Did you hear about the newest diet?
You probably have, since it seems like there is a new one every week. But before you take a deep dive into yet another fad diet, consider that it may be restrictive, hard to follow, or uses a lot of food that you have no experience with. For most of us; we need to start improving some food basics instead of doing diet back flip into the newest trend.
How can I start?
Starting with small attainable ideas can give you the confidence to start making healthier changes. Unhealthy eating typically looks the same: Big plates of un-colorful food that is eaten without hesitation. So it makes sense to create a healthy eating change simply by adding more variety and more color. An easy way to add variety is by including more vegetables and fruits. Try cutting up some raw veggies to go along with your lunch, adding a small salad with simple vinaigrettes to start before dinner, or adding a piece of fruit with breakfast. A bonus to this strategy is that it doesn’t cost a lot of money and won’t add a lot of time to your day. Once you become accustomed to adding healthier items you may want to start exploring even more substitutes.
How do I make my food taste better?
If your spice rack consists of salt, pepper, and dried parsley from ten years ago, you can do better! Getting to know a variety of spices is a great way to increase flavour and enjoyment of your food without having to add calorie heavy sauces. Buy a small amount of a spice to try, instead of bulk, and if you don’t like it you won’t be wasting a lot. You could grow a small herb garden; they are fairly low maintenance and only require some sun and water. Fresh herbs add a big punch of flavor, so a little goes a long way. Once you have herbs and spices you are ready to try different ingredients.
What’s something else I could do?
A lot of us have limited food knowledge, which leads to basic meal ideas. Ask yourself “What can I do better?” It might be time to nerd out on some cooking shows for some inspiration or to try some new recipes. Knowing more than one cooking method will instantly open up new meals that can be both healthy and tasty. Do you know the difference between sauté and stir-fry? How about baking versus broiling? Have you ever tried to cook using your dishwasher? (It can be done!)
Our food comes from all parts of the world and how you combine them will give you different flavors. Want to experience Thai flavors? Include spices and herbs like Ginger, Chiles, and Cilantro with ingredients like Coconut, Jasmine Rice, and Fish. Feel like French? Add Thyme, Tarragon, and black pepper to Chicken cooked with Butter and Lemon. Japanese foods often incorporate Miso, Sesame, and Soy which pairs well with everything from Fish to Beef. The list goes on and on.
Are there healthy ingredients that don’t taste “healthy”?
Kale salads aren’t the answer for everyone, instead focus on ways to do a little better. Have you considered switching out your standard ingredients for something that has more nutritional benefit? Try to find ingredients that have more fiber, less sugars or fats, maybe more vitamins and minerals. Brown rice and whole grain pasta have been popular alternatives for many years and have a mild taste, great for beginners. Lesser known ingredients like Beans, Squash, and Cabbage have high nutritional value and taste great but if you’re not a fan they can also be hidden in many dishes too!
Acquiring a taste for a certain food takes time but consistent exposure to a food can help you gain a liking to it. Interestingly, children who tried a vegetable they didn’t like eight or nine times began to like it more! Looking at how different cultures prepare an ingredient will help you get the most flavour out of unique ingredients. All too often we are turned off an ingredient because it was cooked or prepared improperly. Of course in the end, it’s ok not to like certain foods but try to be a little better with your choices if you can!
What if I can’t cook?
If navigating your way through cook books seems like too much, try a meal delivery service. Most of these services offer a lot of variety and you can pick and choose which meals you want to try. It’s a great way to learn how to cook too! Find meals that seem close to what you like to eat first then start branching out into new cuisines. A great perk of this service is the portioning is already done for you: some or all of the prep work is done for you, most of the meals are ready in 30 minutes or less, and most come with a recipe card so you are able to replicate the recipe on your own.
So how big is a portion?
Proper food portioning is still one of the easiest yet hardest ways to control how much you eat. Scales and measuring cups are exact but are hardly an exciting way to create a dish that you want to eat. Keep in mind ingredients also get bigger or smaller when cooked. You can do better! If you want to control your portion size, try to envision the 4 major elements of a meal as parts of your hand. Your protein should be the size of your palm. A closed fist represents your veggie portion. Carbohydrates should fit within a cupped hand. Fats will be about the size of your thumb.
The great thing about using your hands is that our hands are usually proportionate to our body size. Women or those wanting to lose weight can start with one serving of each of the above while men or individuals looking to increase weight can start with two servings. Why the difference? Men are in general more metabolically active when compared to women since males on average have more muscle tissue. Of course, always adjust for your goals and your appetite. Now isn’t that better and easier than using a scale for every meal? Remember take it one day at a time. If you have one day that you eat bad, don’t trouble yourself with it, tomorrow is another day to work towards your goal.
Paul Bradshaw l Kinesiologist