I have been ‘dieting’ for about half my life. Some work while you’re on them, some don’t even work while you’re doing them, but none have managed to get me to change my eating habits so I don’t have to ‘go on a diet’. I’ve written before about how much I dislike cooking. Not only that, but the planning and shopping before hand, as well as the prep and the washing up (we don’t have a dishwasher) make me, more often than not, really resent cooking from scratch. But, I’ve learnt, that if you want to eat healthily, whether you’re trying to lose weight, feel better or just stop eating crap, cooking from scratch is really the only way to go. I would say that 90% of the time, we now eat food that is cooked from scratch, healthy and good for us. It’s not easy, especially when you live a stones throw from some of the best takeaways in town, but here’s how we do it.
- Be realistic. Like most people, I’m busy. And there are a million other things I’d rather be doing than chopping veg, sauteing onions or washing up 3 different saucepans. So for us to eat well, our meals have to be quick, use ingredients that we use regularly and not require kitchen skills found only in michelin star restaurants. I also know that I can’t cook every single dish from scratch, so one of our regular meals is pasta with veggie sausages. It’s not the healthiest meal in the world, but it’s certainly not the worst and it’s definitely better than getting a takeaway. I usually plan it for when we know we’ll something super quick – 12 minutes in fact. I also make sure we have a huge salad with it, just to be on the safe side!
- Plan ahead. For me, this is the only way it works. I sit down once a week with my shopping list, Pinterest and meal planner. I don’t like eating the same things every week, because it’s boring and is a sure fire way of making me gravitate to the pile of takeaway menus. By keeping a record of all the meals that are quick, healthy and easy, it makes this whole process much quicker. It doesn’t always work, the best laid plans and all that, but on the whole we do eat what we plan.
- Include treats in your plan. In the past, I’ve tried diets and cut foods and treats out of my diet. All that happens is that I fall off the ‘good food’ wagon, usually landing on a pile of pizza, cake and wine! Plus I don’t want to live a life without cake! I make sure that we have one treat meal a week, whether it’s a take away, dinner out or something quick & easy like homemade pizza using shop bought spelt pizza base. I also plan in cake or other treats. It’s definitely worth researching the healthiest options available for your treat, but if there isn’t one, just make sure you enjoy it.
- Don’t overdo the fruits. I know what you’re thinking – but fruit’s healthy. Well, yes it is, but it contains sugar. Granted it’s natural, not processed, but when you’re thinking of your 5, 7 or 10 fruit & veg a day, you need to make sure you eat more veg than fruit. It’s frustrating because it’s easier to eat fruit on the go and way nicer than tucking into *another* salad. Obviously, fruit is going to better than a packet of biscuits or slab of chocolate, just make sure you hike up the veggies as often as you can.
- Get a slow cooker. This is one of humankind’s best inventions ever. Yep, I mean that. Why? You can chuck in a handful of wholesome ingredients in the morning and come tea time, your dinner is cooked! This is my kind of cooking. Minimal prep, minimal clean up, minimal time spent in the kitchen, more time playing with Poppy. Win win.
- Try tofu. Despite being a vegetarian for over a decade, I’ve only recently started making meals with tofu at home. It’s a great source of healthy protein that is very easy to cook, easy to handle and goes with almost anything. We use it in stir fry dishes, with plenty of added spice. My tip? If the recipe asks you to use sesame or peanut oil, do it. It makes all the difference.
- Learn how to cook quinoa. Not just quinoa, chia seeds, all kinds of beans and pulses. I’ve never eaten so many tins of chickpeas and I never thought I’d be eating chia seed porridge for breakfast, but there you go. Tinned legumes are essential for healthy eating. They can bulk up a salad, add some much needed protein to a meal and are just brilliant to have around. The same can said for quinoa. You can cook up a big batch and add it to salad, chilli, stew and in place of pasta. It’s saved my bacon on more than one occasion.
- Eat your greens. Whichever way you dress it up, vegetables are your best friend when it comes to healthy eating. If you aren’t a fan of them, you need to find a way to befriend them (though nothing on this earth will get me eating broccoli unless it’s well hidden). For me, its about adding spice to them and getting a variety. If I eat the same ol’ veg all the time, it becomes tedious. A good way to avoid this is to go for seasonal veg.
- Beware the overly processed. When you’re next doing your weekly shop, take a look at the ingredients of some of your favourite convenience foods. How many ingredients do you recognise? If it’s not many, that ain’t good. Natural wholefoods will be full of good stuff. Convenient foods, not so much. I know, I’m as disappointed as you are. I’m not saying never eat them, just eat them rarely. You’ll notice the difference, trust me!
- Be prepared to fail. Every now and then, life is going to be so busy that despite your best intentions, you just can’t face cooking. So when you’re standing in the ready meal section of the supermarket, find the healthiest meal you can, take a look at the ingredients. If there are things on there that you can’t pronounce, step away. Look for something that has recognisable ingredients. Make sure you eat some extra veg with it and don’t worry about it. In a perfect world, you’ll have made a ton of meals from scratch, frozen them and remembered to take them out of the freezer before you left for work. But it’s not a perfect world so enjoy a ready meal every now and then, just don’t beat yourself up over it.
Here are my favourite quick & easy meals. You can find all these and lots of others on my veggie board on Pinterest. Don’t just take my word for it though – Some of the best people to follow for more help, recipes and advice are Laura from Wholeheartedly Healthy, Natasha from Honestly Healthy and Ella from Deliciously Ella.
I’m not a nutritionist so all these tips are just things that work for me and I have years and years and years of experimenting, as I have been battling with my diet for ever! My hatred of cooking, combined with the ease of ordering pizza have made me need to eat better. I know that in order for me to be well, I have to eat well. But it doesn’t have to be a chore. That doesn’t mean I don’t eat cake, takeaway or enjoy the odd gin, of course I do, just not as often as I used to. It’s just all in balance. Eating this way has been the best change to my diet that I could possibly have made and it’s been easier than other ‘diet’.
What tips have you got for healthy eating? What’s your favourite healthy recipe?