What is “Healthy”? Part I

Hello my friends! Today, I want to clear up a little confusion (actually, a lot of confusion) about what it means to be healthy. I think the term gets abused contemporarily, and many companies/news outlets use it to prey on the consumer. Take a moment to think about all of the diets that are out there, or even how many times a day you might walk past a magazine boasting a health claim…it’s probably a lot. Isn’t it interesting how a new diet always seems to be on the rise every year, or there’s always a new superfood out there to try? It’s hard to keep up with. I know I used to find myself eating certain foods such as kale like crazy because it was supposed to be the healthiest food out there. That is until the next week when avocados were the new craze. Amid all of this, it’s easy to get confused about what actually is healthy, and what is not. Is it really that complicated though?

After being in this world for so many years, I’ve come to realize that it really isn’t. Contrary to popular belief, there are no special diets out there or one food you can eat that will make you healthy. In all honesty, what is “healthy” is what works for you. To give you can example, I’m sure many of you have been on diets or know someone that has. What always happens? The weight comes off, the diet ends, you dub yourself “healthy”, and the pounds seem to come back just as quickly as they left. Next thing you know, you feel unhealthy again. The reason this happens is because most diets are not sustainable or realistic for people. They might be “healthy” in that you lose some weight, but are they mentally and physically beneficial in the long run? Not really.

Everyone wants the quick fix, when in reality there isn’t one. All diets boil down to one thing: consuming fewer calories than you burn on a daily basis. Granted there are some that do this better than others and that is where a health coach can come into play, but that’s really what it comes down to. The same ideas apply to “healthy” foods. Yes, avocados may be a very nutritious food to eat, but if you spend all your grocery money loading up on avocados and end up having to buy cheaper, less nutritious foods (white bread instead of whole wheat bread) to make up for that cost, then maybe avocados aren’t the healthiest food in the world. It’s the whole picture that matters.

As you can see, building a healthy lifestyle means building something that is sustainable for you not just now, but in the long run. Taking time to consider what tools you have and what your goals are is the first step. If you’re a working professional or a super busy student like me, you probably don’t have time to make roasted salmon, brown rice, and salad for dinner every night.

The brown rice alone takes over 40 minutes to cook, and I can tell you that’s not going to fly with me. That doesn’t mean I can’t still eat healthy though. The solution in this case is having healthy ingredients that I can throw together quickly.

Here’s how I do it (again, you need to find what works for you. This is just an example of what I do to save time). On a night that I have a little more time than others, which is usually Sunday, I will bake 2-3 pounds of chicken at once. While that is baking, I might make 2 servings of pasta…one to have for dinner that night and one to have for another day. When the pasta is done cooking, I’ll divide it out into what I’m having that night and what I’m saving for later on. Usually by this point, the chicken is done, so I take it out of the oven. I’ll put a piece on my plate that I’m having for dinner along side the pasta with red sauce and some frozen broccoli that I thawed in the microwave (yes, frozen produce is just as healthy as fresh). Drizzle some olive oil and Parmesan cheese on everything, and dinner is ready! In the time it took me to make one dinner, I now have a ton of extra chicken leftover and an extra pasta dish. Some people that already meal prep might ask why I don’t just make a lot more pasta, so that way I can cover more days. The truth is that I don’t want to eat the same thing every night. The other reason I like doing it this way is that my protein is already cooked, which is often the part that takes the longest when making dinner.

So, now I have a ton of chicken that I can divide into ones I will freeze and ones I will keep in the fridge. Now when I come home at 8pm after a long day, all I have to do is throw one of those Uncle Ben’s Ready Rice – Brown Rice packets in the microwave for 90 seconds, dice up a piece of chicken, and microwave some peas. I’ll then put it all in a bowl together and top it with guacamole, sour cream, cilantro, salsa, Sriracha, and some homemade taco seasoning. Boom! A homemade, nutritious taco bowl that took me 10 minutes max to make. Yeah, that might be 5 minutes more than I would have spent in a drive-thru, but it’s cheaper and better for me.

What I’m attempting to show you is you don’t have to spend hours cooking some crazy diet recipe to be healthy. If you want to lose weight, you could take the above recipe and just put more peas in your taco bowl than rice. If you want to gain weight, have more peas and rice. If you want to stay where you’re at, then create it just as you always have done. It’s really as simple as finding what works for you.

Since I know a lot of you are busy, I’ve included some of my favorite quick and cheapish foods that you can use to build a nutritious plate. I realize that some things might not be ideal (frozen prepared salmon vs. fresh), but again it is using the tools you have and making it work in your life. Regardless of your initial feelings, I think we can agree it is healthier than stopping at the drive-thru 🙂 Stay tuned on Friday for Part II where we will talk about how to apply these lessons to workouts and daily life and feature a quick but healthy recipe.

Fats:

  • Olive oil (cook with or drizzle…a little goes a long way)
  • Sour cream (add to taco bowls)
  • Low-fat shredded cheese (add to pastas, taco bowls, sandwiches, etc.)
  • Hummus (add to taco bowls, smear on meats, use as a sauce for Mediterranean pasta)
  • Guacamole/avocados (add to taco bowls, smear on meats, use as a sauce for Mexican pasta)
  • Peanut butter (sandwiches, dips, sauces)
  • Low-fat yogurt based ranch dressing (eat with meats, use in salads, add to taco bowls)
  • Low-fat salad dressings (use in salads)

Carbs:

  • Potatoes – sweet, russet, red, etc. (wash, pierce, and microwave for 6-12 minutes depending on the size)
  • Uncle Ben’s Ready Rice (whole grain versions – microwave for 90 seconds)
  • Seeds of Change Organic Rice (all flavors – microwave for 90 seconds)
  • Whole wheat pasta (boil)
  • Whole wheat breads (use in sandwiches)
  • Frozen or fresh vegetables (pour desired amount into a bowl and microwave for 90 seconds)
  • Frozen or fresh fruit (snacks, dessert, etc.)

Proteins:

  • Meat (cook in oven, grill, pan, etc. and make enough to eat over a few days)
  • Frozen shrimp or fish (place in fridge the night before to thaw and cook the night you desire it)
  • Sea Cuisine frozen seasoned fish (place in oven for 20 minutes)
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