The first in a series on healthy eating that includes real, whole food recipes, tips for eating in moderation, shopping on a budget, and more.
This the first article in this series on healthy eating explores what healthy eating can mean and the difference it's made for my life.
Other articles in the series include recipes, tips for health & weight loss, tips for shopping, and other things that would fit into this topic that I think we'll all find useful, helpful and inspiring.
The Healthy Eating Series:
- What Is Healthy Eating (you are here!)
- Healthy Eating Tips: Making Time to Cook
- Healthy Grocery Shopping Tips: Shop Smart & Stay On Budget
- 17 Essential Cooking Tools for Healthy Eating: Cookware & Small Appliances
- 18 Essential Tools, Knives & Gadgets for Healthy Kitchens
- 25 Healthy Family Favorite Main Dishes
- 19 Healthy Soups, Stews & Slow Cooker Dishes
- 22 Healthy Bread and Breakfast Recipes
- 19 Healthy Snacks and Desserts
Why a healthy eating series?
Many of you mentioned eating and living healthier as something you'd like to know more of in a survey I sent out, so this series started in my mind with the idea that I could round-up some of the healthy recipes in the areas of soups/stews, main dishes, snacks, breads (and, yes, even desserts) that I've already published.
As I was putting them together, though, I realized it had been awhile since we've talked about this topic in-depth and since it's usually on a lot of people's mind at the beginning of the year, it seemed like a good time to revisit this - and hopefully open a discussion that will spur us on to living (or continuing to live) a healthy lifestyle.
Over the course of the series, I'll be sharing the healthy recipes with you as well as shopping and cooking tips.
First though, I thought it would be good to talk a bit about what "healthy" means to me, as a real-food, most-things-in-moderation, but-still-needs-to-be-frugal-and-easy kind of woman.
What is healthy eating?
If you've been reading An Oregon Cottage for awhile you may know of my history with weight loss.
Basically I tried pretty much everything out there, from my teen years on, to lose weight and it wasn't until a little over 10 years ago, when I concentrated on eating less of real, whole foods, that I was able to reach a healthy weight that I never thought I'd see!
AND I've kept most of it off - a lot easier than any of the other things I tried.
So, what foods do you eat? What do you not eat?
- I am not 'against' any real food - I think butter, bacon, dairy, and red meats are 'healthy,' as are any foods that you could grow/raise/make on your own if you chose to.
- I eat pasta, bread, and tortilla chips sometimes, though I've cut way down on them.
- I try to cook with honey and maple syrup, though I have a teaspoon of homemade chocolate syrup in my morning cappuccino and a piece of dark chocolate after dinner. I try to limit sugars as a whole as much as possible.
- I've always eaten a variety of vegetables, but I try to include as many at lunch and dinner as possible (mornings are still for my beloved granola with berries on top).
The only thing I'm 'against' are all the processed bagged, packaged, & canned foods that you can find throughout most of our grocery stores. Some are fine and good to have in a real food pantry to make things easier like canned beans, tuna, artichoke hearts, bagged salads, even a healthy cracker or bagged meat sticks or something.
When I say processed and packaged, I mean chips, snacks, cookies, cereals, "meals" in a can, frozen meals, etc. I'm sure you know what I mean, even though the wording isn't always cut-and-dried (I know that when I can something from the garden, I've just "processed" it, lol).
The 80-20 Rule
But I'm not all-or-nothing about it - I will eat things we're served at other people's houses without questioning the ingredients - and if there are dark chocolate mint M&Ms in my Christmas stocking, I'm most definitely eating them! (Though a few at a time, over the course of the next few weeks...)
I live by a sort of 80%-20% rule (I aim for 90%-10%, but don't beat myself up if it's 80-20...) because if it's one thing I've learned, it's that a diet (lifestyle, way to eat, whatever...) won't work if you obsess or worry over some food item.
And it definitely won't work if you try to tell yourself you'll never eat again for the rest of your life.*
*I should add "for most people" here - I have heard from a number of people that it IS easier for them to be all-or-nothing as one taste will lead them down the unhealthy path. You need to find what works for you, though I still think in the long haul of our lives, NEVER eating bread again isn't really as doable as limiting it.
Those are some things I believe in and don't believe in - so, how does this work out for healthy eating, after navigating this path for so many years?
What Healthy Eating is to Me:
- MODERATION. I know - it's not sexy, new, or revolutionary. In fact, it's hard, because it looks different for each person (Brian's serving size is 2-3 times mine, for example). This is even harder today with our country's out-of-control portion sizes, but it's doable and KEY.
- REAL, WHOLE FOODS. All the fruits, vegetables and protein you'd expect, but also including healthy fats, whole-milk dairy, and sugars like honey, maple syrup, and even cane sugar on occasion.
- LIMITING CHOICES. One-dish meals are easy, as is eating the same thing for breakfast, snacks or lunch - and when there are less options to taste, there's less to overeat.
- AS LITTLE JUNK/PROCESSED FOOD AS POSSIBLE. But again, nothing is totally off-limits (unless it's easy for you to say no to) because then it gains some kind of power over your life. #nopowertofood
- AS FEW INGREDIENTS ON LABELS AS POSSIBLE. When I do eat or buy premade foods, I look for options with less ingredients, preservatives, and are things I could make at home if I wanted. For example, looking at cooking oils I could press olives or sunflower seeds if I wanted to, but I could never get oil from corn, canola, or "vegetables" without a factory machines, so I don't buy those oils (plus those crops are heavily GMO, but that's another story...).
- ENJOYING EATING. Savoring the flavors of roasted vegetables as well as the piece of bacon or birthday cake - and not feeling guilty or like I'm being 'bad' - this is empowering! It puts food back where it's supposed to be in our lives: as sustenance and pleasure, but NOT controlling.
Like I mentioned, over this series I will to go into a bit more detail on some of the above 'DO' topics and will explore with you how eating healthy can become a part of our lives with tips for quick meals, shopping strategies and more.
I know it's not always easy to comment, but I'd love to get your take on this and if this is a series that you are excited about!
Simple Real Food Dinner Menus + Shopping Lists