Written by Michelle Nardine RD. Follow me on Twitter.
We’ve been told a million times to eat more fruits and vegetables and reduce processed carbs and sugars. Oftentimes, healthy eating advice can be boring and ineffective. What follows are four actionable ideas that are not conventionally preached as eating advice. Some may even help you save a buck.
1. Get Smaller Plates
The main reason people gain weight is by simply eating too much. We forget to watch our portion size. Although I definitely don’t advocate fast food, an interesting video documentary by James Painter called Portion Size Me proved that even a 30 day diet of nothing but fast food can make you lose weight and lower cholesterol. The key is proper portions.
Want to automatically trick yourself into eating less food? Get smaller plates. Brian Wansink, author of Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think, refers to studies that show you eat less food with smaller plates. The average plate size in America has been steadily increasing since the early 80’s, resulting in national weight gain.
To get back to the way things should be, get yourself some nice 8-10 inch diameter dinner plates and donate the big ones in your cupboard to your local charity or throw them off train tracks (I’m kidding, I swear!).
2. Start Gardening
Most everything that comes out of a garden is healthy and delicious. You will be eating the freshest food on the planet resulting in a maximum amount of nutrients.
And BONUS- you will be saving money! According to Vegetable Gardening for Dummies, a garden that is 20 feet by 30 feet requires an initial investment of $70 for things like seeds and soil, and produces more than $600 worth of vegetables over the course of a season.
There are several ways to get started depending on your situation. You can start small by potting plants in containers on your porch or just growing herbs from your kitchen window. Take it up a notch by creating raised beds in your backyard or at a friend’s house. You might also look into joining a community garden, where you’re sure to get expert advice and meet friendly neighbors. You can find more tips and links in my article “How to Start Gardening“.
3. (Beef Eaters) Organize a Cow Share
If you’re a beef eater who has seen documentaries such as Food, Inc that expose the horrors of factory farming, you’re probably interested in getting more of your beef from local farms raising animals on fresh pasture. You may also have noticed that grass-fed beef is more expensive.
For some, the high price of grass-fed can be beneficial by causing you to rely more on fruits and vegetables. For many people however, it’s a deterrent which causes them instead to choose factory farmed beef that’s higher in saturated fat and lower in good fats and omega-3s. To make the switch to grass-fed without killing your wallet, buy in bulk.
Get a few friends together who prefer grass-fed and go in on a whole or half cow from a local farm and store it in your freezer. With whole butchered cows typically selling for less than $3.00 a pound, you can stand to save a lot of money over time. Visit eatwild.com to find an ethical farming operation in your area.
4. Read a Compelling Book
Sometimes, a well-written compelling story is needed to drive a point home and solidify it in our minds. Over time, these ideas can turn into habits that shape our actions. I think one easy way to eat better is to read about healthy food and the surrounding industries. Here are 4 books you might consider to get started:
- Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes. Great information! If you haven’t already, check out Darya’s thorough review of this life changing book.
- The Omnivores Dilemma by Michael Pollan. One of the most talked about food books of the last few years and for good reason. A beautifully written book that is part policy and all heart.
- In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto by Michael Pollan. This is a great follow up to The Omnivores Dilemma, loaded with fascinating information I hadn’t a clue about.
- Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think by Brian Wansink, Ph.D. It shows why you might not realize how much you’re eating, what you’re eating, or even why you’re eating.
Subscribe to this blog so you don’t miss a future post on the new hobby I call “Salad Hiking”.
photo by cliff1066
Do you garden? No…. ooh man, bummer. Well, I’d say this year you take the plunge. This article will tell you why and how. (reading time: ~2 minutes)
Time to get yourself a taste of the immense joy you’ll receive from growin’ your own. There is no better feeling than planting seeds in the ground and watching them sprout into little happy plants (or massive, depending on the plant I guess). You’ll also benefit from:
- eating the freshest food on the planet earth
- enjoying the healthiest foods in the world
- saving significant amounts of cash money $$$
- getting outside to breathe in fresh air and get some light exercise
- the stylish look of dirt under your fingernails (you hipster you)
And guess what? You can live anywhere, in any type of housing situation, and grow at least a few plants. If your an absolute newbie to vegetable gardening, be sure to start small. The last thing you want is to get overwhelmed your first year and get a bad taste in your mouth for gardening.
Grow some vegetables you know you like and maybe one your less familiar with. You never know, you could end up with a new favorite food.
Here are some ideas and resources to get you started:
Conventional Style -Bury your yard in a thick layer of compost and till it into the soil. Test and tweak until you get the soil the way you like it. Maybe build a couple raised beds while your at it.
The conventional gardener has some amazing resources available at their fingertips. There’s really no need to even purchase a book, there are so many great resources available online. Here are a couple awesome websites to check out :
Containers -If you have a sunny porch that will fit some pots, we highly recommend the book Bountiful Container by Maggie Stuckey (weird side note: same exact name as my good friend). For info on the web, check out here, here, and here. If your porch isn’t sunny but some of your windows are, consider getting a window box. You could probably build one easily, but here’s what Target’s got just in case.
Go Indoors -If you don’t have a sunny porch, plant a few pots indoors by a window. Most herbs grow really well indoors. Or, you can ask your landlord if you can either place some pots on the stoop or plant a little garden in the yard or landscaping. Don’t give up, find a way to do it. At least one tomato plant, I beg you!
Community Style -Nate and I have always wanted to join a community garden but we’ve been moving too often (Bloomington, then Portland, now Michigan). This looks like a great way to get into gardening on the cheap and with easy access to hands-on expert advice. Community gardeners share tools, resources, and even crops.
And BONUS: Get to know your neighbors!! I can imagine it now, a potluck supper with unique amazing dishes from the garden everyone shares. I honestly believe getting involved and connecting to your community is one of the most important things you can do to be happy.
Note: Portland, OR’s got a website called yardsharing.org that connects people who have extra land with those that want to farm. Search for or start a similar site in your area.
Sharecropping -This is coming back folks. While living in Portland, I remember reading a newspaper article about two guys that will plant out your backyard and you get a share of the crops. (maybe it was these guys?) If you are an extremely busy person (with bare lawn space), you would at least get to watch a garden grow and enjoy the fruits of someones labor. It might be hard to find out if someone in your city does it, but check around and see what you come up with. Let me know what you find, try searching for: urban farming, backyard farming, etc.
Here is a woman in NYC that’s doing it. (side note: visit this link! Foodcurated.com is awesome!)
Going Rogue -Take some seeds and plant them in that ugly empty lot you always walk by or in the back corner of your local park and let mother nature do the work. Scatter seeds in nooks and crannies around your neighborhood, and go for “harvest walks” at sunrise when most people are still sleeping. Get creative, the sky is the limit. If you go rogue, please be careful about trespassing and other laws, etc.
Well, there you are folks- lots of good stuff to get you thinking and hopefully doing! Growing vegetables is the best way to start eating and living healthy.
Remember, spring is quickly approaching. If your planting outdoors, now is the time to be coming up with a little plan for your garden.
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