Welcome to another week of COVID! I’m going to give everyone a break from the ‘tough love’ messages over the last 2 weeks and give you some fun little life hacks on improving nutritious eating.
Often when we think about eating healthy, we get sucked into thoughts of restriction or removing foods from our diet. I want to challenge you to shift your thinking away from ‘ugg I have to remove sugar or carbs or alcohol, etc.’ toward ‘I’m going to ADD more nutritiously dense options to my meals’. Many times, thoughts of restriction, lead to frustrations and we don’t maintain the healthy choices we are trying to make. BALANCE is the name of the game and it is important to work with our human nature to push against a ‘will power’ mindset to achieve the ultimate goals we seek.
So this week, I’m going to offer you some life hacks on how you can include more micronutrient (vitamins & minerals) rich options in your diet. Truth is: when your body is thriving with enough vitamins & minerals your cravings for the less wholesome (however yummy) foods will diminish.
1. You Eat What You SEE
If you want to eat more fruit, put fruit out in plain sight. Rather than throwing an orange in your backpack or purse (to probably get forgotten about and start rotting at the bottom), try cutting it up and putting it in a container on your desk. When you are hungry, you will have a healthy, nutritious option ready to enjoy.
If you normally put a bowl of chips on your desk, try to swap it for nuts or seeds
If when you open your pantry, chocolate or junk food is the first thing you see there is a VERY STRONG chance that will be what you reach for. Try moving those items behind healthier choices, so you are more likely to reach for the nutritious options.
Same thing for hydration: if you place your water or tea in front of you while you work, you are more likely to actually consume the fluids you need for proper hydration.
2. Eating More Veggies
Carrots & Celery are great ways to snack healthier; however, if you try to cut them up in advance, they can sometimes lose their crunch and develop a slimy outer layer.
Storing cut veggies in the fridge, in a glass jar with water will help them maintain their freshness longer.
Nutrient Loss: there are 3 things that aid in nutrient loss for pre-cut veggies. Heat, Oxygen, & Light. Heat isn’t a factor storing in containers…just the exposure to oxygen and light. Vitamin C and sometimes Vitamin E are most commonly affected by this, but you don’t lose the other wonderful nutrient benefits: fiber, B vitamins, minerals, etc. Plus, you have a convenient way to enjoy more veggies.
One note: the carrots will keep longer than the celery
3. The Need for Seeds: seeds provide a great source of fiber, healthy monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats and many important vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Try taking your jar of peanut or almond butter and transfer about 1/3 of it to another container to enjoy at a later time. In the large jar add a few spoonfuls of seeds: pumpkin, sesame, chia, hemp, etc. (really whatever you enjoy and have on hand). Stir it up and now you have a power punch of nutritious yumminess to enjoy in oatmeal, on toast, fruit, etc.
If you don’t like the texture of nut butters…you can still make the seed mix and use it in the same way. Add it as a topping to yogurt, oatmeal, etc.
4. Mystery Ingredients
Smoothies are a wonderful way to add and HIDE nutrient dense options that you may not enjoy eating separately.
One important smoothie hack is to pre-chop your favorite yummy smoothie choices and store in the freezer, so when you want an afternoon ‘pick me up’ you have the most time-consuming part ready to go.
Frozen zucchini and white beans are excellent options to add creaminess, especially if you don’t like bananas or are trying to control your sugar intake. Trust me…you won’t even notice them in your frosty drink.
5. Antioxidant Charge
Berries are an excellent source of antioxidants; however, can get pricey! If you have access to seasonal berries, try buying in bulk and freezing them.
Spices are also an incredible source of antioxidants. For example, adding a tsp of oregano to a whole wheat pasta and broccoli dish (150 units) can increase the number of antioxidants to 300 units. Spices are a wonderful way to make healthy meals more wholesome and nutrient dense.
With a little prep, you can enjoy the benefits of fresh herbs with any meal. Simply chop up fresh herbs and add them to an ice cube tray with a little water. You can also add them to a food processor, with equal parts oil and water, then transfer the mixture to the ice cube tray.
These frozen herb cubes just pop out, ready to add a wonderful nutrient and flavor profile to soups, stews, pasta dishes, etc., all while reducing food waste and in-the-moment prep time.
The herbs won’t retain their former visual glory, but they will retain their nutrient profile if you enjoy them within a 1-2-month period.
7. Create a Snack Arsenal
Have 3 snack ideas in your arsenal that take 2 mins or less to make.
These should be healthy options, that you can feel good about enjoying and will help you stay away from less wholesome snack choices that often result from decision fatigue when hungry.
A few crackers topped with hummus, cucumbers, tomatoes, and arugula
Apple slices sprinkled with cinnamon and a drizzle of honey
Banana slices with nut butter
Planning your meals, a week in advance, will help you make more wholesome food choices, cut down on food waste, and help increase your nutrient profile. Rather than focusing on calorie restriction or cutting out foods you enjoy, try adding in nutrient dense options. Take note how your body responds and your interest level in eating the less wholesome options. NOTE: this will not happen overnight! Cravings are cravings and if you are used to eating a highly processed diet, you will still desire those foods. Adding more whole, nutritious, and clean foods will change your appreciation and increase your desire for healthier foods. This week try taking the pressure off perfection and see if you can just focus on adding nutrient dense options to your meals.