to make your plant investments survive and thrive.

herb seedlings from Virginia's Heath Farm at Byrd House Renegade Market

herb seedlings from Virginia’s Heath Farm at the Byrd House Renegade Market

Eat Less Processed Food Notice I am not advocating the removal of all processed food from your diet.  The operative word is less.  Most of don’t make our own crackers, and even if you purchase the whole grain variety made without preservatives, this is still a processed food.  Tomatoes – whole food.  Ketchup, even the organic brands without high fructose corn syrup – processed food.  A life without ketchup and crackers is sad, indeed.  So, within reason, opt for less processing of your whole foods.  Fresh fruits instead of canned in sugar syrup.  Home breaded chicken pieces instead of frozen battered nuggets.  Real cheese instead of cheese products.  If you dread the dramatic absence of  your favorite foods from your pantry and fridge, remember the small steps approach.  Two clients of The Good Eats Company personal chef service recently gave up powdered nondairy coffee creamer and replaced it with half-and-half.  They are slowly, but surely, replacing processed items with the real thing, and they report feeling better mentally and physically.

Small changes are easier to execute, and allow you to continue along the right path to eating well.

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