Sunday, February 26, 2012

Beginner's Guide to Real Food part 1: Prep Work

...or as Heather would say "clean eating"

My mom had her a-ha moment with regards to how her eating habits affect her health and well-being. Then she asked a question that can deflate anyone who has had that moment..."What am I going to make for dinner?"

So I'm making her a shopping list. Also, a mental preparation list.

Part of the battle is mental. First one must realize that all of the foods in our cabinets that are quick and easy to make are the ones that got us to the unhealthy state we are in, and easy is not going to get us out. If we learn the idea that meal planning takes a little effort, it will certainly be less than the consequences of eating processed "quick food".

That said, I'd like to share what my staple foods are, and the shortcuts and strategies that I use. 

Strategy #1: Keep your fridge stocked and prepped.
Did you notice that I said fridge and not cabinets? Healthy, real food will rot. So as you transition from fake food to real food, you will notice a shift in your food storage areas. Prepped simply means that having a beautiful, fresh pineapple means nothing if you don't cut it up and put it in handy containers for snacks or bringing to work. Half of the snacking battle is "what's easy to grab?" make those carrot sticks ready to dip into that hummus (hummus is delicious and filling btw...i know you just turned your nose up). 
Strategy #2: Shop the perimeter of the grocery store.
Thanks to daytime television, this phrase is becoming more commonly heard. I love it. Many years ago I discovered the concept for myself. Produce, meats, eggs, dairy. Oreos are in the middle of the store.  Be careful though...Velveeta bought reserved space by the cheese as a ploy to make you think it's really food. Be not fooled...that stuff can live quite happily for some time in the center of the store right across from the Oreos. The hardest part of this strategy is that you actually have to find recipes on what to do with this stuff once you buy it! Which leads us to...
Strategy #3: Finding healthy recipes is your new hobby.
But it's easier than it sounds. If you are reading this, that means you are on the internet, and so many good people post their secrets! Start a pinterest page and collect recipes with photos there. You can even share and steal from your facebook friends! In a blog to come I'll share a few of my favorite places.
Strategy #4: Get ready to try some new foods.
Quinoa? Lentils? Yep. These delicious critters can (and must) replace those evil dinner staples like boxed mac-n-cheese, rice-a-roni, and powdered mashed potatoes. With a good recipe, they can be just as easy to prepare. 
Strategy #5: Planning is critical.
As I mentioned before, we will grab things that are easy. Dinner nights can be crazy, and it often takes some mental rehearsing and some pre-cooked items to be able to get out of frozen pizza land. I hate to say it but the once every 3 week shopping day has to go. Fresh, real food, simply won't keep that long. I've heard this trick from many people, and it works for me as well: shop and prep your meals on your day off. Pre-cook chicken breasts, chop your veggies, cut up your fruits, pre-pack your salads and lunches. I use my crock pot at least 3 times a week. This allows me to actually "make dinner" the night before, and just throw it in the crock pot before going to work. Coming home from work to a home filled with the smells of a roast or soup can't be beat. 
The Strategy to End All Strategies: DON'T BUY IT IN THE FIRST PLACE!
Sorry, I'm not yelling at you in particular, but I'd like to shout this one from the rooftops. It is easier to resist crappy food when it's on the shelf in it's packaging at the store than it is to resist it in your pantry. If you've ever attended a Weight Watchers meeting, you know that's where I stole this idea from. That said...please don't shop hungry. This is a saying that I'm repeating as well, but it's also legit. On another note, we need to send a message to food producers that we don't want the crap they're selling, and every item we scan at the register is our vote.

Hope this helps a little. It is hard work and a giant mental shift! But you have friends out here, and you're gonna need them. It's us against them. 

Next up...a list of staples to keep on hand for healthy eating.

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