Dietician-nutritionist and co-owner of Perelandra Natural Foods Allison Buckingham knows a thing or two about a healthy diet. That’s why during the time of year where many people are on quick-fix juice cleanses and extreme unhealthy diets, she knows that it’s the small, smart long-term diet changes that matter. Today she shares her 5 simple diet upgrade steps that will change your health forever.
1.) Take a half an hour, once a week to plan your meals, make a grocery list and a prep list.
Take the time to map out your lunches and dinners for the week- you’ll end up eating healthier meals, and when you plan in advance, they will come together in less time. Create your grocery list from your meal plan (a recent study showed that using a grocery list was associated with a lower BMI and improved dietary quality!) and then the week’s prep list. What can you make a little extra of during the week to take for lunch the following day?
2.) Take an hour, once a week, to prep food for the coming week.
Look over your meal plan- what can you do in advance? Chop vegetables, cook grains and beans, make a soup, cook pasta for a cold pasta salad, etc. My prep list usually involves cooking 2 cups (dry) of a grain, roasting two trays of whatever vegetables look especially delicious at my store that week, a vegetable-based soup and a grain-bean-vegetable salad. My basic dinner salad recipe is infinitely adaptable based on what you have on hand (recipe below!).
3.) Make small swaps
Used to having toast with earth balance for breakfast? Switch to whole wheat bread and top it with almond butter, or hummus and avocado. Like sugar-laden soy yogurt for breakfast? Try overnight oats instead. There are a million overnight oat recipes online, and you can make several days worth of breakfast in 10 minutes. Love eating pasta? Try one made from beans or lentils (there are dozens of varieties now). They have significantly more fiber and protein than your average semolina pasta. Making simple swaps in the foods you eat most often can make a big difference in the overall quality of your diet.
4.) Keep quality snacks in your bags, in your desk, in your cupboards for when the hanger hits.
Are you a hardcore snacker? Snacktime is the moment of truth for many people. Instead of grabbing chips/protein bars/ritz crackers when you’re starving, keep better choices on hand so you’re not in the position to make less than optimal choices. Try keeping nuts and seeds in 1/4 cup portions in to-go containers (almonds, cashew, brazil nuts, walnuts pecans, pumpkin seeds are all great choices). Flaxseed crackers, kale chips, roasted chickpeas are also great, super-portable choices. Keep clean, ready to eat cucumbers, carrots, celery, cherry tomatoes and hummus in the fridge.
5.) Load up on vegetables!
Add vegetables into your diet wherever you can. Vegetables are low calorie, nutrient dense and packed with antioxidants. Grate some carrot and zucchini into pasta sauce or pancakes, put sliced cucumbers and avocado on your sandwiches, or put a handful of kale or baby spinach into your smoothie.
Allison’s basic dinner salad recipe:
2 cups cooked whole grain of your choice (quinoa, brown rice, barley)
4 cups roasted vegetables (my favorite vegetables to roast are broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, red onion, carrot, sweet potato and fennel)
2 cups finely chopped kale
1 can (or 2 cups cooked) bean of choice, drained & rinsed (chickpea, cannellini, lentil)
1/4 cup nut or seed of choice (pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sliced almonds)
1/4 cup dried fruit (diced dried apricots, sultanas, cranberries)
1 Tbsp. fresh chopped herb (basil, thyme, oregano)
3 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. vinegar (balsamic, red wine, champagne vinegar)
1 tsp. dijon mustard
1 tsp. maple syrup
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
In a large bowl, mix dressing ingredients until well-combined. Add the salad ingredients, mix well and add sea salt to taste. It’s delicious warm or cold.
Allison Buckingham co-owns Perelandra Natural Foods in Downtown Brooklyn, New York. She has both a bachelors and masters degree in nutrition, an MBA and is a NYS certified dietitian-nutritionist.
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