Healthy eating is hard. At least, that’s what I initially thought when I first started making the transition to a healthy diet.
Between a pretty hectic work schedule to my complete lack of cooking skills, the idea of getting started with a healthy diet felt like I was on an upward battle.
If you’re in the same boat, there’s likely one simple reason why - you’re battling your “taste buds!”
Science has proven that taste can be both a guardian and guide for our consumption of food. Which means that foods that tend to be bitter or sour generally deter us from eating them based on the potential of accidentally ingesting a toxic substance. Whereas, foods that tend to be sweet and salty encourage us to eat them based on our need for carbohydrates, amino acids, and sodium.
You know, the things we require for survival.
However, when these sweet and salty foods tend to be highly-processed, they don’t maintain their nutritional value. Which means, we eat more and more of them trying to access the macronutrients and micronutrients that have long been stripped away.
Okay, probably not the most scientific explanation, but I hope you get the point that the key to healthy eating is eating more real, whole “minimally” processed food. That’s why strategies like meal prepping have garnished so much attention over the years.
Because rather than focusing on a following a “diet,” meal prepping is about creating the habit of preparing and eating real, whole foods. However, if you’re like me and grew up eating frozen dinners and fast food, “real food” can feel like a completely foreign concept.
Thus, I created our Meal Prep Like a Pro series so that I can help you incorporate more real food into your daily diet and become a “Pro” at healthy eating by sharing the 5 core ingredients to:
Plus, for those looking to lose weight and keep it off, these five core ingredients are required to reach your goal and maintain the results you’ve worked so hard to achieve. In this post, I’m going to share the first core ingredient to Eat Like a Pro -Transitioning to a Minimally Processed Diet!
How to Transition to a Minimally Processed Diet
Tip #1 Slowly Swap Out Ingredients
Starting slowly is always going to be the best approach to making any type of dietary changes. When I was initially making the shift to a minimally processed diet I started with swapping out my condiments. It might seem silly, but I added sauce to everything. Which means I wasn’t just packing on calories to my meals, but I was adding a lot of highly processed ingredients to my daily diet. By making those shifts in choosing to make my own “avocado mayo” or BBQ sauce I was incorporating more real food into my daily diet. Once I was able to achieve that small milestone I was encouraged to swap my french fries for a baked potato and my fried chicken for some salmon. The point is to not be afraid to start slow and small. Once you build those initial habits and see that you’re able to overcome those small changes you’ll be encouraged to do more. Trust Me!
Tip #2 Drink (More) Water
I cannot express enough that the reason that so many people struggle to eat healthily is that they confuse thirst for hunger. There are so many of us that are simply dehydrated. While there are many ways to calculate how much water an individual needs, I want to emphasize that drinking some water is better than drinking no water. However, if you’re looking for something beyond the 8 glasses of water a day recommendation, I follow that half my bodyweight “rule.” By rule I mean it’s not an actual rule, but a guideline to drink half my bodyweight (in lbs) in ounces of water a day. That means if I weight 156 lbs I should be drinking 78 ounces of water every day. Now that is a goal, but that’s not where you need to start. Start with drinking one glass at every meal, then add an additional glass of water in between meals. Remember, starting slowly and actually mastering each habit is keep to creating habits that stick.
Tip #3 Limit Processed Meats
I know that bacon is delicious and sometimes we just need a juicy hotdog in our life, but limiting the processed meats you are eating is going to be critical for your health. The problem with processed meats is that the preservation process introduces harmful chemical compounds that increase your risk of chronic disease. While enjoying some ham at Christmas or sausage for breakfast arguably won’t kill you, you do want to make sure you limit this food in your daily diet. Thus, some alternatives to consider would be swap out your hot dog for a tuna sandwich or your sausage for some roasted chicken. The possibilities really are endless if you’re willing to make some small tweaks to your diet.
Tip #4 Snack Smarter
As a lover of snacks, one of the things I had to become comfortable with when making the transition to a minimally processed diet was finding healthier snacking options. While vegetables and fruits are always welcomed additions to your diet, there are times when you’ll need to get a little bit creative. For instance, if you’re a chip-o-holic, you might want to try making some homemade popcorn with some nutritional yeast (great butter alternative). Or, if you crave something sweeter swap out your chocolate chip cookies for some chocolate chip energy balls! There are so many deliciously simple ways that you can snack smarter so that you’re not letting your cravings sidetrack you from getting to your health and fitness goals.
Tip #5 Make Healthier Versions
Now, this last step is a bit of a more advanced strategy, but it’s still worth talking about. One of the strategies that I implemented when I started getting more comfortable with healthy eating was finding healthier versions of my favorite foods. Using Pinterest I would search for and pin recipes such as Easy Pumpkin Pancakes and Cauliflower Wings. This is not to say that the original version of pancakes or wings is “unhealthy,” but by making simple swaps I was able to reduce the amount of highly-processed foods in my diet. If you’re looking to do the same, just searching for “healthy dinner recipes” or “healthy snacks” will provide a wealth of healthier options to add to your plate.
So, there you have it!
That was the first core ingredient of our Meal Prep Like a Pro Series - Eat Like a Pro! Make sure you join us on our Facebook page for our weekly recap of each ingredient and Q&A.