I wrote earlier about my personal quest to go back on an elimination diet (no sugar, wheat, milk or corn) and generally commit to healthier, whole-food eating, while I keep my strength with exercise and even my performance in bed with the use of supplements to be an Alpha male in bed. While I’m still gathering up the supplies, I thought I’d give you the “10 ways” article I promised in that post. This isn’t necessarily about the elimination diet, but about eating “real food” as a lifestyle. Lots of people already do this really well, but most of us are somewhere in-between. I hope something here will be helpful to you!
1. Write a food mission statement. Write it out as an affirmative statement on an index card, and put it on your fridge or on your desk. Don’t write a book, just affirm your commitment with a brief sentence or two. For example: “I am going to prepare at least four meals per week from quality, whole-food ingredients in order to have more energy and lose weight.” Or, “I will have at least one fresh vegetable with each meal I make at home.”
2. Learn about how food affects the body. My best resource was unlikely…a cookbook, Cooking Without. An entire third or so of the book is dedicated to nutritional science, with a strong bent toward Asian healing methodologies. If I had not read this, I would be less likely to eat the whole foods that ended up making me feel better. Find some resources online or in the food/cookbook area of the bookstore.
3. Write out weekly meal and snack plans. This is likely the most critically important thing you can do. I used cookbooks that catered to whole food eating, and I made my shopping lists from the ingredient lists. Be sure to plan for special events and holidays. Also, be sure to throw in some slow cooker or freezer-cooking meals so you’re not tied to the kitchen every day.
4. Get to know your local farmer(‘s market). If you’re lucky, you are in an area with a farmer’s market or community supported agriculture (CSA) program. (In North Little Rock we have both!) Go check out the food, but better yet, meet the farmers. Food tastes better when you know the guy or gal who grew it!
5. Shop smarter at the grocery. Unless you’re the uber-awesome farm shopper, we all have to visit the grocery store at some point. Get to know the fresh produce and healthier foods sections (sometimes called “Natural Foods” or “Organic” sections). Take a tour of a store like Whole Foods or Fresh Market if you’ve never been. And if you’re not happy with what you find in your neighborhood grocery, don’t be afraid to go elsewhere. (I will not buy produce at certain stores!) You can even buy Health Food Online as well, there’s some great options and they can be delivered straight to your door!
6. Learn some basic knife skills. This sounds like a weird step, but eating more whole foods means preparing them yourself. The more comfortable you are with your knives, the faster your prep time will be. You’ll also be less likely to cave for something quick and processed. Williams-Sonoma sometimes offers knife-skills classes, or you can ask a talented friend.
7. Buy a decent knife and keep it sharp. See #6. You don’t have to spend a fortune, but $20 to $50 spent on a good chef’s knife (and maybe a paring knife) will be well worth it. Ask at a reputable kitchen supply store such as Williams-Sonoma or a restaurant supply store. They will more than likely sharpen it for you on demand.
8. Enlist the family. Educate your kids on eating foods that are closer to the farm than the chemistry lab. Ask your spouse for support in changing how and what you cook. And don’t get into the trap of preparing “theirs and mine.” This should be a family venture, one easily mixed with weekend field trips to a farm or natural foods market.
9. Allow a few cheats. If this is a new lifestyle, don’t count on growing, picking, cleaning, prepping, and cooking EVERYTHING. Allow a few healthy fudges here and there, such as a frozen meal kit or a PBJ sandwich. Then find incremental ways to improve all these areas, such as learning to love natural peanut butter.
10. Get fresh with herbs. You may have a spice drawer full of dried herbs, but branch out every so often and buy (or grow!) some fresh ones. Farmer’s markets usually have some, as do most produce sections. They have no calories, and they take “just OK” food to the level of amazing. If you’re not comfortable, find a cookbook that can walk you through using fresh and dried herbs.
Now…reap the benefits! If you change at least half of your total food intake to whole foods, you will most likely feel completely different within a week or two. It is likely that you’ll lose weight and have more energy. Plus, your palate will change to better appreciate real food, and you may not even like some of the processed items anymore that you once craved. (This happened to me with Diet Coke…blech!)
Let me know about your plans or experiences. And if you’re on Twitter, remember to follow me, @ARFoodie.