Eating Healthy in a Fast-Paced World
By Leslie Vandever
“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” This advice by author/journalist/activist/foodie Michael Pollan has become famous because it’s just so down-to-earth sensible. “Eat food.” Well, yes. That is what we eat, right? Hmm. Not always, unless that Twinkie is food. “Not too much.” Also a smart guideline, given what happens when we do the opposite. “Mostly plants.” We could argue this one, but it’s true that plants are the best source of many of the nutrients we depend upon for good health.
The truth is it’s a challenge to eat healthy food in today’s America. There are fast-food places on every corner. Restaurants put a full day’s calories into a single meal. In the grocery store, aisles are stuffed with brightly colored packages of highly processed, easy-to-prepare foods. They’ve been lab-tested and perfected for color, flavor, texture and mouth-feel, but the ingredients are almost all bad for you. The “serving sizes” their calorie-counts are based on are so small and stingy a toddler would be insulted. They almost make you overeat.
What’s a person to do?
The good news is that eating a healthy diet isn’t hard, even if you’re so busy you can power through a burger and fries at your desk without really noticing. It will, however, require a little effort, mindfulness, and resolve. You’re up to it, though. Read on.
Give yourself a few minutes each evening to think about what’ll be on your personal menu tomorrow. Plan to get up in time to eat a healthy breakfast, even if you have to eat it on the go. Put ingredients where you’ll be sure to see and grab them. Have anything you need to prepare your breakfast on the counter, ready to go (such as the blender for a smoothie).
How about lunch? You can make a healthy sandwich (on whole grain bread) the night before. Keep fresh fruit on hand. Take a couple of pieces. And be sure to grab some quick, high-energy snacks, like single-serving packages of nuts, dried fruit, etc. to bring along for the afternoon doldrums instead of that candy bar from the vending machine.
When you eat supper out try to choose healthier foods off the menu. Most restaurants include calories on their menus these days. Use them. Some offer a “healthier” or lower-calorie section, too.
If your only option is fast food from a drive-through, try ordering the smallest burger or sandwich without cheese, mayo or “special sauce”; ask for a small salad rather than French fries which are high in sodium; and choose either ice water or a diet drink. Remember those snacks you brought along with you from home? Now’s when you pat yourself on the back.
Learning to cook from fresh ingredients works great for suppers at home. Consider getting a countertop grill—a quick, ultra-low fat way to cook meats deliciously. A steamer for perfectly cooked fresh vegetables is a good (and low-cost) investment, too.
Cooking fresh meals isn’t nearly as difficult as it sounds, and it’s way healthier. If you’re new at this cooking thing, I’d suggest getting yourself a copy of How to Cook Everything, by Mark Bittman. I just checked—a used copy, with shipping on Amazon.com can be had for under $5. You’ll use it, believe me!
When you’re at the grocery store, turn right or left, eyes front, and continue on until you’re past all the center aisles. Now you’re ready to shop. Always shop the perimeters. The far sides are the fresh produce and baked goods sections; at the back are fresh meats. You are allowed to make brief forays into the dairy aisle, the beans and pasta aisle, and the frozen veggies aisle. Beware the aisles stuffed with snack foods and processed, boxed meals. Be strong.
With a little planning and shopping fresh, the rest ought to fall in place. But if you need more help finding ways to eat healthy, click here.
Leslie Vandever is a professional journalist and freelance writer. Under the pen-name “Wren,” she also writes a blog about living well with rheumatoid arthritis called RheumaBlog (www.rheumablog.wordpress.com). In her spare time, Vandever enjoys cooking, reading and working on the Great American Novel.
· Healthy Eating on the Go. (2013, Feb. 13) National Heart, Blood and Lung Institute. National Institutes of Health. Retrieved on February 26, 2014 from http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/obesity/wecan/news-events/matte25.htm
· Healthy Eating for the Hectic American. (n.d.) Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Retrieved on February 26, 2014 from http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=6442470191
· Tips for Eating Healthy When Eating Out. ChooseMyPlate.gov. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Retrieved on February 26, 2014 from http://www.choosemyplate.gov/healthy-eating-tips/tips-for-eating-out.html
· Eat Well on the Go. (2011, May) Kaiser Permanente. Retrieved on February 26, 2014 from https://healthy.kaiserpermanente.org/health/care/!ut/p/a0/FchBDoMgEADAt_iAzUq1svSmRL_Qwm1DiCWR1RBav996nEGPL_TC37RyTbvw9rcLUWosD_nUkq7FJ3r0R-E1MzrZIXB4x-u41BS2iK6zWg_j3cKwmA6Umlsg3WsgUu1EZu5v1uCRM51j0_wAikNEYA!!/
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