By: Dr. Arti Patel, PT, DPT, CSCS
It is easy to grab quick food items on the go that does not require much thought such as the bag of chips, or the microwaveable mac and cheese, or the frozen meal that has been in the freezer for weeks. But eating healthy can be quick, affordable, and delicious without requiring you to “diet”.
As a healthcare professional I often get asked if carbs are bad, can you only eat at certain times of the day, are protein shakes okay to drink, and why eating healthy is so hard. It’s hard to eliminate your favorite food. You end up constantly thinking about your favorite donut shop or which ice cream flavor sounds good, I know that I have definitely done this before. Instead of completely eliminating the food and craving it for weeks, it is easier to think of food items that you should eat more or less rather than avoid.
My favorite tip to eating healthy is to keep food items around you that are better for you. Keep vegetables, fruit, and healthy snacks in your view. If you see food that you should eat less of such as chips, crackers, or candy you are more inclined to eat that versus other items.
Incorporate a mix of fruits, vegetables, carbs, fat, and proteins. Aim for a balance of carbs, fats, proteins, and veggies at meals. A Farmer’s market is a great place to get in-season fruits and vegetables. In-season items are often cheaper, so try finding recipes with that vegetable or fruit when you notice something on sale at the grocery store.
If you don’t like certain vegetables or fruits, then season it with herbs and spices and give it a try.
Create a grocery list of foods you want to try so that when you go to the store you have a set plan on what you are buying and you don’t waste food.
Going out for lunch/dinner? If you know where you are going look at the restaurant menu ahead of time and see which items fit your goals and lifestyle instead of making a quick decision at the restaurant or feeling uneasy on what to get.
Mealing prepping is a great way to save time if you are busy during the week. But if you don’t like to meal prep then there are tons of quick and easy recipes that incorporate carbs, fat, protein, and veggies into one meal. One of my favorites to make if I’m feeling tired at the end of the day, but want something delicious is this fajitas recipe.
Love sweets? I do too! I often find myself googling different recipes that are guilt-free to me. Here are links of two of my favorite dessert recipes I have made in the last week: Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream and Almond Butter Banana Bread.
Healthy eating is not a one-step solution. If you feel like you “indulged” in something you should not have then take that as a learning experience. What caused you to do that? Were you feeling stressed? Do you have a deadline or exam coming up? Was it convenient and a quick snack? Everyone has times where they feel guilty about eating something “unhealthy”. I have definitely felt that way in the past and learned I shouldn’t feel guilty about eating that certain food time. So don’t be hard on yourself and learn from the experience and it will help be prepared for when you experience something similar in the future.
The more you put into healthy eating, the more you learn what works best for you and what you like to eat, and when you develop a rhythm the easier healthy eating will be and you won’t have to put in as much effort. Start off simple for example creating a grocery list or searching for recipes and build onto the process to meet your goals.
Nutrition and what we eat has an effect on recovery and function. If you have any questions or need guidance on nutrition that is related to general wellness and health your physical therapist will be able to guide you in the right direction!