Health is something we all know about but often put on the back burner because of our busy lifestyles. Fresh foods will improve your health and help you to feel better!
In today’s fast paced world, it’s difficult to get a meal that isn’t processed. Whether you’re running through the drive through after work before the kids’ soccer practice or you’re throwing together a box of Hamburger Helper because you’re too tired and exhausted to do anything more elaborate (hey, you’re serving it with a salad – that counts, right?) most of the convenience meals we eat today are processed and absolutely, unequivocally terrible for us!
Convenience has a price – and that price is our health. But eating low nutrition, processed foods will also affect your daily life. That time you saved fixing the boxed meal because you were too tired to do anything else will be spent on the couch absolutely exhausted to the bone because while you were tired before, the boxed meal has given your body almost no additional fuel or energy. The extra sodium, heavy carbs and pretty much zero nutrients will drag you down even harder!
Here are five simple things you can do to start eating fresher – you may end up spending a little more time preparing meals when you use fresh ingredients (no, you’re not going to have to slave over the stove for an hour) but once you start eating fresh, nutritious and whole foods, the extra time you spent will definitely be worth how much better you feel when you start ridding your body of toxins and processed chemicals that almost all convenience foods have in them.
1. Use Fresh Foods Instead Of Canned Whenever Possible
Canned foods are easy to use. They keep pretty much forever, and it’s super simple to open a can of green beans, throw it in a pot and have something to eat just a few minutes later. Not to mention canned foods are really inexpensive! Canned foods are designed to make us want them – they’re quick, easy and cheap. But just what are you getting in a can of green beans?
In ½ cup of canned green beans, you’re getting about 390mg of sodium, or roughly 16% of the amount of sodium recommended for consumption on a daily basis. You may have also heard of BPA – that stuff that they’re trying to make plastic “without” these days because of how dangerous it is when it leaches into foods and beverages. Did you know that you can find almost 200 times the “safe amount” of BPA in a can of green beans and in other canned vegetables? No, they don’t list BPA on the ingredients list. Yes, it is in there. BPA has been linked to – you guessed it. Cancer.
Freshly washed green beans from the fruit and vegetable section of your local grocery store contains far less – if any – of the harmful ingredients found in the canned varieties. There are pesticides on the outside of the vegetables if you’re not buying organic, but most of these can be rinsed away with a really good washing. Use fresh green beans – or any other vegetable – the same way you would the canned variety. The cooking may take slightly longer, but you’re going to benefit far more from fresh foods versus canned.
Can you imagine what your body has to do to get rid of all the sodium, BPA and other preservatives found in canned foods? No wonder so many people are tired and run down after a meal!
2. Sub Fresh Fruit For Dessert
We all like a little something sweet after a meal, especially if it’s chocolate! Many of us, however, will dive right for the chocolate cake, pudding or cookies instead of heading for the fresh fruit. Many people don’t really even have fresh fruit in their homes. It goes bad quickly and doesn’t taste as good.
Remember this – anything that doesn’t go bad as quickly as fresh foods was made to be that way. Preservatives and chemicals are added to extend the shelf life of the product, no matter what it is. So if you’re choosing something over fresh because you don’t want fresh fruits and vegetables to go bad before you use them, remember you’re also getting a nice big dose of chemicals and preservatives.
Instead of brownies, cake, cookies or ice cream for dessert, top yourself off with fresh fruit drizzled with a little bit of chocolate. A little bit of chocolate isn’t so bad, especially if it’s dark chocolate, which contains lots of antioxidants that are good for you – and drizzling fruit with chocolate will trick you into believing you’re really getting something yummy for dessert! You can also try fruit marinated in dark chocolate balsamic vinegar, found at many specialty food stores. It’s so good – and good for you!
After a dessert of fresh fruit instead of fat and carbs, you’re going to feel lots better. It’s not about losing weight or counting calories – it’s about not loading your body down with junk!
3. Try Sprouted Grain Bread
Wheat bread is lots better for you than white, and you may have already made the switch. But have you ever tried sprouted grain bread? It’s amazing! It’s a little more expensive and found in the refrigerated section, but it’s rich and delicious. The reason sprouted grain bread must be kept in the refrigerator is because there are actually live, sprouted grains baked right in the bread.
This increases both flavor and nutrient content – instead of consuming empty carbs, you’re actually getting lots of good nutrition, including precious amino acids that your body absolutely cannot do without to function. Sprouted grain bread is dense and helps you feel full, whereas white bread and even many wheat breads seem to make you sleepy after consuming that many carbs. Once you try sprouted grain bread, you’ll never want to go back to even wheat bread for your sandwiches again! It’s that good and will make you feel fantastic!
4. Build Meals Around Farmer’s Markets (Or Grocery Stores)
If you have a farmer’s market in your area, visit as often as you can for fresh fruits and vegetables. Buy enough for a few meals, but don’t buy so much that the produce goes bad before you have a chance to make it into something. Once you’ve purchased what you can at the farmer’s market, take a look at what you have and plan your meals around it.
Instead of planning meals around meat and pastas (like many people do) and adding vegetables in as a “side item,” try building meals around fresh produce and add in meat, rice and pastas as a second thought. This not only helps you use more vegetables when you cook, it also decreases your intake of processed foods and meats.
For example, say you were able to purchase the following at the farmer’s market:
Fresh sweet corn
Zucchini and squash
Green & red bell peppers
Baby greens or lettuce
Raw, unfiltered honey
You might consider a menu like this:
- Chinese stir fry with brown rice (using the fresh onions and bell peppers)
- Grilled chicken with sliced zucchini and fresh corn (using the zucchini, squash and corn right on the grill)
- BLT’s (using the heirloom tomatoes and baby greens or lettuce)
- Cantaloupe and watermelon salad drizzled with honey (using cantaloupe, watermelon and raw honey)
All you would need to pick up at the store, in this case, is chicken, rice, bread, bacon and mayo – this is, of course, assuming you don’t have any of these items at home already.
You can use this shopping technique at the grocery store also – just visit the produce section and pick up what looks delicious before you hit any of the other aisles!
5. Buy Meat From Local Farms
Many areas have local farms that produce meat. Beef and pork items are most common, while chicken and eggs can be found at some farms as well. Farm fresh meat tastes absolutely incredible and contains almost none of the preservatives, dyes and other stuff that is commonly found in grocery store meats. Not only are the animals at local farms treated better (they actually have space to move around instead of being crammed in a tiny cage, imagine that!), the food they produce is much, much better for you. The USDA definitely does not inform the public about everything that can be found in say, a pound of USDA inspected ground beef, but your body will be able to tell the difference.
When you purchase meat and eggs from smaller farms, you can rest easy knowing that they likely just clean and butcher their meat – instead of adding fillers and all manners of other things in order to reap more profits yet still sell their products at a low price. Try it for a week and see how you feel – you’ll likely have more energy as well as feel better and more alert, because you’re actually giving your body what it needs!
Eating fresh isn’t about losing weight or looking good – it has very little to do with any of that. It’s more about keeping your body healthy and alive! Your body can’t survive on processed foods with no nutrition value. In fact, it has to do more work to rid itself of the toxins and chemicals found in processed foods! When you eat fresh vegetables and meats as often as you can, it’s like putting clean fuel in your car.
Think about it this way – you can’t put water in the gas tank of your car. What do you think would happen if you mixed water and gas and put it in your car? Would it run very well? Or would it sputter and die? What about if you put mostly water in it and very little gasoline? It might not run at all. Think of processed foods as the “water” that your “car” can’t run off of. Your body needs straight “fuel” or nutrition to run well!