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On Healthy Eating

On Healthy Eating

In college, I had two specialties of the house: pasta with jarred alfredo sauce and Trader Joe’s Pad Thai. My most important kitchen gadgets were: a blender (cocktails, duh!) and a toaster (bagels, duh). There have been points in my life when I considered a bag of mini Hostess donuts a reasonable ‘snack’ and a Chipotle burrito with guacamole a healthy-ish dinner.

With it being January and all, I thought it might be a good time to finally talk about what it means to eat healthy. Eating healthy, in my opinion, means something different to everyone. For some, eating healthy means skipping the sour cream on your burrito. For others, it means drinking only water and tea. For others still, healthy eating means salad.

My approach to healthy eating, as you may have guessed from reading the site, falls in what I would call the variety only if it’s really good camp. What does that mean? I’d say it means ‘everything in moderation’ but that’s not quite it.

Most days, I eat what I would consider ‘healthy’ but I’m not perfect about it. I almost always eat a few handfuls of granola after I’ve finished a bowl of it with my yogurt. I almost always eat three extra squares of dark of chocolate after the end of a meal. I almost always have two pieces of bread from the bread basket (sometimes three, if it’s really good). If I bake a batch of cookies, I almost always end up eating two warm ones right out of the oven, and proceed to have two more every day until they’re gone. And I almost always have seconds of everything I like.

My relationship with food has been mostly uncomplicated, but I’ve had periods in my life when I knew I needed to do something to live healthier. Between my freshman year of college and my first year in the workforce, I gained some 20 pounds, and it showed.

What I’ve learned is that eating healthy is totally personal choice, and there is no one-size-fits all approach. But today I thought I’d share a few ways that I’ve changed my eating habits, without giving up the things I really love (let’s be honest: carbs, sweets, and cheese). Disclaimer: I am not a nutritionist and all opinions are simply that — opinions.

8 Ways to Eat Healthy this Year

1. Don’t just eat a slice of cake at every party.  Having eaten a lot of work birthday cakes, sample platter treats, and client gift basket goodies, I’ve realized that it’s ok to say, ‘No thanks, I’m ok!’ Let’s be real: most of that stuff isn’t THAT good. Save the calories for dinner with your significant other, a splurgy dinner out, or a girls night in.
2. Cut the soda. I gave up soda nearly 15 years ago and have never looked back. It’s incredible how little you’ll miss something that’s probably rotting your teeth.
3. Add your own sugar. One of the benefits of cooking at home is your ability to control how much sugar and salt you add to your food. I regularly decrease the amount of sugar in baked goods, and truthfully I hardly notice a difference. I used to drink my tea and coffee with sugar but also started slowly cutting back. Now, when I add a spoonful of sugar to my tea, I can hardly stand it. Make changes slowly and never think of something as a ‘diet’ or a ‘cleanse’ because you’ll just feel deprived.
4. Don’t kill yourself. I once tried a diet that required me to give up all carbs. What happened? I actually started having dreams of stuffing my face with bread. My body craved it and the experience made me realize that I love bread, and there’s no good reason for me to deprive myself of its joy. I’m not gluten-free, nor did I feel better eliminating gluten from my diet. Moral of the story: do what works for you!
5. Get to know your veggies. The proliferation of vegetarian food blogs and cookbooks opened my eyes to how beautiful and delicious vegetables are, and how they can become a focal point in everyday cooking and eating. In the Turntable Kitchen, we eat an omnivorous diet but every night, we try to cook with some in-season vegetables. I never stop at one serving.
6. Stop buying everything low-fat. Look: how many times have you bought something with no sugar and fat only to find yourself completely unsatisfied? When you really want that bowl of ice cream, go for it, but make sure it’s one bowl, and maybe no more than once a week.
7. Eat a little…less. This is probably the biggest and most significant change you can make. Instead of feeling awful about eating a handful of potato chips…stop at a handful of potato chips. I find that healthy eating is, ultimately, a healthy relationship with yourself. And a healthy relationship with yourself is reliant on empathy.
8. Give yourself a break. During the week, I try to stick to a routine of healthy-ish eating, but I always give myself 1-2 days of splurge time. Whether it’s dinner at my favorite restaurant or an ice cream outing with friends, I make sure no week goes by without a cheat day but come Monday, I remind myself that it’s time to button up a little, so to speak.

What are you doing to live / eat healthier in 2014?

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Posted by Kasey

Kasey is the food editor and co-founder of Turntable Kitchen. She loves dark chocolate, warm crusty bread, and traveling to new places. She speaks Russian, but does not like vodka.

  • I couldn’t agree more with these points. I tend to eat butter and cream and full fat yogurt and mayo and sour cream (yeah, I like fat) but 90% of our meals are cooked at home. I use very few pre-made ingredients and the majority of our cooking is vegetarian. So, that’s my version of healthy eating.

  • Katie

    Well I am a nutritionist and I think your “8 Ways” are pretty right on.

  • So agree with this post and your “rules” (which are hardly rules at all). My boyfriend and I have a very similar approach to eating – some weeks have more splurge in them than others but we try to keep a good sense of balance, eat what we want to eat and not stress too much about it. There are far better things to be worrying about!

  • Claire

    Oh! Thank you so much for sharing on “the handfuls of granola” after the bowl is finished and the extra chocolate squares! I just do exactly the same!

  • db_5

    All of this Kasey! I have so many friends who’ve gone and done extreme things to themselves this month and not only do they not feel great with all the deprivation, it’s January! We need comfort and warmth through nourishing food, not starvation and overly assertive rules. The idea of moderation (day in, day out) is hard for folks, because it means there’s a long-term commitment involved, instead of a few weeks of pain and temporary weight loss, etc. Staying healthy is just that though– it’s a long-term commitment to your body and sometimes it’s not easy. Which means sometimes, you have something nice and special and indulgent. I’m also a nutritionist and thank you for putting your common sense words out there, since there’s so much mixed messaging happening right now in the nutrition and public health communities. Happy new year!

  • db_5

    Rather, mixed messaging driving those of us in the nutrition and public health worlds crazy, that is!

  • Heather Christo

    I love this post Kasey- all of your tips feel spot on and I love that it is all about balance. As a mom, I constantly strive to create a healthy attitude about food in my house for my daughters- and sometimes it even rubs off on me 🙂

  • Kasey, I’m in your “healthy” camp too. I like to eat everything, but I try to make sure the ingredients are good ( organic as much as possible, maybe local, unprocessed).
    I’m all for bacon, butter, cheese, grains… but I also crave tons of veggies. I think the veggies keep me honest and keep my body happy.

  • Fat is delicious! I would say that about 80% of my meals are cooked at home and like you, I rarely use pre-made ingredients. So much to be said for controlling what you cook with!

  • That is great to know! I think there’s a lot to be said for plain common sense when it comes to treating your body nicely…but of course there is plenty of science and research to support and dispute what we may just assume is the right approach.

  • Stressing about eating is definitely not worthwhile. Who doesn’t need a guilt-free splurge week!

  • Guilty as charged. I love reaching into that granola jar… 😉

  • I’m so glad this resonated. I fear that January is a time of anxiety, stress, and despair for so many people…it’s far better to commit to being better about a few things than trying to overhaul your life through food.

  • Hehehe…I do find that I am much more fiercely devoted to making sure that Neko eats healthy than anyone else, but I think balance is key to almost everything in life..

  • Good point about the quality ingredients – the better the ingredients, the tastier the food…and the more satisfied we are with what we eat. My body craves veggies big time, too.

  • YES YES YES! (fist bumps) I had an incredibly unhealthy relationship with food from the time I was in middle school until I was about 22. My transition back to “eating like a normal human being” focused heavily on getting to know the produce aisle and giving myself a break from the confines of restricted eating. I’m happy and healthy now, and although my health issues from that period of my life are starting to come full circle, I don’t think they’re a match for my vegetable heavy/nutrient dense diet.

  • So true… the better the ingredients, the better the taste for sure! xoxo

  • Fist bumps!! I’ve had some food issues myself, particularly around the time I gained those 20 lbs! But, like you, I’ve found that restricted eating isn’t healthy or good for my physical appearance. I’m glad you overcame yours and are living a healthier lifestyle. xo

  • Great pointers, Kasey!

  • WithStyleGrace

    This is so great (& a realistic approach :)!

  • Hear, hear! Your post pretty much sums up my philosophy, too, Kasey. I had a really ugly and unhealthy relationship with food in the years surrounding college. Now I feel healthy and strong and stable and eat what I want… if it’s good enough.

  • Thanks, Lisa! I appreciate that 🙂

  • Thanks, lady!

  • I think we’ve all had our moments…especially in college! Yay for being a ‘picky’ eater 🙂

  • Kate Ramos

    100% agree. My relationship with food became so much better when I made peace with my body type and realized no matter how much I deprived myself I was never going to be model thin or have fantastic long legs, that’s just not who I am. But as long as I ate satisfying food made with care I would be healthy in body and soul.

  • completely agree, great list! Whenever I’ve tried anything extreme, I end up having “stuffing my face” dreams too 🙂

  • Medha

    Yes, Absolutely on board with your healthy rules! Love this post:)

  • Sensible food philosophy Kasey! Setting realistic and personalised ‘rules’ for yourself makes it a lot easier to eat healthily most of the time. I try to eat a wide variety of foods, with plenty of veggies each day, but I also truly enjoy a thin-crusted Italian pizza or homemade apple pie on special occasions!

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