New Habits for Eating Healthy
by Jennifer Noel
Kale smoothies. Kombucha. Flax seeds. Veggie chips. At a time of New Year’s resolutions and promises of a healthier lifestyle, that kind of menu might seem like a good idea, but it’s important to set realistic goals. A diet of foods you don’t want to eat would be impossible to sustain for very long.
For many people, eating healthy seems like a major sacrifice; many of us certainly would prefer a slice of pizza to a tofu scramble. But healthy meals don’t always mean that flavor and enjoyment need to be put on the back burner. There are many ways to make easy substitutions and still achieve healthier eating habits.
When shifting focus to healthier meals, it is important to recognize that meal preparation does not mean favorite dinner selections need to be abandoned. It’s simply a matter of finding balance. Sometimes, that takes a little ingenuity.
Including a variety of proteins and vegetables with every meal is a solid foundation for healthier eating. According to Amanda Schmell, a registered dietitian with Wellspan Nutrition in York, making small adjustments at mealtime can lead to healthier choices.
“One reason some people don’t like vegetables is that they get boiled and have no flavor,” said Schmell. “Try preparing them different ways, like roasting or sautéing them with chicken broth.”
Introducing new foods into everyday meals may seem risky, especially considering the price of fruits and vegetables. But giving new foods a chance is key.
“People need to try things 10 or more times to actually know whether they like them or not,” said Schmell.
Easy substitutions include using whole grain products instead of those products that contain white flour. In addition, herbs and spices can add flavor without adding salt. Flavor does not have be sacrificed when eating more nutritious meals.
When considering proteins, it is important to use leaner meats, such as 90 percent lean ground beef; marinating meat can also add unique flavors to a dish.
One common misconception is that fats must be avoided. Fat is a good flavor enhancer, but you need to use good sense when using it. The goal is to choose healthier fats such as avocado oil or olive oil.
It may seem like buying organic is also a must when trying to create well-rounded meals, but this is not always the case. Malorie Blake, a registered dietitian nutritionist, recommends buying produce, dairy, and organic meats, but also notes that “if you know how/where your food is grown, it doesn’t necessarily have to be organic.”
Blake also advises that “having a variety of spices on hand can make a meal shine.”
Blake is the founder of Wholesome 365, a nutrition counseling practice in York. For those individuals and families who want to transition to healthier habits but find the choices too overwhelming, nutrition counseling may be a perfect kick-start.
Meal preparation can also help ease the initial constraints often associated with healthy meals. It seems that after a long day at work, it may be easier to grab take-out than prepare a meal. To solve this problem, Blake recommends “batch” cooking. “Take a few hours on the weekend (or your day off) and prepare a few meals to get you through the week,” she said. “Find healthy ‘convenience’ items — things like frozen veggies, ‘cleaner’ versions of sauces/dressings, canned beans, and pre-chopped produce — to make meal prep easier.”
Blake also recommends choosing easy recipes. “I find a lot of people make the mistake of trying to do all these elaborate recipes when doing the meal prep, which just frustrates them because it takes so long.”
Using meal delivery services such as Blue Apron and Hello Fresh can also be useful when beginning a cleaner eating regiment. These services deliver all ingredients and recipes straight to a subscriber’s door and eliminate trips to the grocery store.
And food blogs, such as “The Spunky Coconut,” can help inspire fresh recipes and innovative ingredients.
Dining Out, Healthily
Being committed to healthier eating doesn’t mean you can’t go out to dinner for special occasions, holidays, and even just for a change of pace. Many restaurants offer special menu items, including gluten-free and dairy-free options, so dining out doesn’t have to derail healthy eating habits.
Melinda and Keith Strausbaugh, owners of Warehouse Gourmet Bistro and Brew Pub in Hanover, understand the importance of infusing menu items with unique flavors while still remaining nutritious.
“Our restaurant does not have a deep fat fryer. Serving no fried food is a great way to eating healthier,” said Melinda Strausbaugh. “I don’t think every customer realizes immediately that we don’t have French fries, onion rings, etc. We bake our wings at a high temperature, but they are never fried.”
All dressings are made in-house and the menu offers several healthy choices, such as hummus as an appetizer rather than crab fondue.
“Our customers appreciate home-made items,” said Strausbaugh. “Our chicken salad with cranberries and walnuts is a very popular menu item and can be ordered as a wrap, over greens, or in a sandwich.” These types of simple adjustments provide a range of healthier options.
But Strausbaugh believes that creating innovative meals is also about starting with the basics and then making a recipe your own.
“Learn the basic recipe,” she said. “Then look up other recipes for the same dish. Compare the many different ways to make it and put your own twist into the dish.”