One of the best decisions I made when starting my health journey was to significantly reduce the number of times I ate food outside of my own home. I knew it was not going to be easy by any means. I’m not the best chef, and it wasn’t like I had plenty of time on my hands. I just couldn’t see how I was going to fit home cooked meals into my daily schedule. So what did I do to gain some insight into solving some of these issues? I turned to my little sister Jessica.
You know that one person in the family that seems to have things all together in the cooking department? Well, that’s my little sister Jess! She has a wonderful passion for cooking, her dishes come out like works of art, and she always has people lined up for seconds when it’s her night to cook!
When I asked Jessica to help me think of some ways on how to make home cooking work, she took on the challenge, and we started to brainstorm. Cooking meals at home meant opening up my calendar and studying it for the best times to shop, meal prep, cook, clean-up, rinse and repeat! Not only did we find some simple solutions to making home cooked meals work for us, but we became partners in the pursuit of producing healthier meals. We both agreed that eating healthier and preparing meals at home would be so worth it as long as we didn’t compromise on taste. And so we began!
We decided to make a new dish every Saturday and alternated between which one of us picked out the dish to prepare. Picking dishes that were more and more challenging to make became an adventure. Our goal was simple. We picked any dish we wanted, healthy or not. Then we looked up ways on how we could make that dish the healthiest ever. Jessica’s expertise and precision was a wonderful asset. I learned how to properly dice vegetables, separate egg whites, and manage my cooking time better with her leadership and insight. And she relied on my expertise when it came to using spices and seasonings.
Healthy cooking gave our kitchen a brand new twist. Each Saturday I felt like I was on a cooking show. I couldn’t wait until Friday evening, the day we set aside to shop for all the ingredients! And with two people preparing food instead of one, cooking and clean-up became a breeze!
Those were the days before I got married and moved out of the house. These days, I still cook a majority of our meals at home, and I am getting back in the habit of meal prepping on a schedule that works best. A great way to cook which is becoming one of my favorites is batch cooking with my mom and sisters. Rotating between our homes to meal prep and batch cook recipes has been a wonderful way to catch up on life and incorporate new healthy recipes.
And as for Jessica, well, after I got married, she went to work experimenting in the kitchen on a little challenge of her own. You see, most of our kitchen creations involved making appetizers, entrees, or side dishes. Very rarely did we make desserts. So Jessica set out to make a healthier version of a beloved favorite, cookies! And I am happy to report that her hard work paid off with irresistible choices of either chocolate chip, double chocolate chip, or oatmeal raisin gluten-free cookies that she makes from scratch! These homemade gluten-free cookies are a healthier option that everyone in my family enjoys!
My food journey is not over, and it hasn’t been perfect, but when it comes to thinking about healthy meals, here are some eye openers that I’ve learned in the process:
- Buy the highest quality you can afford (PART I). Remember, when you select the highest in quality, you are giving your body its best chances to thrive. The kind of food that your body needs is nutrient dense fresh foods that are free of toxic chemicals, additives, and dyes. When you select lower quality your body actually has to work harder to fuel itself because now it has to sort out what it can use for fuel as well as set aside everything it can’t use. If what the body can not use is stored in your fat cells, then weight starts becoming an issue. This concept is really no different than anything else in life. Our car manuals, for example, might specify the need for premium unleaded fuel. We make the mistake of thinking that buying the lowest grade of fuel is more cost effective, but in the long run that lower grade fuel is causing our car to work harder to run which in turn causes it to break down faster than if we would have just prioritized better so that we could select higher quality fuel. I used to think that I couldn’t afford to buy the highest quality because I was looking at the entire process up front, but online resources like The Dirty Dozen Clean Fifteen list helped me take baby steps in making the best affordable choice each time.
- Buy the highest quality you can afford (PART II). There are great controversies surrounding the ingesting of certain food products based on research, mandates, and personal experiences. I know I used to think that I was lactose intolerant before my health journey, so I shied away from drinking whole milk. Even drinking two percent milk would give me an upset stomach at times. Then I learned about how milk is being processed here in the US. Texas is one of the states that still makes raw milk available to be sold from the farm. So my mother (who also thought she was lactose intolerant) and I decided to drive out to a local farm one day and purchase some raw milk. Saying that I noticed a significant difference between what I was getting from the grocery store and the farm would be the absolute understatement of the year! My stomach never once got upset, and neither did my mother’s. We were so in awe at the difference that we’ve never looked back! We realize that there’s just no substitute for grass-fed, grass-finished farm fresh dairy, meats, and poultry. The buying of these foods ebbs and flows for my family, but I’ve noticed when we do select them in higher quality the difference is extremely noticeable.
- Don’t go it alone! Find a family member or someone that you can cook with to make new dishes. Cooking with others can be such a fun experience. Can’t find a live person to cook with? Remember YouTube is your friend! I’ve used my phone in the kitchen on several occasions to either cook along side someone in a video or search a new recipe! I even video called my grandmother once and had her guide me on how to make something. Between the Internet, family, and friends, the possibilities are endless!
- Utilize your leftovers. My family and I quickly discovered that when we selected higher quality foods, we had left overs. Why? Because once the body gains the nutrients it needs, it tells you, “I’m full!” In fact, I believe that this is why we tend to over eat in the first place. Our bodies crave nutrients and so we’re steadily giving it food, but because our food may be lacking in dense nutrients, the body keeps asking and asking and craving and craving until it just gives up… It’s at that point that we’ve over eaten and then become hungry again within thirty minutes of finishing a meal! But with preparing our foods at home, we found that we actually ate less, got full faster, and stayed satisfied longer between meals, so we ended up with a lot of left overs! Left overs became next day’s lunch, dinner, or snack. I’m a huge fan of revamping and reinventing a meal. It doesn’t take much and becomes more cost effective!
- Research your Restaurants! Although we prepared a great deal of our foods at home, there were occasions where we wanted to have a break. This drove us to research local restaurants we could enjoy who, like us, also believed in using high quality food products. Restaurants like Be Raw, the Spiral Diner, and Loving Hut became our favorite go-tos when eating out. We were also more conscious of menu items at other restaurants and fast food places, always striving to choose the best food options available. Opting for, perhaps, a salad topped with grilled chicken on a bed of mixed greens instead of a burger and fries.
- Listen to your body! Your body knows what it needs, and with a little reprogramming and a lot of TLC, your body will start to crave healthier options. I remember it being so hard for me to drink water only throughout the day. I craved my favorite fruit juices all the time it seemed, but it wasn’t long before thee opposite started to occur, and I started craving water instead of fruit juices. Once I reached that point, it was easier to listen to my body and give it what it needed.
- Above all don’t beat yourself up! Condemnation is the absolute worst, and the act of condemning yourself over a food choice you’ve made will only bring more discouragement and plague your mind endlessly, which is never healthy. If you want a piece of chocolate cake, eat it freely and go on with your life. Focus rather on giving your body more support and over time your cravings will adjust. The act of giving your body grace and flooding it with high quality support actually allows you to enjoy the process of your health journey, so don’t take yourself too seriously when you find yourself eating out of character. Instead let it be an opportunity to research a need that your body may be telling you it has tied to that craving.
Y’all, this is how I live! This is my new normal. Instead of counting calories, I now strive to eat healthier versions of the foods that I like while giving my body high quality supplemental support. Sometimes I eat raw vegan dishes, sometimes I eat dishes with meat. Sometimes there’s milk and cheese in the fridge, sometimes there’s not! I don’t fret over it these days. God made too many amazing things for us to eat and enjoy! I don’t beat up myself or others for the food choices they make, but I do encourage you to select the highest quality possible for whichever way of eating you’re convinced is best! So, Bon Appétit!
Curious to know how my sister’s gluten free cookies taste? Click here to learn more!
Interested in giving your body high quality supplemental support? Check out what I use by clicking here.