PLAN AHEAD, BUT BE FLEXIBLE
It’s hard to create a healthy meal without the right ingredients—and knowing what you need takes a little foresight (and a belly that’s not growling and encouraging you to grab everything in sight). Think about which meals you’ll be cooking in the upcoming days or week and how many mouths you will have to feed. By planning ahead and making a list of what’s missing in your fridge and pantry, you’ll avoid forking over extra money for impulse buys. But it’s not a bad idea to keep an eye out for deals on fruits and vegetables and swap the more expensive items on your list for those on sale. Usually a recipe that calls for parsnips will be just as delicious if you replace them with carrots.
SPICE IT UP
High in vitamins and minerals, and often helpful in preventing inflammation and other diseases, fresh herbs can be a great way to add flavor to meals while reaping your ingredients’ inherent health benefits. Chop fresh basil or rosemary and sprinkle on top of pasta; add parsley to soup and thyme and sage to poultry dishes. And don’t be afraid to spice up your diet by trying new fruits and veggies every time you shop; leave space on your grocery list for an ingredient you haven’t tried before or aren’t familiar with. Or let your kids choose a vegetable that looks interesting to them, and ask them to help you figure out what to do with it. Choosing new ingredients can help encourage creativity in the kitchen. Shopping and cooking shouldn’t always be dull chores.
CONVENIENCE IS KEY
Convenient food is not the same as fast food. Look for products that will allow you to easily include more fruits and vegetables at mealtimes, whether that means precut vegetables, single-serving snack packs or frozen vegetables to quickly add to a meal. In a recent study, health professionals agreed that vegetables with sauce can be counted as part of a healthy diet; incorporate low-fat, low-calorie sauced vegetables to add as a quick side dish or a snack.
SEEK OUT WHOLE FOODS
Look for whole-grain pastas and breads, brown rice, quinoa and barley as well as 100 percent fruit juices with as few additives as possible. Instead of potato chips, grab sweet potatoes, slice them up and bake them for a healthier snack. The best way to find the real foods instead of overprocessed ones is to shop the perimeter of the grocery store: this is where fruits, vegetables, meat, fish and dairy foods are typically found.