On the whole, my wife and I are fairly healthy eaters. While we don’t diet, own gym memberships or jump on the bandwagon for hip new superfoods, we nevertheless remain conscious of what we consume. We do our best to eat a balanced, fulfilling diet, which is not only excellent for our overall well-being, but also is integral to the health of our planet.
Healthy eating – at least for the people we know – typically gets associated with costliness, unappetizing tastes and excessive planning. To most, eating healthier means sacrificing delicious flavors, spending more money on organic and fresh items and wasting time figuring out what’s healthy and what’s not. Whenever I hear co-workers or friends jumping to these conclusions, I always defend healthy eating and attempt to show the positive sides of this lifestyle.
Similarly, in this post, I will explain a few simple healthy eating habits and a day of thrifty recipes that should convince even the most ardent couponers or TV dinner eaters of the merits of a sustainable, enriching and nutritious diet.
To structure our healthy eating habits, my wife and I abide by only a few simple guidelines. Most importantly, we try to consume as little red meat as possible. I’ve already written extensively about the importance of this singular and impactful change, but beyond its ethical ramifications, red meat simply isn’t very healthy for our bodies. It also costs more and is usually less filling than other protein choices.
My wife and I therefore opt for fish and vegetarian meals as often as we can, meanwhile exploring the world of possibilities offered by protein substitutes like tofu, tempeh and mushrooms. When we do eat meat – which truth be told is more often than not – we almost always stick to chicken and pork, with the occasional turkey thrown in for good measure.
While all these choices are cheaper, more ethical and healthier than red meat, it is just as important to realize that they’re also more exciting. After all, who really wants to eat just ground beef, steak and chicken breasts all the time? With the eating of more nutritious and exciting proteins, variety becomes the norm, not the exception.
The second tenet that my wife and I adhere to regarding healthy eating is the habit of consuming a wide array of vegetables and fruits. Just like opting for a wider range of proteins, eating an assortment of veggies and fruits likewise promotes diverse eating habits. Once again, this habit makes eating more adventurous – since it encourages consumers to interact with different textures, flavors and aromas – and such variety also brings diverse health benefits.
Nutritionists often expound the health benefits of “eating the rainbow” because different colors represent the existence of certain nutrients and minerals found within. Other benefits include: textured foods supply healthy fiber; assorted fruits provide dishes with natural and delicious sugars; and certain herbs can balance other foods and even mitigate associated adverse health effects. For instance, cilantro reverses the effects of mercury in fish and pineapple has natural enzymes that tenderize meat.
Finally, my wife and I always amp up the seasonings on everything we cook. While healthy, unprocessed foods have excellent flavor on their own, for most eaters, they lack a certain oomph and feel bland. To an extent, we feel the same, and as a result, we always spice our food to the fullest. Simple greens? Add a vibrant and tangy vinaigrette or cook them down with red pepper, white wine vinegar and spices. Unassuming roasted chicken, stodgy mashed potatoes or insipid broccoli? Assault them with fresh and dried herbs and don’t hesitate to combine myriad seasonings, giving them a complex and elevated taste.
Although these healthy eating guidelines are by no means revolutionary, they lay an excellent and easy-to-follow foundation for more nutritious and sustainable eating habits that anyone can follow. What’s more, they don’t cost more money and they don’t add time or hassle in the kitchen. Instead, they make eating more exciting and enjoyable, while also leaving a better footprint on Mother Earth.
For a brief example of putting these healthy eating habits into practice, below is a daily guide to three wholesome and nutritious meals. They are affordable to make, simple to prepare and a joy to eat, and I hope they encourage you to make the switch to a balanced diet too.
Breakfast – Overnight Oats
2 Servings – $3.75 Total – $1.88 Per Portion
Start by combining one cup of quick rolled oats – which can be purchased for pennies in bulk – with two cups of milk. My wife and I prefer lightly sweetened yellow pea milk, but soy or almond milk will work just fine as well. In any case, for nutritious eating, avoid the dairy and steer clear of over-sweetened concoctions.
Add to the oat and milk mixture a quarter of a teaspoon each of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. These spices add a warming richness to this simple breakfast grain, and it makes it feel more like a meal and less like an early morning snack. If you want to add a touch of additional sweetness, feel free to drizzle in some honey as well, which makes a healthier sugar alternative.
Finally, toss in a handful of your favorite fruit du jour. We’ve made this recipe with blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, bananas and even plums, but any fresh and seasonal fruit will do. Remember, though, to always keep it varied. Now, just let the oats sit covered in the refrigerator overnight and chow down the next morning with a steaming cup of coffee.
Lunch – Mixed Salad with Chicken, Orange and Avocado Dressing
6 Servings – $27.20 Total – $4.53 Per Portion
To begin, warm a whole rotisserie chicken in a 300-degree oven until the juices run out – about 15 minutes. When the chicken is ready, let it cool and then shred it thoroughly using two forks. Season the shredded chicken with thyme, turmeric, paprika, salt and pepper, and place it in a storage container with a cup of toasted walnuts.
Next, grate a large carrot into a separate bowl and combine with three sliced oranges. In a third and final container, mash two avocados and mix in a tablespoon of lemon juice, orange zest, two tablespoons of olive oil, herbs de provence, salt and pepper. This mixture will be the salad dressing, so don’t worry if it’s a bit runny.
While having three separate storage containers of items may seem eccentric, it makes preparing the salad infinitely easier. Moreover, it means you can make individual lunch portions as you need them, allowing you to eat on it all week without anything getting soggy or wilted in the meantime.
When you are ready to eat, toss the chicken, walnuts, carrot and orange with a hearty amount of salad greens. My wife and I always use a mix that includes arugula, red lettuce and spinach, since this has a strong flavor by itself. Lastly, top the salad with a drizzle of avocado dressing and enjoy.
Dinner – Miso Glazed Salmon & Kale
6 Servings – $29.30 Total – $4.88 Per Portion
First, wash and slice three bunches of kale – of whatever variety you fancy – and place the greens in the bottom of a large roasting pan. I recommend slicing the kale perpendicularly to the stalk, which results in strips with a balance of stalk and leaf. Additionally, this makes the strips easier to eat once everything cooks.
Dress the kale next with a mixture of three tablespoons of olive oil, two tablespoons of reduced sodium soy sauce, a tablespoon of honey, a teaspoon of ginger, two tablespoons of lemon juice, salt, pepper and red pepper to taste. Simply whisk these ingredients together, pour over the greens and toss thoroughly.
Next, slice a full fillet of sockeye salmon – about two pounds – into six equal pieces. I suggest keeping an eye out for seasonal fish that’s on sale – such as ocean trout, arctic char or coho salmon – to mix things up. However, be sure that it’s fatty and rich enough to handle intense seasoning.
To finish, coat the salmon fillets evenly with red miso, and place the fish skin-side-up over the bed of kale. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes until the white fat of the fish oozes out. When the fat is fully rendered, your fish should be perfectly cooked. To plate, simply serve the salmon over a nice bed of kale and dig in.