Convenient or balanced and nutritious – Do we really have to choose?
Life was much harder long ago. Survival was priority one. Eat what there is, or starve to death. I live in Illinois, just outside Chicago. The winter we had was a harsh reminder that “eating local” means something different when you have windchills below zero for days at a time. The first supermarket in the US opened in 1917. Imagine life without a store to pop in on a whim to buy whatever you want to eat.
Times have clearly changed. Conveniences have made it easier to eat differently and have lots more choice in what, how, where, and when we eat. Taste buds and personal preferences are drivers much more now than when food was scarce. How lucky, and yet this means we have more responsibility to manage the excess. We waste up to 40% of the food we grow. Food in landfills contributes to greenhouse gases. If a diet tells you to eat an awkwardly small amount of a food, ask yourself if this actually contributes to food waste if you end up throwing out the rest.
What’s missing from all of these fad diets? The joy and history of food – and practical application. The “why” behind each delightful morsel we choose. Honoring the foods of the region and country is one of the easiest and most affordable ways to experience the delight of another culture/country. Eating and having meals together is a fun and enjoyable experience! Let’s not forget that.
I’m not going to give you a detailed breakdown of any of the latest reports, diets, articles, or “shoulds” about diets. You can read that loads of other places. Let me offer you some practical guidelines and inspiration that you can work into your everyday life without sacrificing the fun and joy of eating.
Meat, poultry, and fish. Delish. The protein group offers these and so much more – legumes, nuts, seeds, and eggs, too. Lean cuts are easy to spot thanks to more education online and in stores. Meat counters have more options, including grilling or other prep for you – all you have to do is ask. Precooked options that are already diced and recipe ready are available so it’s super quick and easy to make a stir fry or other meal. Choose different things each week. Challenge yourself to try some beans if you never have. Try a new cut of pork that is leaner. Measure your portions. Learn what fruits and veggies work well with your choice – think of a kabob on the grill. Isn’t it pretty and interesting when you thread your protein choice with alternating veggies? That’s more nutritious, too.
Fruits and Veggies
If you aren’t eating the recommended fruit and vegetable servings per day, start. Eat seasonally not only because of the farm to table reason, but because it connects you to the time of year we are in while also keeping menus from being boring. Plus, you don’t need to know how to cook to enjoy these yummy options.
If you aren’t getting the recommended two to three servings of dairy a day (depending on your age) and you aren’t allergic, consider the options. Milk, cheese, and yogurt. Some of the simplest ingredient lists you can find, which we know are all the rage. Protein. Convenience. No cooking needed. If you do cook, dairy products bring a lot to the table.
Not eating whole grains? Why? You think you don’t like them? If you like popcorn, you like whole grains. Yep. Now obviously your toppings need to be considered, but with that said, learn about these options, too. Cooking grains is even easier than ever before when you consider ready-to-eat, frozen, and/or canned options. Portion control in this group is easier now, too, when you pair these with their veggie counterparts – veggie noodles plus traditional pasta? Remember when we used to call that pasta primavera?
Eating for convenience is simply a reality for many of us today, but that doesn’t mean nutrition has to go out the window. I hope these simple suggestions make it easy to keep nutrition as a driver in your everyday eating choices! What will you try this week?