You are what you eat. This age-old saying is one most people have heard at least a few times. There is so much truth in these words, yet the notion is often ignored.
The human body takes what is eaten and — through different processes — breaks it down to use in helping to rebuild and replace certain structures. The body is capable of some incredible things, if it is provided with adequate amounts of the vitamins and nutrients that keep it working well.
Unfortunately, many people in today’s often hectic, reactive lifestyle, don’t give proper body fuel the deliberate attention it deserves.
The standard American diet is full of processed, prepackaged, and fried foods that are devoid of nutrients. Whole foods are out, and convenience meals are in. It is not uncommon to find high fructose corn syrup listed as a main ingredient on many food nutrition labels. This is just one of the many cheap, processed sweeteners that is being added to foods that is both unhealthy and avoidable. There is no better time than now for positive change.
Take a break from fast foods and pizza delivery and learn to enjoy the cooking process for a better you. Preparing meals at home allows an opportunity to put a healthy spin on favorite foods, and also provides full knowledge of all the ingredients. Eating in doesn’t mean giving up the most enjoyable foods, only preparing them differently. Swapping just a few ingredients turns an unhealthy meal into a more nutritious, and more delicious, choice.
Macaroni and cheese is a go-to comfort food for many that is easy to tweak. Leave out the traditional noodles and sub in quinoa or chickpea noodles. Add a green such as broccoli, and top with a mix of organic cheeses. Throw in some grilled or sautéed chicken to add some protein. This meal now has a good balance of all the macronutrients and also tastes great.
Grilling up some ground turkey patties seasoned with garlic and spices is a simple switch for a typical fast food burger. Top with avocado, jalapeno, or grilled mushrooms and onions. Instead of a hamburger bun, try using some large lettuce leaves as a substitute. Leaving off all the mystery sauces that are added onto many fast food burgers, often made with unhealthy oils or fats, eliminates a ton of extra calories. If French fries are a craving, cut up some small red potatoes and sprinkle with avocado oil, salt, and pepper and bake for 30 minutes at 400 degrees. They are the perfect healthier alternative.
Have a weakness for pizza? Swap the dough out for a cauliflower crust. Replace the commonly eaten toppings with some fresh spinach, tomatoes, peppers, and sprinkle some mozzarella and goat cheese on top. Replacing the sauce with olive oil is a tasty option. Pizza isn’t a bad choice as long as it prepared with fresh, nutritious ingredients.
There is no reason to completely cut things out or give things up that you enjoy. Simply focus on small modifications to create a healthier, more nutrient-dense version of any favorite meal. Take control and start loading up on everything the body needs to run optimally.
Rachel Wilbanks is in the Health Promotion Bachelor of Science program at the University of North Texas