It's that time of year again where our thoughts turn to sugar cookies more often than fresh food. However, the holiday overindulgence is avoidable, and there are lots of good reasons to get ample amounts of healthy food each day. If you're looking to feel your very best today and every day, here is why fresh food is best and some suggestions for fitting more of the good stuff in your daily diet.
Whole foods help fight illness
Tis the season for sniffles and colds, but eating a plant-based diet rich in fruits and veggies boosts your immune system. While no single food can magically cure a cold or flu, eating a variety of produce as well as lean protein and dairy gives your body the best chance of fighting off both viral and bacterial infections. Good food, good hygiene and good sleep are the keys to staying healthier this winter.
Eating fresh foods saves money
There's a dangerous myth going around that eating right costs too much for many families. Dollar for dollar, purchasing fresh food and cooking at home saves money compared to eating out or purchasing processed foods. You don't need amazing culinary skills to whip up something delicious at home. There are plenty of simple meals that don't take a ton of time or effort to prepare. Focus your meal planning around fresh veggies and use meat sparingly or substitute for beans to save yourself the most money.
Fresh foods teach kids good habits
The food habits our kids learn early in life stick with them long term. One study found that obese 2-year-olds are more likely to become obese adults, and the trend intensifies the older children get. Today in the United States 21 percent of adolescents are obese, a condition that puts them at risk for heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and cancer later in life.
As parents, we need to put fresh food on our children's plates every day. Start young with your kids and continue to offer plant-based foods at every meal. Modeling healthy eating at home sets our children up for success all throughout their lives.
In our culture, we've come so accustomed to highly-processed foods that we're starting to lose the joy of clean eating. Expanding your family's palate is a fun process, especially for kids. Take your kids with you to the store and choose something new to prepare each week. The more you get your kids cooking their own meals the more things they'll try.
How to eat better
Fresh certainly is best, but how can you get your family eating better today? Here are some simple tips to get you on the right path.
Offer produce at every meal
Looking to sneak in those five recommended servings of fruits and veggies each day? Simply add produce to your family's plates at every meal. Bananas at breakfast, carrot and celery sticks at lunch, salad and steamed broccoli at dinner. It adds up fast.
Use real food as snacks
Before you reach for the crackers, pull out apple slices first. The best snacks are whole foods, whether you choose grapes, strawberries, carrot sticks or peanut butter and celery.
Don't fill up on liquid calories
While fruit juice seems like a good idea, it's really just empty sugar calories. Eat fresh fruit, instead. The same goes for vegetable juices, which are full of salt. Your best bet is drinking more water as a family.
Who doesn't love cake, pies and ice cream? Unfortunately, eating dessert every night isn't good for anyone. If your family wants something sweet, drizzle berries with dark chocolate, grill pineapple or fill strawberries with cream cheese.
Feeding your family well may take a little creativity and willingness to experiment, but it doesn't need to be expensive or time-consuming. Making little changes each day will teach your kids the skills they need to eat healthy and live healthy for their entire lives.