healthy eating - where do you begin....

I recently received a comment on a blog from a reader who wanted to start to cook in a more healthy way and how should she go about starting that whole process. I was thinking that Earth Day is a good time to start! It will forever remind you of why you are doing it in the first place! (okay and a healthy family is a good reason too!). Like just about everything in our lives today eating healthy shouldn't be taken on as a black or white kind of thing, there certainly are grey areas and especially when you are just starting out you don't want to make this a chore or a burden so take this project on with curiosity and an open mind and you will certainly have good results.

Some of these suggestions may sound a bit extreme but I think that it's important to just start over, otherwise unhealthy things can creep back into your diet. So, for instance, if you clean out your refrigerator of all the processed foods you won't feel inclined to go back to them. And certainly there are exceptions like ketchup, the next time you buy some reach for the organic instead of heinz, just look at how much sugar is in heinz... this is true for most of the processed foods in your refrigerator.

So here are a few tips I think are good way start on a healthy path:

1) Clean out your refrigerator and toss anything that you don't recognize the ingredients to, if the names have more than three syllables toss it! I know that this is a difficult economy and waste is bad, but just start a-new! (and recycle all of those jars and containers!)

2) If your kids are with you shopping start to shop at Whole Foods or the equivalent, if you don't your kids will just load up in the sugar isle like usual. Get them used to looking at good things. I know it's expensive, but to get you started this is an easy way and you won't need to read EVERY label, the store has done it for you.

3) You will find that if you start to cook healthier you won't need as much 'stuff' when you cook and you will slowly build up the things that your family likes to eat... but you should also slowly introduce things that they may not like and after time and a few try's you will find what works for them and you! If your diet has been filled with processed foods your family is surely not going to look at a plate for veggies and brown rice and say YUM! so be prepared for this to take some time and talk to your family about why you are doing it, let them know its good for them (and eventually everyone will warm up to your new way of cooking)

4) When you are at Whole Foods get a cook book that appeals to you and read it like a book, you will find tips and ideas throughout the book that will help you cook better. I also like Martha Stewarts Everyday Food, it's a small monthly magazine that has great recipes that are easy, delicious and don't have a giant ingredients list (I hate those kind of recipes!) and since it's a monthly magazine it reminds you about eating seasonally because they focus on seasonal vegetables.

5) I think that many Americans get stuck in buying pre-made food and frozen prepared foods, if you hate cooking it's going to be difficult, but I think that everyone has their way of cooking that they like and once you get into it you will like it better and better... but it's important to cook your food for you and your family, that is where the energy is in your food, if you always use prepared foods any nutrients are pretty much worked over and lessened if not dead.

6) Look into finding a local CSA (community supported agriculture) ask at your local co-op or community board and if you can't get on one this year, sign up for next year and you will be all set! This also forces you to eat seasonally and it gets you to eat vegetables that you wouldn't normally buy. This way you can try things out and see what works for you.

7) Start with small things, things you already know how to cook, like lasanga or something and just use other ingredients like broccoli, leeks and tofu instead of meat etc. You probably don't need to eat meat more than once a week... if that! If you are eating whole foods (not the store but the food) you are getting all that you need. Many nights our dinner looks like brown rice, steamed vegies, chicken, fish, beans or tofu and thats it! You can learn to add condiments that flavor food instead of salt (like gomasio--which is sesame and salt so you use less salt).

8) You may see that you eat more food but it's cleaner and runs through you better. (like a machine). Try to cook using each of the methods of cooking on your plate; steaming something, cooking/boiling something, sauteing something, roasting, and last but not least frying in oil from time to time (croquettes made with grain are great). Not all of these all the time but when you are cooking make sure that you don't saute everything you are eating for example, instead boil rice, steam veggies, and roast a chicken... you get the idea. And don't forget about raw foods (I always forget!) but this is the most nutritional, I can usually get my kids to eat carrots or celery as a snack...but they whole raw food movement is full of delicious meals that are raw!

9) If you want to learn more about eating well and healthy I would suggest to attend the Kushi Institute Summer Conference in Palisades, NY - July 9-12. This is such a great opportunity to learn more about healthy cooking, you can take cooking classes each day and also learn more healing techniques, it's very stimulating and you will use this information in your daily life, just about every day!

The important thing is that you have fun with it, your food will taste better if you have fun while you are cooking! But don't expect that it will all come easy and you will make lots of mistakes...

This is a little like me trying this gardening thing... I'm sure I will make loads of mistakes but the fun part is trying it! --good luck!

I invite everyone to share their ideas about healthy food and what good cooking means to you!