Whether you’ve made a new year’s resolution to eat healthier or you’re just tweaking your lifestyle, grocery shopping is often a good place to start. The issue most people face when making choices at the store is the variety of options and the confusing labels, such as “organic”, “free-range”, or “gluten-free”. While it might be easy to assume these labels mean those foods are healthier, it’s both more complicated and a lot simpler than that.
When In Doubt, Eat Whole
For most people starting out a new, healthier lifestyle, they can fall into a lot of traps that wind up wasting a lot of money and probably not helping their health out all that much. Expensive “health foods” like Lean Cuisines might be a good choice for a busy weeknight, but in general, you’ll be in a good place just by picking up whole, uncooked foods and making food from scratch, as recommended by the International Life Sciences Institute. Not only will you have control over every ingredient that goes into your meals, but you’ll most likely end up consuming fewer calories since ready-made foods generally have more oil and sugar than home-cooked meals. Try sticking to fresh or frozen fruits, vegetables, and meat the next time you’re at the store.
Meal Planning is Key
Another pitfall of being new to “healthy” eating is that fresh vegetables, fruits, and meat products tend to spoil more quickly than processed foods will. If you’re not used to juggling all those ingredients, you’ll probably end up with a spoiled box of salad greens on more than one occasion. That’s why it’s important to go into the grocery store with a plan. Think of three to five dinners and lunches that you can make during a week, preferably mixing and matching the same ingredients. For example, you can buy chicken, tomatoes, and peppers and make fajitas one night and shakshuka the next. Having a plan means that you’ll know exactly what’s in your fridge and it’ll all be used before your next shopping trip.
Meal Prep is Just Fancy Leftovers
You’ve probably stumbled upon a meal prep blog or YouTube channel once or twice and been intimidated by all those nice food storage containers and the hours of cooking that goes into it. Not to mention the fact that most people don’t enjoy eating the same foods over and over again, especially when it’s been sitting in the fridge for a few days. In reality, meal prep is just another way of thinking about leftovers. Whenever you make a meal, make at least twice as much as you need. The rest goes away for lunch the next day, or maybe you make enough to have meals for several days. If you do this with every meal you make, you’ll have several different meals on hand and won’t have to rely on week-night takeout as often.
Don’t Be Afraid of Frozen Food
When you think about healthy foods, what comes to mind is most likely an overflowing refrigerator stuffed with leafy greens, tons of vegetables and fresh fruits, lots of ingredients that are likely to spoil quickly and require a bit of prep. While fresh produce should absolutely be a part of your rotation, frozen fruits and vegetables should also be on your shopping list. Not only are these items a lot cheaper most of the time, but they’re also frozen fresh, meaning that they’re likely more fresh and nutritious than the regular produce.
While the taste is rarely comparable, you can easily make frozen vegetables delicious by steaming or sauteing them. For an easy weeknight dinner, you can throw some mixed frozen veggies in a pan with some leftover rice and some scrambled eggs for quick-fried rice. Eating healthier doesn’t have to be an expensive, time-consuming endeavor. By knowing what healthiness really means, and what it doesn’t mean, you can easily incorporate some of these habits into your daily life and reap the benefits forever.