Trying a new food plan can be intimidating and frustrating. The food’s our ancestors ate were based on the seasons and the local crops. Today, we have access to many types of foods from all over the world at any hour of the day. This includes easy access to commercially processed foods and fast foods from grocery stores and restaurants that are open 24 hours per day. These foods are deliberately engineered to make you addicted to them by adding sugar, salt, fat, and food additives/chemicals. These foods can cause the over consumption of energy dense (high calorie, high fat, high sugar, low fiber foods).1 It is important to eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and limit intake of sugar, fried foods, and sodium. A healthy lifestyle should be focused on consuming whole foods (AKA real food, not processed foods!)
Here are a few pointers on how to keep on track with a whole foods based diet and stay motivated to reach your health goals:
Use a Menu Plan
Create a menu plan with your favorite meals. Keep it simple. Trying used a weekly theme with healthy versions of your family’s favorite recipes. There are many healthy recipes available on the EatingWell website (http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/).
Rotate in new recipes each week. (Example Themes: Meatless Mondays, Taco/Tapas/Tortas Tuesdays, Wild Fish Wednesday, Tropical Thursday, Freezer Meal Friday, Stir Fry Saturday, and Soup and Salad Sunday.
Use a Shopping Service
Using a shopping service helps you to keep to your shopping list and not be tempted by the foods you see in the store. This will also help to keep you on budget by reducing your impulse purchases. There are many services available now that let you add your groceries to a virtual shopping cart online. Then, depending on the service you are using, you can pick your grocery order up curbside at the store or the order can be delivered directly to your house, such as:
Have a Prep Day
Plan a day for your shopping whether it be in store or through a delivery or pickup service. Then, either the same day or the next day, do a weekly meal prep. Go ahead and chop of vegetables, make marinades and place meat in the marinade in a large zip lock bag, make freezer meals, prep crock pot/pressure cooker meals, bag snacks up into individual portion sizes, make and freeze any freezer meals for the week, pre-make mason jar salads, pre-make mason jar overnight oats, etc. This should take 2-3 hours at the most!
The goal of this is to reduce the amount of time spent prepping and cooking meals during the week. With the prep work done ahead of time, meals and snacks should be easy to prepare as needed throughout the week.
Eating 100% of your meals at home is unrealistic for most people. If you have to eat out at a restaurant or a fast food chain here are some ideas for staying on track with your whole foods based diet. Dine in restaurants typically offer a grilled fish or grilled chicken meal with steamed vegetables and a side salad or a deluxe grilled chicken salad with fruits and nuts. Choose these options over the classic fried foods or burger and fries. And don’t be afraid to ask for specifics! If the menu says it comes with french fries, ask them to substitute it for the veggie of the day.
Fast Food restaurants can also offer a limited variety of whole foods, though they do recognize the shift that the consumer wants healthier options. Panera - offers a large variety of soups and salads (but be sure to avoid the bakery, chips and sweetened drinks). Chipotle and Moe’s - offers ways to make your own meal, which includes a salad, with your choice of protein and additional veggies and some healthy fats, like avocado. The Calorie King Book is a great tool to keep on hand when eating out to know what healthy choices are available.
About the Author: Sam Tucker is a graduate of New York Chiropractic College with a Master's in Applied Clinical Nutrition. She has recently completed the required supervised hours to earn her CNS credential and is anxiously awaiting to hear the score from her CNS Exam. In addition to building her clinical practice, Sam lives in Kentucky with her husband and her children.
1. Contento I. Nutrition Education: Linking Research, Theory, and Practice. Jones and Bartlett Learning. Burlington, MA. C2016. Pg 9.