By now, we know the basic facts about food. Sugar, white flour, processed foods and certain fats are bad. Protein, whole grains, vitamin-rich fruits, and vegetables, along with healthy fats, are good.
That is where the simplicity ends, and things get complicated. As we age, we deal with allergies and intolerances, inflammation, and shifts in our hormones. Different foods affect people differently. With advances in science, we discover that eating certain foods together at certain times allows our bodies to absorb more of the nutrients and optimize their effectiveness.
Of course, the endless parade of trend diets, gurus, pills, drinks, and shakes we’re sold on social media, all claiming to have the answer becomes completely overwhelming, especially when we are just looking for easy ways to eat healthy.
My Struggle with Weight
It might be surprising to hear that I struggled with my weight and overall health for years. In my teens and twenties, I was the stereotypical girl who ate whatever she wanted and never gained a pound.
I was waif-like, with a six-pack I did not deserve, thanks to an abnormally fast metabolism and good genes. Because of that, I never learned how to eat well as an adult and developed bad habits.
After I had my youngest, via my second C-section, I entered my thirties with a body ravaged by pregnancies that resulted in long-term internal damage and a dwindling metabolism.
For years I went on a diet and exercise roller coaster trying to get rid of the last of my baby weight. I did everything from crazy workouts, like, <insert eye roll> flipping tires, where of course I got injured. I drank every shake, took any magic pill, and bought anything on TV that promised to be the solution to long-term weight loss.
Then, three years ago I stepped on the scale and burst into tears. The number staring up at me wasn’t just my heaviest weight, but a moment of reckoning. I was at my absolute unhealthiest. I was lethargic, depressed, my skin was a disaster, and I was profoundly unhappy.
What was crazy is that I was still regularly working out up to 3 – 4 times a week. That’s when I finally understood the saying, “you can’t out-exercise a bad diet.”
I had slowly gained weight over a two-year time span. I found myself continually traveling for work. I was living in hotels and airports, working long days on my feet. I was so overwhelmed with work I couldn’t see straight. I often lived on coffee, would frequently skip breakfast, sometimes lunch too, and then have to go to a work dinner or run to the airport.
When I was home, it was chaotic, and I mindlessly ate. The day I stood on that scale I decided no more fad diets. I need a lifestyle change and a diet that didn’t sabotage my workouts.
I had to take responsibility for every time:
- I put something unhealthy in my mouth
- I didn’t pack healthy snacks for trips
- I indulged in comfort food over healthy food at the airport
- I drank wine because I was stressed, sad, overwhelmed, or bored
It was a brutal lesson. I was ashamed and so frustrated with myself. It’s hard to acknowledge when you knew better but didn’t do better. The only thing I could do is commit to better habits and learn as much as possible. It’s amazing what you can do when you’re sick and tired of being sick and tired.
Here are the steps I took that helped me lose 35 pounds without a fad or super restrictive diet. The good news is you don’t have to eat like Tom and Gisele (who doesn’t eat tomatoes?) to have a clean and healthy diet.
My Easy Ways to Eat Healthy
Load up on nutrients in the am
Our days are busy, and it’s not always easy to eat three meals or four to five smaller meals a day. To guarantee I start the day with a healthy, energy producing meal, I make a giant green smoothie, filled with greens, fiber, healthy fats, antioxidants and omega 3. It keeps me full and helps maintain my blood sugar for hours.
When I’m feeling especially ambitious, I make this baked oatmeal recipe. The only thing I do differently is to bake them in muffin cups we so can grab them when we run out the door. My kids love them.
Keep healthy snacks on hand
I heard this tip for years but never took it seriously. I figured a fridge full of cut veggies would go to waste in my house. I was shocked when I gave it a try and saw my kids munching on carrots and celery with something that resembled enthusiasm.
Now we keep crudite with hummus in the fridge, have apples with almond butter, small containers of greek yogurt, and everyone’s favorite, avocado and gluten-free toast as snacks throughout the day. (We’re purists with avocado toast. Just mash the avocado, add some lime, a pinch of sea salt and red pepper flakes.)
Hard “no” on the bad stuff
At this point, we are a pretty clean house. We do not eat white sugar or white flower, we try to eliminate gluten, avoid unhealthy fats, and limit caffeine. My goal is to keep our good habits at 80%, so when we do indulge, we can thoroughly enjoy it. I don’t want my kids to have a complex around a slice of birthday cake, but understand a treat is just that – a treat.
I grew up watching my mom grocery shop for the week, so for years, that’s what I did. Once we started to focus on eating fresh and organic, it became obvious that I was going to have to shop about every four days. It’s kind of a bummer.
Luckily, I found a local store that has everything I need, and I can get in and out in 20 minutes. While it’s hard to add more time to our already saturated schedule, we waste less and eat so much better.
Make simple, healthy swaps
At first, I found making simple swaps incredibly intimidating. Then I got over myself, buckled down, and realized if I can make two people and build a business I can learn how to cook with coconut oil.
I saw and felt immediate results when I swapped out:
Butter and Vegetable Oil < Coconut Oil,
AP Flour < Whole Wheat, Almond, Coconut, or Spelt Four
White Rice < Brown Rice or Quinoa
Pasta < Whole Wheat or Gluten Free Pasta
White, Whole Wheat Bread < Gluten Free or Whole Grain Bread
Maple Syrup < Coconut Nectar
Half and Half < Almond Milk creamer (I love Califia Farm)
Go dry on weeknights
This girl loves a glass of wine, so going dry is not something I’m willing to do. But the empty calories and amount of sugar I was drinking was affecting my energy levels, skin, and waistline. Amazingly, when I pull back on booze, I eliminate bloat, get the glow back in my skin, and sleep 1000x’s better, instantly.
Drink a ton of water, then drink more
Proper hydration is the key to better health. There’s a lot of research on the proper amount to drink. Most recently, women 19 years and older should drink 72 ounces a day. On days I work out, I drink a little more than that.
A Swell bottle is nice to have in your bag as it keeps water cold for hours. If you are traveling, you can fill it up at water stations at the airport.
You don’t have to do everything at once, rather ease yourself into each habit.
The most important thing you can do as you try to incorporate better eating habits is to educate yourself on why certain foods are better than others. Yes, it takes effort, but your health and the health of your family is worth it.
It’s not lost on me how incredibly fortunate I am to be able to provide my family with healthy, local, organic food. Unbelievably, every day in the US, over 13 million kids go to school hungry. A statistic we should all find unacceptable. No Kid Hungry is a national nonprofit committed to ending childhood hungry. A donation of $10 provides 100 meals to kids in need.