One of the biggest hurdles to switching to a healthy foods lifestyle is, quite obviously, knowing how to eat. More specifically, it’s hard figuring out how to get from where you are to where you want to be — or even what that ideal looks like.
There are a lot of really great diets out there, but even more that are just nonsense recycled year after year. (I mean, you do realize that Paleo is just the Atkins diet with new marketing, right?) What makes sense to me is whole foods and clean eating. There are a lot of ways that people define these two terms (check out 100 Days of Real Food for some great info), but basically it just means you try to eat actual food that’s grown out of the ground, plain and simple. Nothing processed, no chemicals, and often without any animal products. The goal is to keep the food in as close to its natural state as possible, because the more you break down a food item, the more nutrients it loses.
I am a fan of whole foods living because you can make it what you want it to be. Since it’s not a diet or an “ism” like veganism or vegetarianism, it allows for flexibility and leeway because you’re not hemmed in by too many rules. You can eat strictly clean, or you can fudge a bit when occasion demands. And because it’s an incredibly healthy way to eat, I don’t feel bad when I indulge in something decidedly “unclean.” Every now and then I have fatty comfort foods and chow down on some pizza or even ice cream, and I don’t have to hide my head in shame because I broke the laws of veganism or anything.
The best outcome of eating the whole foods way is that my cravings disappear and I feel extremely satisfied but never overly full. You know that bloated, stuffed-to-the-gills, about-to-enter-a-food-coma feeling? Doesn’t happen. Neither does heartburn, indigestion, or the headaches I used to suffer from daily. I never get a hankering for sugar anymore, and if I take a sip of my once-beloved Coke, it tastes like Pine Sol. I find myself craving the good stuff, and there’s plenty to be had; I don’t worry about eating too much because it’s hard to overdo it with black bean & sweet potato tacos or Italian vegetable soup. And I never worry about calories, I just eat up and nourish my body — and I do feel nourished, healthy, full of energy, and excited for the next new recipe.
Admittedly it wasn’t hard for me to make the switch. I have been arming myself with information about plant-based living (for starters, do yourself a favor and watch “Hungry for Change” and “Forks Over Knives,” streaming on Netflix) and was yearning for something better before I took the plunge. Also, I never really loved meat (a lot of it actually grosses me out), I don’t tolerate dairy well, I love vegetables, and I already cook most everything from scratch. These seem to be the major hurdles for making this kind of change, but they’re not insurmountable. You just need a little education and the desire to do better, and you won’t regret making the change.
And in case all this feel-good mumbo jumbo doesn’t interest you, consider this: I’ve lost 12 lbs. in less than 3 months just by switching to a plant-based, whole-foods diet. No exercise required.
Eating the whole foods way is easier than you think. It may seem complicated and like a lot of work for not a lot of food, and that may be true if your idea of cooking is somewhere between Hamburger Helper and Paula Deen. But in actuality, it can be as simple as you want it to be. In fact, many raw recipes involve throwing some things in a blender or food processor and letting ‘er rip.
So let’s get down to the nitty gritty: What does a day of whole foods and clean eating look like? For me, it looks something like this.
I start the day with a mug of warm water and the juice of half a lemon. It’s an alkalizing drink that helps flush toxins, reduce inflammation, and strengthen the liver, among other benefits. Read more at FoodMaters.tv.
Breakfast is usually something simple that my kids will also eat. I love apple cinnamon overnight oats from MyWholeFoodsLife.com (actually, all her overnight oats are amazing), chia pudding or coconut milk yogurt from ChoosingRaw.com (my babies especially love these), or toast with avocado. Sometimes we have green smoothies for breakfast and other times that’s a mid-morning snack, but either way I’m sipping it for the next hour or two.
My son can’t get enough pancakes and waffles, so sometimes I’ll whip up some whole wheat German pancakes, banana oat pancakes, or even French toast on wheat bread. I give him just enough syrup to keep him happy (like a teaspoon, probably less), but I usually have mine with canned peaches or pears and sometimes a dollop of whipped cream.
Being a full-time mom I’m always in the kitchen anyway, so it’s not a stretch for me to come up with something just for lunch. But often I eat leftovers from the previous night’s dinner, which is what I did when I was working. I eat a lot of salads (also easy to take to work) with plenty of crunchy veggie toppings and homemade, non-processed dressing, because what’s the point of feeding your body such healthy goodness if you’re going to douse it in chemicals?
I have two other quick go-to lunches: A veggie wrap on a tortilla with avocado, fresh cilantro, and any other veggies I have in the fridge (usually carrot, tomato, cucumber, and celery).
I also love corn and black bean salsa, which is also excellent in a tortilla or even just eaten as a salad. Recipe to come!
I’ve already detailed my love for hummus, and I usually eat it for a mid-afternoon snack with crackers or carrots and celery sticks. Energy bites and homemade granola bars are other favorites, and they’re also things my picky 4-year-old will eat with me. A piece of fruit is another favorite when I’m craving something sweet, and you can’t beat the energy combo in a banana and some raw almonds or cashews. I also keep nut-and-fruit trail mix handy when I need to grab a bite.
Where to begin with the gloriousness of whole foods dinners? I sound like some kind of crazy hippie food lover, but seriously, I get so jazzed about my whole foods, vegan, even raw dinners. My Pinterest board is full of excellent options, like avocado pesto from DamnDelicious.net, roasted veggie and black bean tacos from CookingClassy.com, teriyaki noodles from OhSheGlows.com, and panang curry from ChefChloe.com. I’ve made each of these recipes and they are all outstanding — truly lick-the-bowl, wish-there-was-more amazing.
I hope this gets your wheels turning, or at least makes you curious about incorporating more whole foods into your life. You don’t have to completely commit to the lifestyle change; every little bit of goodness helps, so even if you only get one healthy recipe in a day (or a week, if that’s a step forward for you), you’re that much better off. If you’re worried about the time involvement, think of it like this: You’re making an investment in your health, and because this way of eating really is so good for you, you have nothing to lose but weight. Besides, if a mom of three kids — two of them infant twins — has time to cook three meals a day plus snacks, then what’s your excuse for at least trying?