Bacon and chocolate are two of my favorite foods. I’ve never met an ice-cream or glass of wine I don’t like. And I never say no to pasta….or cheese. And now you’re probably wondering if I accidentally typed the wrong title because none of these things could possibly have anything to do with healthy living or a balanced diet. Or do they?
I grew up in a family that made everything from scratch (even going so far as to grind our own wheat for bread). Going out to eat was a foreign concept, we never had soda or candy in the house, and I don’t think I ate my first fast-food meal until I was 8. We did however have chocolate, cheese, farm fresh eggs, and real bacon. We ate extravagant breakfasts that usual included nothing less than a fruit smoothie, omelets and toast (or donuts, scones, or muffins). We had dessert after almost every meal, meals that were far from the typical healthy dinner of a grilled chicken breast and a handful of bland vegetables. None of us were work out fiends, yet we all managed to stay relatively svelte. It wasn’t until college, where I indulged heavily in all the things that had previously not been a part of my life, that I realized how important REAL food was to a balanced diet. You know when people say things like ‘Mom knows best’ and ‘You should listen to your parents’? Ya, this would have been a good time to do just that. Eventually I did smarten up and I realized my Mom had indeed been onto something, something that I now incorporate into my own life by following the tips below-
1. Eat like a European– This is the most important step (and it actually includes all the other things I usually do to maintain my diet). Start with your biggest meal in the morning and work your way down to the smallest meal at night. Eat real (unprocessed foods). Don’t be afraid of chocolate, wine and cheese. I always remember my family eating in this style and when I went to Europe last year I observed how Europeans do in fact eat in this manner. Considering how in shape and healthy they all seemed to be, I would say they know what they’re doing.
2. Never say no– Unless it’s to a can of Spam, because that’s just wrong on so many levels. If I have a craving for something, be it a Big Mac (very, very rare) or a piece of chocolate (a daily craving), I never say no. Saying no means my craving will only get stronger and stronger resulting in something ridiculous, like eating 10 chocolate bars instead of just half of one. Often times I find that my cravings end up being satisfied with just a few bites anyways.
3. Go halves-ies– On my journey to reaching a well-balanced diet, I have read more than my fair share of diet books. While most of them amounted to nothing, there was one thing that has stuck with me- have whatever you want, just have half. For example, if you would typically eat 4 pieces of pizza, have 2 instead and add a side salad. These days it is rare for me to ever eat an entire order of fries or a whole burger, and my husband and I almost always split meals when we eat out (saving your waist AND your wallet).
4. Prepare– People always say that the more prepared you are, the less likely you are to fail and this could not be more true when it comes to maintaining a healthy diet. I make sure to prepare in a couple of ways. One, we always have a monthly meal plan and we stick to a pretty regular grocery shopping schedule. If we don’t, and we get low on food, we are much more likely to order in or grab something unhealthy. I also prepare by making sure to keep healthy snacks and quick meal options on hand so that when I’m pinched for time or I need something to munch on I have options that don’t include grabbing a candy bar or making reservations. The final way I prepare is by planning in accordance with any events or dinners I might have. For example, if I know I’m going to be eating out, or the Mr. and I have decided to make a rich meal or a big breakfast, I will make up for that (or prepare for that meal), by eating smaller, lighter meals like smoothies and salads.
5. Produce please– When all else fails, I make sure that every meal and snack includes some sort of fruit or vegetable. Even if the meal itself is unhealthy, I won’t feel quite so guilty if I’ve made sure to eat some sort of produce. And bonus, since produce fills you up, you will be less likely to eat all of your ‘unhealthy’ portion of the meal.
6. The real deal– I’ve only mentioned this about 1,000 times already, but eating real, unprocessed food, is the best thing you can do for yourself, and getting things straight from the source, with minimal processing, is even better. Do not be afraid of butter, cream or sugar or anything along those lines. Shop at your local farmer’s market or fruit stand. Avoid anything with additives, dyes, things you can’t pronounce, and posers, aka fake things trying to be the real thing (like margarine instead of butter). Your body doesn’t know what to do with these foreign substances and chemicals so while they may have fewer calories or seem like the answer to your diet woes, I can assure you that they are actually worse in the long run.
What are some of the ways in which you maintain a balanced diet?
P.S. I am not a nutritionist, just sharing my tips and tricks and what has worked for me. Also, I am not promoting or supporting any crazy diets, diet fads or extreme weight loss…I am promoting living a healthy life on a balanced diet no matter what shape or size you may be.