I love food, but it can become overwhelming when trying to figure out WHAT to eat. And then there is the planning, food prep, and making sure that my food choices are healthy and most importantly, taste good!
I often hear from patients, “I am bored. I don’t know how to cook. It takes too much time. Healthy foods have no flavor. My kids won’t like the meals I make. My spouse won’t eat what I want. I am confused with all the diets out there! Paleo, Mediterranean, Whole 30, Vegan, Pescatarian, Keto!!!??? What is best??”
I hear you! It’s hard enough these days to choose from the 100 different types of protein bars or new flavors of Kombucha! (My 14-year-old son can’t get enough Kombucha!)
KEEP IT SIMPLE
So here is my recommendation: KEEP THINGS BASIC. You don’t have to be a gourmet chef to eat healthy, delicious food. Focus on whole, colorful, nutrient-dense foods. What does this mean? When choosing a food, can you picture it running, swimming, or growing on the planet? If so, it’s a whole food (and don’t ask your 5-year-old this question because they WILL see Cheetos growing on trees). I don’t want your body to be part of a science experiment, so avoid boxed, processed, fast food.
EAT THE RAINBOW
Do you see lots of color on your plate? Not brown, tan, or white, but BLUE, GREEN, RED, YELLOW, PURPLE. I want the colors of the rainbow! The more color, the more nutrient value! It’s like having a multivitamin on your plate!
What about nutrient dense foods? These foods are packed with vitamins and minerals, not just calories. A classic example is a handful of carrots versus a handful of saltine crackers. Both have about the same calories, but the carrots (of course!) have biotin, potassium, and vitamins A, K1, and B6. The crackers, well, they have air and wheat.
THE “MAGIC” RATIO
When planning meals, think about these basic ratios: 1/2 the plate veggie, 1/4 of the plate protein, and 1/4 of the plate healthy starch. For example, my family loves pan-seared wild salmon from Trader Joe’s (click >>HERE<< for basic recipe), with salad (or Swiss Chard as in recipe), and roasted potatoes (love this recipe–click >>HERE<<). Bam. All 3 categories covered.
You could also try Adelle’s sausages with asparagus and sweet potato fries (so many recipes out there!). Or a burrito (whole wheat tortilla–here is the starch) with beans and/or grilled chicken (here is the protein), and LOAD IT UP with sauteed veggies (i.e. kale, mushrooms, zucchini, onions, lettuce, even cauliflower! Your choice!). The trick is remembering the veggies. This is often where we fall short.
I realize that meal planning is a dreaded topic. It takes work and it takes time (for me it’s 1-2 hours on Sunday), but YOU WILL SAVE MONEY, EAT HEALTHIER, HAVE MORE TIME (BECAUSE YOU DON’T HAVE TO GO OUT), FEEL HEALTHIER, EAT HIGHER QUALITY INGREDIENTS, AND YOU WILL BE SO PROUD OF YOURSELF!!!! YOU CAN DO IT!!! I sit down Sunday morning with my favorite cookbooks (see my list below), my computer, and my Paprika app (to keep my favorite recipes organized) and write out the plan for Monday-Friday. I allow 1-2 meals out a week (we all need a break). Double the batches of some recipes for lunches or a busier night. Crock pot or Instapot meals can help!
RESOURCES aka COOKBOOKS
Here are some cookbooks I love:
- Dishing Up the Dirt by Andrea Bemis
- The Easy Anti-Inflammatory Diet by Karen Frazier
- Plant-Powered Families by Dreena Burton
- Whole 30 Fast and Easy by Melissa Hartwig
- Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair
- Against All Grain by Danielle Walker
And what “diet” do I love the best? Well, for the majority of my patients (assuming no food allergies, sensitivities, Celiac disease, chronic GI or other health issues), I recommend the yummy Mediterranean diet. It is full of healthy fats (olive oil, avocado oil, avocados, nuts and seeds, salmon, sardines, seafood), vegetables (kale, spinach, chard, legumes), fruits, whole grains, and spices. It also includes (in moderation) eggs, poultry, and dairy. Red meat is kept to 1-2x a month. Foods to avoid include: sugar-sweetened beverages, added sugars, processed meats, refined (white) grains, refined oils (soybean, canola), trans fats (found in margarine) and highly processed, fast food.
The Mediterranean diet is a wonderful LOW inflammatory diet. As I have expressed in many of my other blogs, newsletters, and consultations, inflammation is the smoldering fire which can lead to chronic disease.
There are so many Mediterranean recipes online! Here is just one I recently came upon and really want to try! –The Ultimate Mediterranean Bowl! Click >>HERE<< to see the recipe! Looks delish!!!