You don’t need a gym membership, a personal trainer or a nutritionist serving you in order to be healthy and fit. Getting in shape, or just getting healthy doesn’t have to cost much. In fact, it should save you money on health bills and on your food budget if you take the time to cook.
Not sure where to start? You’re not alone. Many of us know we should eat right, but don’t know how. Here are three important steps to getting your kitchen ready for a more healthy lifestyle.
First, stop eating out. Fast food might seem cheaper when you buy from the budget menu, but the damage it does to your health will cost you in the end. Occasional salads or seemingly healthy options at fast food places can be deceptive. If they have fatty dressings or a lot of toppings, it is likely they are not as healthy as you think. Even buying diet friendly items like Fresco style dishes from Taco Bell can be surprisingly high in calories. They are okay on occasion, but the only real cost effective and healthful option to eating right is to eat from home.
Second, clear your pantry and fridge of fatty foods, snacks, chips and desserts. Stock it instead with healthy options. No foods are completely off limits, but remember if you have fatty and sugary foods on hand, someone will eat them.
Stock your counter and fridge with fruits for those sugar cravings. You can keep the ingredients to bake on hand or make items from scratch. If you have to cook a dessert from scratch, you will indulge less often. Just be sure to only make a little at time. There are some great single serving recipes out there, many can be made in a mug in the microwave. Check out this board on Pinterest for some great recipes to keep you from baking too much.
For salty cravings, keep pistachios or nuts on hand. Just make sure to limit the amounts consumed. A good way to do this is to keep a measuring cup next to or in the container of nuts that is size of a serving. You can also use baggies and separate out servings and store them that way. Mozzarella cheese sticks, popcorn or pretzels should also work. For salty sweet, try roasting sweet potatoes with garlic salt.
For drinks, water is best, but you can always brew teas and sweet it lightly for a better option than soda. Avoid artificial sweeteners. Small amounts of plain sugar, honey, stevia or xylitol are better options. Juice is alright, but try watering it down. Eventually, you will be able to curb your sweet craving.
Third, and most important is learning to cook. Taking pride is your food and sitting down for a meal will help you to appreciate what you eat and enjoy it more. This will help keep you from indulging in as much mindless eating.
When it comes to eating and cooking at home, even if you use pre-packaged dinners, it is an improvement. Though these are not always the healthiest or as cost effective as cooking from scratch, if you are short on time frozen meals are still a better choice than fast food.
Choose the more vegetable heavy frozen dinners and avoid pasta based items. You can always add more vegetables to these frozen dishes. Though fresh vegetables are always best, a bag of frozen vegetables is a good option. Read this article at WebMD for some ideas of how to shop for frozen meals.
You can always work up to cooking from scratch using fresh ingredients. If you jump to trying to cook at home from scratch, you may be overwhelmed and give up. Take it one step at a time. Once you get comfortable with eating and cooking at home, you can move on to cooking from scratch and choosing a diet that works for you.
Future articles will cover healthy soups, slow cooker recipes, and the different diet choices out there.