Healthier Living Made Easy

Trying to live healthier can be tough. Cutting out foods, maintaining a diet, and ever going to the gym is a big change that is hard for most people. Most people fail within the first few months of trying to make a change.  What if I told you I could show you three recipes to help you cook a little more healthily?

Right now, you could Google the best diets to lose weight with and get thousands of responses. Each of those telling you what you can or can’t do, things like counting calories or not eating carbs. This all seems logical, so why do diets fail?

Why do diets fail

According to experts, one of the main reasons why people fail at dieting is because we believe that dieting has to be painful. Modern diets, pretty much, work on the premise of suffering. If you are struggling with your weight, then you do not deserve to eat like a normal person. It teaches us that we should only eat food for fuel and stop doing anything else.

Simply put, if you deny yourself something then you start to crave it more.

Also, we work on the premise of “normal.” Most dieticians and doctors will tell you that the average woman should consume a minimum of 1,200 calories daily, and men should consume no less than 1.500 calories daily. Notice the keyword minimum in that line, your actual mileage may vary. We know that counting calories are hard, for anyone.

How Can You Eat Smarter

What if I told you there are better ways to eat healthily? Just remember that you have to have at least the calories mentioned above, if you don’t get enough you will be left feeling hungry. So, How Can You Eat Smarter? With three small steps, you can be on your way to a more healthy relationship with food and how you eat.

Some common misconceptions about diets that we all fall into. Drastic or strict diets can have a counter effect than what was intended. Too few calories and carb can be bad for you as well, after all, your body needs fuel to get through the day. This can lead to feeling hungry Hunger is not a necessary side effect of a diet, it’s your body telling you that you need more energy to keep going. That is within reason, of course. This hunger can lead to cravings, especially when you are cutting out things you think you can’t eat, to lose weight. Because of this, we tend to look at diets as a short term fix for our weight problems.

We need to change our mindset, for weight loss to be effective. How can I change my mind about weight loss? That’s a good question to start with. Let’s take a look at some simple steps.

How can I change my mind about weight loss
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

How Can I Change My Mind About Weight Loss

To make changes to our habits, we have to consider them as a long term approach. Viewing in a short term solution only opens up to the possibility of falling back into old habits. Here are three ways you can change your mindset about weight loss.

Portion Control

This sounds like a “no brainer”, eat less and lose more. Portion control is important because we often do not think about serving sizes. Sure they are listed on the packages of food and drink we buy, but we rarely pay them anymore mind. Then we get caught up in trying to remember lists of ounces, cups, and tablespoons. This is all a waste of time and will end up deterring you from making the change. Here are a few tricks you can use to remember adequate serving sizes

  • The serving size of fruit or vegetables is about the size of YOUR fist. Yes, this will change for each person, that is the point. It’s about what your body needs.
  • The serving size of pasta is about the size of a single scoop of ice cream. 
  • The serving size of meat, fish, and poultry is equivalent to the size of just the palm of your hand, not counting fingers.
  • If you still want to have snacks like chips and pretzels as a part of what you eat, then remember that a serving size is close to what you can hold in one of a cupped handful. (again, your hand)
  • The serving size of steamed rice is the size of a cupcake wrapper
  • The serving size of cheese is the size of a pair of dice or roughly equivalent to the size of your thumb, from tip to base.

Be Mindful of What You Eat

This also seems like an easy one and it also directly relates to the one above. But there is a bit more to it, also. Since 2011, there has been growing research into what is called mindful eating. Mindful eating suggests that a “more thoughtful way of eating could help with weight problems and maybe steer some people away from processed food and unhealthy choices.” Consider options for what you are eating, do you need to put cheese on your hamburger or would it be just as fine without it.

Another thing to consider is the speed at which you eat. Some studies show slowing down your eating allows the body time to process what you are eating and not overeat. Here are some tips you can try while eating.

  • Eat silently for five minutes, think about what all lit took to create the food that is in front of you. Think of the sun’s rays shining on the plant, the farmer who harvested it, the grocer that sold it to you, and all that you had to to do prepare the meal.
  • Take smaller bites and chew. On average it takes chewing 32 times to get your bite down ready to be swallowed. 
  • Before opening the fridge or cabinet, take a breath and ask yourself, “Am I really hungry?” Do something else, like reading or going on a short walk.

Watch the labels of what you buy

If you haven’t ever looked at the label of the food you buy, then it’s time to stop and take notice of what’s in the food you are buying.  The obvious you should be looking at are the calories, sodium, sugar, and protein. In general, you want all but protein to be low. If you have any health conditions like diabetes, you want to pay attention to things like sugars and carbohydrates. These can have adverse effects on you, make sure to check with your doctor.

That isn’t all that you should be concerned with on those labels. Here is where you want to stop and take a look at the ingredients and ask yourself What Are You Eating? Looking at the labels, you should ask yourself if you are surprised by anything that you see in it. You can also take note as to where those items are listed in the ingredients. A general rule of thumb is what is listed first is in higher quantity. So, if sugar is the first thing in the ingredients, you shouldn’t be surprised that it mostly contains sugar. Lastly, if you cannot pronounce what is listed in the ingredients, do you want to put it in your body? Research what you see there to determine what it is and how good it is for you. Mainly, you will see a lot of preservatives.

How Does All of This Work Together

Eating healthy isn’t easy, it takes considerable work to maintain it. It is a lifestyle change after all. If you fail, it’s okay. You can start over on the next meal. You need to expect there will be setbacks and that they don’t mean you failed. Using the three steps outline above is a good place to start. From there you can remember that even a less than healthy homemade meal is infinitely better than a processed meal from a fast-food restaurant.

To help you get on your way, below you will find three recipes that you can cook up at home. Each of these will mostly contain items you probably have around the house. They also include things like lentils, a good source of protein and bulk.

Recipes for healthy living
Photo by Katerina Holmes on Pexels.com

Vegan Mexican Bolognese

Before we start, you are probably thinking that Bolognese is an Italian sauce, and you aren’t wrong. Simply a bolognese means a combination of meat, spices, and tomatoes. In this recipe, we are using brown lentils as the protein source, instead of meat.

  • 1.5 cups of brown lentils
  • 1 cup of dry kidney beans
  • 1 jar of salsa (pick one with low or no sugar and sodium)
  • 1 can tomato sauce
  • ½ onion, finely chopped
  • 3 ribs of celery, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon of chopped garlic (fresh is best)
  • Mexican style hot sauce (your choice of brand and hotness)
  • Spices to taste (cumin, cilantro, oregano, red pepper flakes, and salt)
  • Red Quinoa (follow your portion control)
  • Vegetable stock

Put lentils and beans in a big bowl and cover with water. Put a towel over it and let it sit overnight to soak. Next morning, throw everything into your slow cooker and stir. Cook on low for 8 hours. It will be ready when you get home from work. Cook Quinoa based on the package but use Vegetable stock instead of water, it gives better flavor. A simple meal for dinner.

Quinoa Fried Rice

  • 1.5 cups of golden quinoa
  • 1 ¼ cups of vegetable stock
  • 1 diced onion (sweet)
  • ¾ cup of frozen corn (thaw in the microwave)
  • ¾ cup of frozen shelled edamame (thawed in the microwave – protein source)
  • 4 eggs

Sauce

  • 4 tablespoons of low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of Worchestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of Sriracha or your choice of hot sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of finely chopped garlic
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of rice vinegar or white wine vinegar

Cook quinoa and stock in a rice cooker. Simmer the sauce in a saucepan, stirring occasionally. Once your quinoa is done, add 1 tablespoon of canola oil to a large hot frying pan. Add onion, corn, and edamame. Let them sit for a little bit before stirring. Once the bottom of the veggies starts to char, add quinoa and most of the sauce. Stir.

Using a spatula, push the mixture out to the edges of your pan, creating an empty space. Crack eggs and scramble, pour into the center. Chop them into little pieces as they cook. Once cooked, stir all ingredients together and add the rest of the sauce. Remove from heat.

Chicken Gumbo

  • 2 chicken breasts, diced
  • 2 links of andouille sausage, sliced
  • 1 sweet onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 ribs of celery
  • 1 cup frozen okra
  • 1 large can of crushed tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons of finely chopped garlic
  • 2 boxes of vegetable stock
  • 1 ½ teaspoon of salt (or less if preferred)
  • ½ teaspoon of black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of dried thyme
  • ½ teaspoon of dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon of cayenne pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 2 tablespoons of flour
  • Quinoa

In a soup pot add butter and heat on medium-high heat. Once, heated through, add the flour and cook to medium brown color. You will need to stir this constantly so as not to burn it. Add chopped and thawed vegetables, except okra, to the mixture. Constantly stir until the onions are almost translucent and all other vegetables are soft.

Add your vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Add tomatoes, okra, spices, and bay leaf to the mixture and bring to a boil again. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes. While this is cooking, cook your quinoa, with vegetable stock instead of water, according to the package. Once done, fluff and set aside to stay warm.

Add chopped chicken to the gumbo and cook uncovered for 6 – 8 minutes, or until cooked through. Add andouille to mixture. Taste and adjust seasonings, as needed. To serve, scoop the appropriate portion of quinoa into a bowl and ladle gumbo over and enjoy.

Recipes provided by Karl, my boyfriend. who has tried helping me in my healthier eating habits.

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