Wanting to improve your family’s health? A whole foods diet can help. It’s not so much a diet as a lifestyle and just going back to eating real food.
When you’re busy, eating right can easily fall by the wayside in favor of the quick and easy. You know what the wayside is – it’s everywhere these days. Fast food, prepackaged dinners, frozen entrees, take-out – they’re becoming the standard, no longer unusual or special.
However, with all the research I’ve been reading about the harmful effects of dyes, preservatives and other additives in convenience foods, I’ve recommitted to preparing whole-food meals for my family.
Not only for my own health but for my two sons, one of whom sometimes struggles a bit thanks to having the attention span of a gnat, a growing occurrence these days among young boys. Growing evidence points the finger at a diet laden with preservatives, artificial colors and added sweeteners, and while it’s not proven that these additives are to blame, I’m convinced enough to put out the effort to try a cleaner, more natural diet.
How to Switch to a Whole Foods Diet
Here are a few tips I’ve picked up to help makeover my pantry and my menu.
Know what real food is. Whole foods include nuts, grains, seeds, vegetables and fruits in their natural form and not processed or refined. Whole foods generally don’t contain added ingredients, such as sugar, salt or fat, and they’re generally free of additives and preservatives. Eating these foods provide more vitamins and minerals than eating processed foods, as they’re higher in fiber, antioxidants, and resistant starches. Many of us have forgotten what real food tastes like. You know what? It tastes amazing!
Eat whole grain breads, oatmeal, and brown rice. According to an article in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, eating whole grains instead of refined not only reduces your chances of getting Type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular disease but also cuts belly fat and helps you maintain healthy cholesterol levels. An even better idea? Cut back on grains and pump up your intake of fruits and veggies, also excellent sources of fiber.
Buy fresh when possible. Frozen is a good second choice. Avoid canned food as much as possible, as many canned foods contain BPA (Bisphenol-A), thanks to the chemical being infused in the lining of the cans. When purchasing meat, choose fresh meats that have been processed as little as possible.
Read the labels. Avoid partially hydrogenated oils and saturated fats, and check for added sugars, salt, and coloring. Stick with ingredients you can pronounce, and steer clear of foods with added coloring, artificial flavoring and preservatives, particularly BHA, BHT and TBHQ (they’re made from petroleum). We’re also trying to avoid MSG, nitrates, and sulfites.
Choose organic when possible. The pesticides and herbicides sprayed on non-organic food to preserve it and keep pests away may be harmful. Keep your fruit and veggies clean, particularly the Dirty Dozen, and wash all produce before you eat it. Choose milk and meats that do not contain hormones and antibiotics.
Prepare whole foods by baking, broiling or sautéing in light oil, such as sesame oil or olive oil. Avoid cooking in harmful fats and deep frying. As tempting as French fries and fried chicken may be, try their baked or sautéed versions instead. They’re healthier, and they taste much richer. An air fryer is another great option.
Make food from scratch. I love making fresh bread and homemade pita, though recently I’ve been too busy, or lazy, to set aside time to bake them. Instead of sending packaged snacks to school with my kids, I like sending homemade banana or muffins with them – and the kids prefer it too. Making food from scratch may be the toughest part for me, simply because it requires me to plan ahead both with my shopping list and my free time.
Do you have any tips for eating a natural, whole-foods based diet? What are your favorite recipes and meal plans?
Sandy Kreps is a green living/simplicity writer and graphic designer in Dallas, Texas. She blogs at Modern Simplicity. which is dedicated to simple green living with modern style. She is also the author of, Mommy Simplicity: Finding Calm in the Chaos.. You can also find her on Twitter.