Making the transition from unhealthy food to healthy food
Most of us would like to eat healthier, but we have trouble breaking old habits and starting new ones. Maybe you’ve been eating the typical American diet for so long that it seems almost impossible to learn to appreciate the flavors of real food, as opposed to the highly sugary, salty, processed food you’re used to. Or maybe, you are currently a fairly healthy eater, but would like to learn a little more to “tweak” your diet. Well, read on and you will learn how to get the most out of your diet by making the necessary changes to make the transition from unhealthy to healthy foods.
First, get in the habit of reading labels. Consciousness is the key. Becoming aware of the chemistry of food is one of the first steps to becoming healthy, and probably one of the most important of all. When you get into the habit of reading what you are eating, it will make a big difference. Don’t get too obsessive, just be aware. If you can’t pronounce it, you shouldn’t eat it. And chances are, if there are more than 6 ingredients, it’s probably a processed food. Their goal should be to eat whole foods that have no ingredients other than themselves. The taste of whole foods will make such a difference that soon (with consistency) your taste buds will want nothing more. You will soon discover that any food that contains chemicals and preservatives will have a fake, medicinal taste. When shopping at any store, be it your local grocery store or a health food store, remember that it is best to shop on the perimeter (outside aisles) as much as possible. That is where you will find most of the whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, fish, eggs, dairy, etc. Interior aisles, with prepackaged foods, will do the most harm to your health.
Refined sugar is a huge health robbery, but it’s one of the easiest to give up because there are many goodies you can buy at a health food store that are made with “legal” sugars: raw honey, barley malt, juice of maple fruit. syrup, Sucanat, stevia, Rapidura, raw cane juice and agave. These sugars have not undergone a process that removes all nutrients. They will give you an energy boost, but not so high that you collapse 20-30 minutes later with the terrible feeling of a “sugar crash.” I know it’s hard to conceive, but if you start eating more real, more earth-centric food, your cravings for sweets of any kind (even “legal” ones) will greatly diminish. The best way to start the weaning process is to stop buying refined and sweet sugars and take them home.
Now, not everyone is going to go for this one, and I am aware of that. But you naysayers keep reading, because you will surely get something out of this section. In the past, there were very few meat substitutes, but now you can get just about anything you want in any shape or flavor you can think of, based on turkey, chicken, fish, or soy products. These red meat / pork alternatives are so well seasoned, at times, you’ll be convinced you’re actually eating. Most of the dishes we prepare with ground beef have to do with seasonings. If you saw a veggie burger with goodies like tomato, onion, lettuce (other than iceberg), pickles, ketchup, and mustard, your brain will tell you that you are actually eating. For other ground beef dishes like meatloaf or sloppy joe, you can add your “special sauce” and other ingredients to ground turkey or textured vegetable protein (shredded soy protein) and fool even your biggest meat eaters. If you’re trying to quit beef and pork products and / or your family and aren’t ready to go completely vegan, try Shelton Farms chicken and turkey products. They do not contain preservatives and are made with poultry meat. With all the panic surrounding mad cow disease, it’s nice to know that you no longer have to sacrifice your health for taste.
If you commit to ditching dairy, you’ll find how easy it is to make many of your favorite dishes with a milk substitute. You can find healthy alternatives to milk that will not only taste good, but also make you feel better because your nose won’t be stuffy, your throat won’t have phlegm, and your digestion will improve tremendously. As an alternative to milk, I normally recommend Silk Soy Milk by White Wave – this is the Cadillac of all soy milk on the market. Or, if you’re allergic to soy, I recommend Imagined Foods Original Enriched Rice Dream. Both can be used for cooking and baking, but I recommend that you use the sugar-free versions of either. Also, Earth Balance Margarine is a good substitute for butter because it has no hydrogenated oils. As for the cheese, Veggie Slices are excellent and come in a variety of flavors (American, Swiss, Provolone, Monterey Jack). The same Veggie Slices brand maker also makes shredded versions of the cheese. There are also substitutes for sour cream, cream cheese, and heavy cream to replace half and half. And let’s not forget the yogurt. There are also soy substitutes for that. Skipping dairy can be difficult for some, and in that case, you may need to gradually stop consuming dairy. Gradually cut back on the dairy products you use while substituting for the alternative version. You will notice that there is not much difference, except that you will start to feel better.
I hope you have learned a lot from this issue, not only about what is written here, but also about yourself and the things you need to work on to improve your health. If everything seems overwhelming, just start with one thing at a time. You may want to start at the top of the list and work your way up the list every 2-3 weeks. I recommend at least 3 weeks of consistent work on each topic before moving on to the next, to create a habit of change. Before you know it, you will have incorporated 4 important steps into your lifestyle that can do nothing but make you a healthier YOU!