Favorite {easy} healthy eating tips

I am not a health food expert. In fact, almost everything I know about healthy eating has been learned from my future-MD-could-be-a-certified-nutritionist-younger sister. Jenny has definitely done her research about food and how it affects the body, and she strongly believes that eating well will lead to a longer life, or at least a higher quality of life. I know this because her eating reflects this belief. She eats so stinkin’ healthy it will make you sick and guilt-ridden in those times when you decide to pound four chocolate chip cookies at once. Because everyone else does that, right? Seriously, though, she has educated me so much on food, and last night I found myself sharing some of these healthy eating tips with a friend as we were bemoaning the busyness of ministry-life with young kids and confessing the temptation to feed them the easiest, cheapest, processed junk available.

Since most people are living in the rat-race, and most people care about good nutrition for themselves and their kids, I thought it might be worth sharing a few things I’ve learned here. Quick disclaimer, though: First, I do not follow these tips 100% of the time. Clearly, I love sugar {see cookie reference above} and allow myself splurges. Honestly, I think that’s the only way to maintain an overall healthy lifestyle. You have to allow some splurges. I try to keep my splurges outside of our home (restaurants, social events, etc), so that I’m not keeping the bad stuff at the house. I don’t buy any sweets or sodas to keep at home, but I have them sometimes when I’m out.  Second, learning to eat healthy is progressive. I am constantly learning new things about food and slowly trying to wean us away from the things that are bad for our bodies and make sure I’m buying plenty of the things that our bodies need.  It may not happen overnight, but everyone can make small strides. That said, here are my top ten favorite health tips {currently}.

1. Eat healthier starches. Most of the “white” starches immediately turn to sugar in your system and raise your blood sugar. I don’t buy white bread, white rice, or white pasta. I look for pastas and breads that say 100% whole wheat or whole grain (nothing less than 100%), and I make sure that the first ingredient isn’t “wheat flour” or “enriched wheat flour,” which ultimately means white flour. We try to eat lots of good starches like brown rice, quinoa and beans. Yes, my two-year-old knows and enjoys quinoa. Start ’em young on the right things, and they will already have an acquired taste for these good things when they’re old. I eat sweet potatoes rather than white potatoes as well.

2. Use fruit to sweeten oatmeal. I used to buy the artificially flavored instant oatmeal. Now, I buy the Simple Truth (Kroger’s organic brand) plain oatmeal with no sugar added. I still buy the instant (steel-cut or rolled oats are healthier) for the sake of convenience. I mix the oatmeal with a banana, blueberries, and some milk or water BEFORE cooking. Then, I microwave the oatmeal. The fruit sweetens the oatmeal without me having to add any sugar or other type of sweetener. I make this for the boys a lot.

3. Use “Fit” spray to wash produce. 41Bm01oscBL._SS500_   We eat lots of produce and can’t afford to buy organic. Fit claims to “remove 98% more dirt, pesticides, waxes, people-handling residues and other contaminants versus washing with water alone.” Of course, I don’t know for certain this is true, but my mom did tell me that she watched a special on the news that said Fit removes {harmless} fecal particles that remain on spinach/lettuce (yes, even the pre-washed bags! Yuck!) .

4. Make your own mac-n-cheese substitute for kids’ meals. For a while, I bought Luke the Velveeta instant mac-n-cheese packs (just because they are super easy and he likes them). For a less processed option, I now boil 100% whole grain/whole wheat pasta and grate cheese on it. I zap it in the microwave for a few seconds to melt the cheese. Easy!

5.Green Smoothies. It’s easy for me to get enough fruit in my diet each day, but I’m a little less motivated with my veggies. Green smoothies are a great way to sneak some greens into my diet. I usually use spinach for smoothies, but Kale is a good option as well. I blend spinach, a banana, strawberries and/or blueberries, and some almond butter,  Greek yogurt, or protein powder to sweeten it. The possibilities for what you can put in a green smoothie are endless, and the best part is that you can’t taste the greens! It tastes just like a fruit smoothie.

6. Look for normal kid options with “no sugar added.” My boys eat lots of applesauce, and I make sure I buy the natural applesauce with “no sugar added.” I also buy natural peanut butter with as little sugar as possible. Sometimes, I buy fruit cups to take to restaurants, and I look for the ones that are sweetened in natural fruit juice and don’t have “light syrup” added to sweeten. You can also buy Mott’s Apple juice with 40% less sugar.

7. Avoid high fructose corn syrup. I don’t know all the scientific reasons behind it, but I do know that HFCS is HORRIBLE for you. Jenny told me that the best type of sugar is the natural sugar found in fruit (fructose). Even natural table sugar (sucrose) is better than HFCS, which is processed.

8. EAT BREAKFAST, and eat protein for breakfast. Jen taught me that eating protein first thing in the morning jump-starts your metabolism. Some of my favorite protein breakfast items are eggs, Greek yogurt, and whole-wheat toast with almond butter. {Have I mentioned that almond butter is my new favorite thing?!? It’s so good on apples for a sweeter snack. You can buy it with or without added maple sugar. I buy it without and still love it.

9. Buy frozen fruits and veggies. Frozen fruits and veggies are usually flash frozen after they’re harvested, so they lose less nutrients and are good longer than fresh veggies. Plus, they’re so fast and easy for busy families. I buy several of these Birds Eye Steamfresh veggie bags every week to have with our lunches and dinners. Fruits-Birds-Eye-Steamfresh-veggies

I’m also loving these Simple Truth frozen Quinoa meals right now. 07d3af17a22600ead3040c23ca7ec040

And if you’re going to do a frozen pizza, Simple truth or Kashi are healthier options. Our boys love these pizzas.

pizza_1

 

10. Ask for salad dressing to the side and dip salad into dressing rather than pouring it on. If you eat your salad this way, you’ll probably be surprised that you can get away with a lot less dressing. You’ll likely avoid unnecessary sugar and calories.

Bonus: Don’t be sedentary after a meal. Even if you don’t “exercise” but just take a leisurely walk or keep yourself up and moving, your metabolism works in your favor!

What are your favorite healthy foods and eating tips? I’d love to hear!

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