When you first think about limiting sodium, sugar, saturated fat and starchy/refined carbs, it sounds a lot worse than it really is. Our first thought was, “What’s left, lettuce?” In a culture where entire meals are often based on bread, cheese and meat, or pasta and meat, making vegetables a major feature in your life is not easily accomplished. Most convenience stores and casual restaurants offer few or no vegetable options.
There’s no question that it’s extra work: it does require planning, learning new cooking strategies, scrubbing and trimming vegetables regularly, and keeping fresh ingredients in the house. But once you get into the routine of cooking with fresh produce, olive oil, and no-salt seasonings, you’ll enjoy your food more, you’ll feel physically better and you won’t crave your old favorites so much.
We had weekly routines that we just took for granted, like pasta one night, carry out pizza or Chinese another night, burgers and fries from time to time, etc. When you stop eating those things, they might seem like they were such a big deal, but really they were just routine ways to get dinner on the table. Most of the time they really weren’t “special” meals. So, with even a little creativity, it’s manageable to create new routine meals that are healthier.
Our go-to meals now include a lot of stir fry type meals, because they’re completely flexible and they allow us to customize them to what we each prefer. Wayne likes water chestnuts, I like mushrooms, he likes cherry tomatoes in his, I like brussels sprouts in mine. I love a shrimp stir fry, but Wayne thinks of shellfish of any kind as toxic waste (no he’s not allergic).
We can’t have stir fry every night, and neither will you. We buy fresh fish and use it on the weekend, and we sometimes make a batch of soup on the weekend as well. Through the week, there’s ground turkey, frozen fish filets (thawed the night before in the fridge so they’re ready for a quick meal), organic rotisserie chicken (with all the possibilities the leftovers provide), and other variety meals like shish-kebabs, turkey burgers, skillet hash, tacos, ground turkey meat loaf, chili, sheet pan meals, turkey drumsticks in the slow cooker, etc.
By necessity, old routine meals are replaced with new, healthier ones, and it becomes easier than we expected. It doesn’t have to be sodium-laden pizza or burgers, with all their saturated fat. When we have more time to cook on the weekends, we try to create some exquisite new thing that we can share with you.
It only takes a couple of weeks to stop wanting everything to be so salty. If you’ve never had high blood pressure or congestive heart failure, you might not need to find out, but there are several great alternatives to salt (see Products we love for some recommendations). Now that they’ve been part of our routine for a few months, it’s not a bad change at all!