What do you picture when you think of eating healthy? You might think about what someone’s kitchen would look like–stocked with superfood ingredients, with not a lot of junk food on hand. Maybe you imagine a grocery list or shopping cart filled with vegetables. You might picture measuring, tracking, or counting your food. Or maybe you think of deprivation, dieting, restriction, and never eating good food again. (That’s a common misperception of what a healthy diet really means!)
But I’m willing to bet that one word that comes to mind when you picture eating healthy is COMPLICATED. You picture lots of unfamiliar ingredients, a sink full of dirty dishes, hours spent preparing your meals, lots of expensive appliances, tons of money spent on ingredients, and frustration at the unsustainability of “eating healthy.”
But I have news for you. Eating healthy doesn’t need to be–in fact, shouldn’t be–complicated! Complicated = unsustainable, meaning you’re going to quit pretty quickly. You don’t need a meal plan, specific macronutrients or calories, or even fancy recipes–although those can occasionally be fun. In reality, a healthy diet should be a simple diet!
Now this doesn’t mean you need to eat the same meals over and over again, unless you are the type of person who likes doing that. For me, I tend to eat a smoothie for breakfast every single morning, and although I vary what kind of smoothie I make, I generally pick one smoothie and put it on repeat for a whole week to keep it easy. Lunch, for many people, is leftovers, and that is awesome–keeps things simple for sure. I also plan my snacks ahead of time as part of my meal planning for the week and eat about the same snack all week long.
The place where most of us stress out and make things needlessly complicated is dinner. Am I right? Raise your hand if you fall into the trap of thinking you need a cookbook or a meal plan to ensure a healthy dinner. (Ahem, my hand is up.)
Well, let’s change that! Dinner should be the simplest of all! That’s generally the busiest time of day, when everyone is home from work and school, you might be running around to extracurricular activities, and you’re trying to wind things down for the day. The last thing you need is to be standing in front of the stove for an hour cooking vegan lasagna from scratch. (Again, I’m raising my hand.) If cooking relaxes you, then more power to you–complicate away, sister. But if you’re like me and you get stressed out by meal plans and long ingredient lists and intensive prep times, here’s how you should think of dinner from now on:
protein + healthy fat + fiber (a.k.a. vegetables)
That’s it–that’s the template. This is, obviously, infinitely adaptable.
That could be a steak, a baked potato with butter and sour cream, and a green salad. It could be a vegetable stir-fry with brown rice. It could look however you want it. The key here is NOT to reinvent the wheel every night, or even every week.
If your kids like tacos, have Taco Tuesday every week, using the same recipe, and make sure you have some lettuce to make yours into a taco salad with crushed tortilla chips on top. If you love chicken, keep it easy! Season the chicken breast (you don’t even need a recipe–gasp!) and bake it in the oven while you saute some green beans in butter and the rice cooker makes some brown rice.
This template leaves room for fun experimentation sometimes, but a good idea if you are a busy mom (like I am) is to do your fancy meals and a little bit of meal prep on the weekend when you have more time, and keep it really simple and basic on the weeknights. Don’t feel like you have to try something new all the time. But also, don’t feel tied down by the things you already make all the time. Upgrade your current meals to healthier versions and get rid of the pressure to make something new every night. Cookbooks and superfoods are fun, but they aren’t necessary to have a healthy diet every day!
simplify healthy eating – for you!
The key to establishing a healthy diet is to make it work FOR YOU in your unique circumstances and YOUR LIFE. What might be simple for one person might be totally overwhelming for another person. I love green smoothies packed with vegetables, but that might sound overwhelming or complicated to you. The important key is to find what is simple for you!
Maybe you buy pre-chopped, packaged vegetables from the grocery store. Maybe you hire a personal chef (it’s not as expensive as you might think!). Maybe you try out a meal delivery service. Maybe you buy healthier frozen or pre-made meals. There are tons of options to simplify healthy eating and to make it quick–ordering pizza or hitting the drive-thru is no longer your only option! Maybe you rely on protein powders, bars, or other supplements to get the nutrition you need. Maybe you take a couple hours one day a week to prep ahead a couple things to have on hand so cooking for the rest of the week is quicker.
The important thing is to start WHERE YOU ARE and do something. Don’t get overwhelmed by what you believe is the perfect way you SHOULD be eating if it’s so far from where you are now. Start where you are, and go from there. Take the next logical step. Eliminate your biggest pain point with healthy eating. If you hate chopping vegetables, buy pre-chopped vegetables. If you don’t like cooking at all right now, buy pre-prepared food. Whatever works for you and is the most logical and straight-forward way to upgrade your diet to the next level, DO THAT.
Don’t get bogged down by the way everyone else on the internet is doing it–making elaborate meal plans or prepping all the week’s food in one day. If that’s not your thing, SKIP IT. Again, the important thing is to just do something, to take one step in the right direction, and to make it simple.
Human nature is that we take the path of least resistance. If you can make healthy eating easier, you’ll more naturally make good food choices without the struggle. We’re naturally lazy, and that’s okay! Make that work for you rather than against you.
If you’d like some help with this process, I’m excited to announce that I’m now starting one-time individualized diet consults over the phone. If you aren’t ready or looking for a longer term coaching package but you just want some help with your normal day-to-day eating, I would love to help you. On our call, you’ll tell me how you currently eat and I’ll help you come up with a plan you love for simple, healthy meals based on your family’s likes.