A new year means new beginnings! A time to start fresh. Hopefully, eating healthy and taking care of yourself are at the top of your list.
It’s common for many people to turn to unnecessary dieting, but there are ways to lose weight, cut back on calories, improve your energy levels and feel better, all without counting a calorie. Improving your diet and eating healthier can be as simple as making some small changes. Since changes don’t happen over night, it’s important to take things slow, a few steps at a time. So, I’m breaking those steps into 2 separate posts so we can do just that. Plus, I’m sharing with you one of my favorite new recipes to help you make those changes without sacrificing one delicious bite.
Ditch the sugary drinks. Kick the soda habit (and that includes diet sodas too)! Soda contains nothing but empty calories and nasty artificial ingredients that serve no purpose in the body except to destroy it. Sugar from juices and energy drinks is a problem (for both adults and children) since it causes tooth decay and spikes in blood sugar that can contribute to the development of insulin resistance and diabetes. Water is the absolute best thing for hydrating the body. Begin to incorporate natural fruit-infused waters (with real fruit) into your diet if you really don’t like plain water.
(see 14 Beautiful Fruit-Infused Waters from Buzzfeed)
Eat LESS meat and dairy. Don’t worry about protein. Countless studies have warned of the potentially damaging effects of a heavy meat and dairy diet on the body and our environment, not to mention the inhumane industrial practices associated with it, that cause tremendous animal suffering. From coronary artery disease to cancer, high amounts of animal proteins (including casein from dairy products) may pose significant health threats.
Many people turn to meat and dairy in fear of becoming protein deficient, when in fact, protein deficiency is very rare and uncommon in America. Most healthy individuals eat a varied enough diet to satisfy their daily protein requirements (about 0.5 grams per pound of body weight) without even blinking an eye. If you are overweight or obese, you should base your protein needs on your desired or ideal body weight.
Unfortunately, meat and dairy products (especially from processed meats and cheeses) are commonly overindulged foods, adding tons of excess saturated fat, sodium and calories to our diets. The good news is there are plenty of healthier and even easier ways to get protein and calcium, that also happen to be lower in calories, more nutrient dense and just as delicious. We just need to become more familiar with how to cook with them.
Stock your pantry with a variety plant-based foods including nuts, seeds and legumes. Interestingly, when you consume a more varied amount of plant-based foods you almost automatically get just the right amount of protein, calcium, vitamins and minerals your body needs. Plant foods including green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds and legumes are excellent sources of these nutrients, plus they contain chemical compounds that help fight disease (something meat and dairy don’t do). Protein from these foods may also keep you feeling fuller longer because of their high fiber content. There are so many delicious ways to add them to your diet:
Snack on unsalted sunflower or pumpkin seeds, soy nuts, edamame or almonds,
sprinkle hemp, chia or sesame seeds (tahini) into salads and homemade dressings and dips (hummus),
add various types of nuts and seeds (such as flaxseed) to nondairy smoothies, whole grain cereals, oatmeal and granola,
substitute legumes, specifically, beans for meats in soups, stews and salads.
Chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans) are a common legume used in soups in Southern Italy and I combined the heartiness of the bean with the earthiness of the wild rice and zucchini. I created this week’s recipe in the midst of the holiday madness and on a night I had very little time or ingredients in the fridge, but was craving something hearty, nutritious, warm and full of flavor. I was so impressed with the results, I’ve made it several times since then. Cook the rice in advance for a super quick meal that can be on your table in about 30 minutes!
Keep an eye out for part 2 of “Eat Healthier and Feel Your Best 2015” with more delectable recipes coming your way!
- 2 cups cooked Wild Rice blend
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 zucchini chopped
- 3 carrots chopped
- 1 onion diced
- 1 clove garlic diced
- 15 oz carton or BPA free can of chickpeas (drained)
- 32 oz low sodium vegetable broth (recommend Pacific Brand)
- kosher salt
- *Cook rice according to package directions and set aside (or make in advance).
- While rice is cooking begin to prepare ingredients for the soup.
- Heat oil in a medium sized soup pot or dutch oven.
- Add onions and dash of salt and sauté for 2 minutes.
- Add in carrots sauté for 2-3 minutes.
- Add in zucchini and garlic and sauté for another 3-5 min until zucchini begin to soften slightly but not turn mushy.
- Stir in broth and and good pinch of salt and bring to a boil.
- Immediately reduce heat to simmer for 15 minutes.
- Add in chickpeas and simmer 2 minutes more.
- Scoop a small ladleful of rice into each serving bowl and ladle soup over top of rice.
- Top with fresh thyme leaves and freshly ground pepper if desired.