Back when Engineer Husband and I were first married, our diet was less than stellar … or natural! Although my mother cooked whole foods from scratch when I was younger and his mother is a wonderful cook, we had just left the Lean College Years behind and were beginning the Lean Married Years. We didn’t have a lot of money, so boxed mac and cheese, pasta and boxed hamburger meals were on the menu often.
When we had our first child, I knew I wanted him to eat healthily and knew that I had to model good eating habits. Slowly, over time, we changed what and how we ate. Now, we eat a diet based on whole foods (with the occasional treat!).
Changing your eating habits is easier than you think. The information out there can be overwhelming, but breaking it down into simple, manageable steps makes everything easier!
- Begin by adding in — Are you getting enough fruits and veggies? By ADDING in healthy foods, you are making a positive change without feeling like you are giving up something. You can also make it a goal to drink MORE water. Both of these are healthy changes that you can make without feeling deprived!
- Whole grains — Although white pasta was cheaper than whole wheat pasta, we made the switch. At first, I mixed just a little bit of whole wheat pasta in with the white pasta. Over time, I increased the amount of whole wheat pasta in the mix until we were eating only whole wheat pasta. We also experimented until we found a brand of whole wheat bread that we liked.
- High fructose corn syrup — When our first child was born, the Internet was just beginning to buzz about the evils of high fructose corn syrup. It was harder to find foods that we liked without this additive. However, I carefully read the labels of foods we loved, like spaghetti sauce and salsa, and found that some were already HFCS-free. If a food had HFCS in it, we used up that bottle and then looked for a new brand. I was pleasantly surprised to find some store brands were HFCS-free!
- Artificial colors and flavors were the next thing to go. I also began to have a reaction to artificial sugar, so avoiding “sugar-free” options was a must. This was perhaps the easiest step because we didn’t, and still don’t, buy a lot of gummy snacks or brightly colored cereals. Now natural versions of these treat foods are easy to come by, but we were also pleasantly surprised that these treats began to taste “off” to us. Once we cleaned up our taste buds, we no longer preferred the artificial foods.
- Go natural — What foods are you eating that come in a more natural, less processed from? For us, it was peanut butter. I wanted the all-natural versions, but my husband hated stirring it. We compromised on a no-stir variety and, later, finally went to an all-natural brand.
- Reduce processed foods — Like many parents, I cannot grow or make from scratch every item that my children eat. While I have found many time-saving meals that mimic our old boxed dinners, we still use some quick prepared meals. Thankfully, I have learned how to carefully menu plan over the years, so needing a quick, pre-packaged dinner is rare; I usually rely on my crock pot to get us through those hectic nights!
Making changes a bit at a time, instead of all at once, helped us stick to our new habits. Over the years, we have continued to make good changes. My husband has kicked his Diet Coke habit, going from several in a day to only drinking Coke at parties or as a treat. I’ve learned portion control and different substitutions in cooking and baking to make a recipe healthier. Our kids love a variety of fruit and veggies and will happily eat whole wheat pasta.
Is our diet perfect? NO! We still eat out on occasion, and my two-year-old loves to say, “Yay! French Fry!” when we drive past any fast-food restaurant. The kids will happily gobble cakes and cookies, and if there is ice cream in the house? They ask for it until it’s gone. However, when I think back to where we were ten years ago, I can’t help but be pleased with the changes we’ve made.
What changes could you make in your eating habits? What changes have you made already?