Snack ideas and my thoughts on changing eating habits… over time.
Some of you may be old hat at eating healthy. I admit to a little bit of jealousy over the years as I have made friends who grew up eating the right things. It is such a legacy to have given to you. I wonder if they know how cool this is. For at least one week a month I am constantly battling urges to eat a steady diet of Ramen Noodles, Doritos, and Big Macs. Those are my emotional and hormonal foods. Likely, your emotional foods are similar (unless you are one of those people I just said I was jealous of… then you crave toasted seaweed and tofu kebabs). So, how do we manage to adopt healthy eating later in life?
I believe it is a balancing act: sacrifice versus reward versus reality.
I have spent a lifetime watching people on yo-yo diets. When I got married, I adopted vegetarianism for moral-philosophical reasons, but was leaving a diet of steady Arby’s, Gatorade, and Cheese Balls. We took this opportunity to completely re-work our diet, and I quickly procured a giant vegetarian tome, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone (Madison). Bumping my way through those recipes, we had to change where we shopped and absorb a TON of new information. There were many, many mistakes. You see, there is a learning curve related to changes in diet, just as in most everything else. One book may be able to give you a whole bunch of information that gets you moving (I recommend The UltraMind Solution, Hyman), but no one book is going to give you an education in healthy food choices and in cooking. It takes experience. And it also takes synthesizing information over a long period of time.
So what about my equation? I think it is best to change diet for life. And the best way to accomplish lasting change is to approach it slowly (unless your life is in danger) and continuously. You have to make sacrifice; we all get that. There are foods you are going to have to abandon alongside the road (although, thanks to our modern dearth of options, you need hardly notice them in the glut of acceptable options). There are times you are going to have to eat less or eat differently than you would like to. BUT there are rewards, too. Your health, obviously, and the way you feel. A sense of accomplishment. An added simplicity, community, calm, creativity. You’ll see. And better food. It’s true. Have some faith. You’re taste buds will change, as will your cravings (at least to an extent), but these changes will not happen quickly. The longer you practice good habits, the more ingrained they will get AND the more discerning and happy your palette will become. You may not believe it now, but many of the foods you may now be eating actually taste flat, phony, over-salted, and make your body feel bloated and your digestive system feel like you have poured cement into it. It will take time and repetition for you body and tastes to become attune, but you will be happily surprised by what you enjoy, crave, and even by your new energy and bowel movements.
So for the third part of the equation; you have to take the sacrifices and the rewards with a grain of reality. So many new diets crash and burn because they are unrealistic. I would rather you take the changes one step at a time, then to jump in with both feet and not be able to sustain. And how many ways are there to start? One vegetarian meal a week. Trying out smoothies with a new blender. Reading Nourishing Traditions (that’s an interesting one) and cooking through some of it. Changing where and how you shop. And, most importantly, learning to read ingredients. Taking a subscription to Clean Eating, Delicious Living, or other healthy eating magazine can keep the ball rolling with additional information and recipe ideas.
And keep following RealisticChef. That is, after all, the whole theory behind this blog. Little bits of information wrapped in mild entertainment over a prolonged period of time. A great (and realistic) investment in your future.
Since snacks seem to be a place I am tripped up a lot, here is a list of suggestions for you to try. (And make sure you keep the other snacks clear out of the house.)
- Plain yogurt with honey, pure maple syrup, fruit, raw nuts, or granola
- Raw veggies with hummus or natural dressing
- Fresh fruit (think of ones you love and have them always handy)
- Pretzels and cheese
- Whole grain tortilla chips with salsa or guacamole
- Whole grain pita chips or pita with bean dip or baba ganoush
- Trail mix (just combine nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and dark chocolate in a baggie)
- Cottage cheese with fruit
- Fruit or all-fruit spread and cheese with whole grain crackers
- Healthful smoothie (not the one at McDonalds)
- Toasted seaweed or kale chips
- Nitrate-free, happy-sourced lunch meat wrapped around a scallion (or other veggie) and cream cheese
- Celery or apples dipped in natural peanut butter
- Popcorn (See previous blog)
When you think snack, think protein. The key is to keep these foods available (in forms that you love them), and keep other snacks UNavailable. And I’m sure we’ll come up with many more ideas as time goes by this blog.