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Monday, October 11, 2010

Shopping Smart: Making over your pantry, painlessly!

One of the most difficult steps in making a lifestyle change is breaking yourself of unhealthy eating and drinking habits that have become second nature. Even more so in modern American society, where these habits are not only suggested by our surroundings, but reinforced with marketing dollars, convenience, and a lifetime of unhealthy behaviors. Out on the go and thirsty? There are a thousand places to get a soft drink cheaply and quickly, but you'll pay two to five times more for water...and you can forget a healthy meal on the go if you're strapped for cash. The snack machines in the office are full of sugar and sodium, your morning bagel made of refined white flour, your lunch-on-the-go comprised of sub-par ingredients full of hormones, pesticides, and inorganic chemicals.

Truth be told, it's overwhelming...which is why so many of us fail when we set out to eat more healthfully. Our society literally works against that goal with an unbelievable tenacity. Many companies have latched onto this conundrum, and instead of creating genuine, healthful products, they've marketed their same old unhealthy mush as health food. So how does anyone maintain a healthy diet in this country?

Well, ideally it would be wonderful to just completely reform and change in a day and be healthier and happier and more productive...but this is real life. Stress has reached such peak levels that one in every seven Americans has an anxiety disorder of some caliber, and the last thing that we need is another strain on our minds. So...make healthier eating virtually painless...make over one part of your pantry at a time!

It really is that simple. Pick one area...perhaps grains. Focus over the course of a few weeks to a month on replacing all of your white flour with wheat flour, on replacing your regular pasta with whole grain pastas, on replacing your white rice with brown rice. When that's done, start adding in new whole grains...quinoa, barley, amaranth. Focus on perfecting the use of those grains in your kitchen, try them cooked different ways and in different things, and don't worry about your white sugar or anything else. Once you are completely comfortable to whole grains, move on to beverages. Get rid of soda, cut back coffee, add in green tea and 100% all natural juices. Drink more water.

It's ok to allow yourself time to recreate your dietary fact, in the long run, it might be better! If you're the sort of person who needs to make radical changes to make them at all...then sure, give away everything in your pantry and start from scratch. But understand yourself, the way you function, and what works best for you. At the end off the day, what matters is that the changes are made for you, and that they are made for good.

Here's a guide for pantry makeover...of course, there's always more that can be done. But this is a great start!

Grains - Whole wheat flour, whole grain breads, whole grain pasta, steel cut oats, whole wheat breakfast cereal, brown rice, barley, quinoa, and any of the other whole grains talked about here.

Beverages - Get rid of all sodas, period. Replace with green tea, water, vegetable OR fruit juice (100% all natural, no sugar added!), coffee (in moderation).

Dairy - All natural cheese, local REAL milk from farmers or organic soy/coconut/almond milk, all natural real butter (I also like using vegan, Earth Balance butter), organic yogurt (Greek yogurt is great!).

Meat - LOCAL, organic meat, nitrate free bacon and turkey sausage or vegan meat substitutes. Also, sustainably caught fish. Consider replacing at least 50% of your meat consumption with legumes.

Misc. - Cold pressed extra virgin olive oil gets used a lot around my house. Also, use local eggs (or at least eggs that are cage free and organic-diet hens), local produce (or the freshest supermarket produce you can can be deceptive with produce, sometimes the journey it takes to reach you can cancel out the organic benefits). Cut up vegetables to take with you to work ahead of time. Use lavash for wraps instead of slices of bread for sandwiches in your lunch. have servings of fruit, cheese, crackers, and etc already in baggies and ready to run out the door with you on a busy morning. And if all else fails, have a box of Clif or similar meal bars handy.

It can be daunting, stressful, expensive, time consuming, and difficult to re-learn how to eat. But if you approach it one small slice at a time, and you give that one category your full attention until you've formed new habits? Well, you'll get to a healthy pantry soon enough, and cut out all that stress in the meantime. This is the difference between a lifestyle change...and a fad.

-The Calm Cook

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