Did you make the resolution to eat better this year? Are you feeling a little overwhelmed with the idea of cooking more or making more healthy choices when eating in general?
Getting started can seem really daunting, especially when changing the food on your plate. A quick good search about changing your diet can lead to being told that you HAVE to go vegan, keto, paleo, carnivore, fasting, detox kits, and whatever fad diet is trending at the time. So let me make it simple for you, eat your veggies, be mindful when you eat, and most importantly have fun.
Diet culture commonly strips the fun out of the learning process, when in reality learning how to cook and eat healthily can be fun, exciting, and of course a tasty journey. Here are 5 skills that will help you on your journey to healthy eating habits.
- Knife skills
Eating healthy often means eating home-cooked meals, but prepping food to cook can be a challenge if you don’t have good knife skills. Holding the knife wrong can lead to pain and injury. Yet knowing how to properly use and select the right knife for the job you’re doing, can make cooking quicker, easier, and more enjoyable. Below there’s a link to a playlist of some amazing knife skill videos.
- Finding recipes
This is probably my favourite pastime. I love looking at all the colourful, tasty, and interesting recipes and trying them out. However, I am well aware that not everyone enjoys falling down this rabbit hole, only to find complicated recipes with ingredients they have never heard of. So here are some tips to make it easier. First, when doing your google searches, be specific on flavours or ingredients that you want to use like “Coconut Thai Curry with Tofu ” or “Easy Japanese Miso Soup”. By being specific in your search you cut out the results that you’re not interested in. The second tip is to look at the images rather than the web view. This way you can see what ingredients they are using for the most part and can judge whether it looks like something you actually want to eat. Plus, I personally, get more excited to cook something when seeing the dish rather than reading the story behind the dish. Lastly, find a couple of recipes sources that are your go-to’s. Mine are the Minimalist Baker, Oh She Glows, and the Lazy Cat Kitchen. By having a couple of go-to sources means that you are familiar with their ingredient list, flavor profile, and layout of the recipes, making them easier to follow.
- What an ideal plate looks like
When it comes to healthy eating habits, portioning and ratios can be a hard thing to agree on when looking at the diet-trends community. Talk to a raw vegan and your plate has to be entirely made up of raw fruits and veggies, with small amounts of nuts and seeds. Then talk to a keto person the more fat the better with a secondary focus on protein and an avoidance of most veggies and fruit. So now what? There is a bit of art and science to determine how your particular plate looks. Based on many health guidelines a meal should be about 50% fruits and or veggies, 25% complex carbohydrates (potatoes, brown rice, pasta, bread, etc), and 25% good quality proteins (plant-based or animal-based). The art comes in as these metrics might not reach everyone’s needs due to activity levels or other health concerns. But this is a great place to start and is easier to visualize. (add plate pie graph picture)
- Grocery shopping
Grocery shopping is the first place that impacts healthy eating habits, as this sets up your environment. If you regularly bring in food that you know you will eat but don’t want to be eating, you’re setting yourself to sabotage your goals. If you want to eat more veggies you need to surround yourself with more veggies to eat. Want to eat ice cream less but you buy a couple of pints a week, you’re still going to eat what you have around you when you have a craving for it as it’s easily accessible. Yes, it is a simplistic view and will be hard if you have people in your house that still want to have the ice cream readily available, but it is a powerful tool to set up your environment for success.
Also like setting goals, going grocery shopping is more successful when you have a plan. Making a grocery list based on recipes and meals that you are going to make that week will reduce temptation (although I always allow myself one or two treats when I go grocery shopping), reduces time as you have a plan rather than wandering the store aisles, and you know what and how much you need which reduces food waste and can lower how much you spend on your grocery trips.
- Reading food labels
This skill is not as complicated as it might seem. In reality, I only look at three things when I look at food labels. Sugar content, ingredients (sugar, allergies, and things that I can pronounce). As someone with ADHD and diabetes in my family, lots of excess sugars seem to do more damage than good to my health goals and mental state so I avoid them as much as possible. However even if these are not things you yourself are concerned about, the WHO has recommended that people consume roughly 25 grams of sugar daily or six teaspoons daily. To put this in perspective 250 ml or a cup of orange juice contains 21 grams of sugar. My rule of thumb that my mom taught me from a young age was that sugar shouldn’t be within the first 5 ingredients in any of its forms. I also like to avoid processed food that has ingredients that I can turn around and buy myself. For example, when granola is a regular part of my diet, I look for one that has ingredients that I recognize and can buy by themselves like oats, cranberries, spices, etc. If I don’t recognize or am not able to buy a listed ingredient, I really think twice about whether I want it to be a regular part of my diet.
By no means are these rules that you have to live and die by, but this skill can make healthy eating habits easier to stick to so that you can reach your health goals. These skills should make it easier for you to have fun in the kitchen while setting yourself up for success.