As I said in my blog goals, I am far from a health nut. I frequently dine out and love a nightcap or two, but I do try to eat healthy when dining in. I used to think that shopping at TJ‘s and Whole Foods automatically translated to making healthful choices. I would applaud myself when spending the extra money on what I assumed to be some sort of super-nutritious, organic granola that was sooo much better than what I could get at the local Kroger or HEB. But, when I started paying attention, that was so not the case. I started out measuring the amounts for meals and reading labels. It is slowly turning in to a “lifestyle”. As obnoxious and overused as that phrase has become, it’s true. So, here are the basic guidelines I try to follow when shopping for snacks and making meals:
Read nutrition labels, compare brands, and pay attention to serving sizes. Sometimes I slip or have to decide to outweigh various categories over another, but I generally try to only buy snacks and cook meals that follow some basic guidelines.
- 300-400 calorie meals. This saves room for beverages and snacks.
- <10 grams of Fat; <3g of Saturated Fat This is more for snacks and packaged foods. “Good”, unsaturated fats like those found in oils, nuts, and avocados are great. (Info on good and bad fats)
- <14g of Sugar I almost always substitute honey or Truvia when recipes call for sugar. (Sweetener Comparison)
- <500g of Sodium This can be a pretty hard one, especially with processed and preserved foods. Pretty much every condiment I own is low-sodium. I figure I can always add salt to my taste in less degrees than would be put in the full-sodium varieties.
- 3+ grams of Fiber I always try to incorporate fiber rich foods in to my diet and it has made a huge difference in my digestive system. I love throwing chia seeds in everything and most meals I find a way to incorporate leafy greens and nuts. I am also a quinoa junkie, though I usually cannot stand kale.
More white meat, less red meat. Frequently fish. As a native Texan, I grew up on red meat. Steak, brisket, and burgers were typical fare. Now when I cook and eat out I try and stick with white meat and seafood. I typically make batches of turkey burger patties to freeze along with marinaded fish filets and chicken breasts for quick main dishes throughout the week.
More veggies, less meat and carbs. I often give my vegetarian and vegan friends shit for refusing meat, but they really are on to something. Before I started making conscious food decisions, veggies were a maybe side dish- often replaced entirely by starches and carbs. My father was a very meat-and-potatoes kind of cook. But, I do incorporate them regularly in everything I make now. And, while I can’t see myself ever, ever making the meat-free switch, I occasionally try to let veggies really shine and sometimes forego meat as a main all together. #MeatlessMonday, anyone?
Cook in bulk. Freezing foods in single serve portions makes them last longer and they’re easier to grab, thaw, and go. I try to buy rotisserie chicken weekly, take the skin off, and shred when it’s still warm. It can stay fresh in the fridge for 3-4 days, sometimes longer. (via: Still Tasty) And, is perfect for adding to salads, wraps, and soups for the week. I prep snacks in bulk -slicing apples, picking grapes, cubing cheese- so I am less likely to venture out for something. I also cook in super bulk via my amazing -albeit, far too large- crockpot (it also helps make the messy kitchen not so messy).
Re-purpose leftovers. It took me a while to be okay with leftovers that didn’t come from a takeout box. But, when I reuse parts of one dish in a different dish it breathes new life in it. So while yesterday’s Hawaiian pork no longer looks appetizing, throwing it in a quick Quinoa “Fried Rice” makes it desirable again. Shredded meats can top salads, sandwiches, and wraps. I can really stretch my budget and calorie count by reusing leftovers rather than pretending I’ll eat the same-old, same-old for a week straight.