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#IRL: How To Make Healthy Eating Stick in 2019

*This article was written by Udemy instructor and home cooking expert Jenna Edwards.

You told yourself you would eat healthier in 2019. That resolution is often synonymous with doing juice cleanses, avoiding foods you really love, and eating stuff you dread. If you can stick to that, great, but I can’t name three people who could, or would, or should.

Contrary to popular literature claiming to know the secret to eating right, there’s no single definition of what that sought-after diet looks like. Information isn’t key to maintaining a healthy diet; learning about yourself is. Obsessing over what you can and cannot consume is exhausting and not likely to stick. Instead, introduce small habits to help you better understand your body. Once those become habitual, you won’t have to think about it anymore.

Here are a few tricks and habits I’ve found most helpful.

Crowd out the bad stuff. Give yourself two weeks to try to work two new green veggies into your meals—kale, Brussels sprouts, etc. Work those vegetables into your meals for two weeks. If you want something more after those healthy meals, go for the cupcake. Just be sure to prioritize the good stuff. In fact, those cravings will fade as you introduce  more new healthy foods into your diet.

Kick off your day in different ways. We’ve all heard it a million times: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. For one week, try eating something different for breakfast every day, whether it’s a breakfast sandwich, egg whites, a croissant, a mocha, a smoothie, or leftover Chinese food. Take note of your energy and hunger levels throughout the day to figure out which breakfast works best for you.

Keep a journal. No need for lengthy diary entries, but do take note of what you eat, how it made you feel, and how you feel two hours later. This will help you figure out your sensitivities. Not all “healthy foods” will work well for you.

Use restaurants to your advantage. My husband and I live in New York City, so I understand it’s nearly impossible to completely avoid eating out or ordering in. Next time you’re indulging in a take-out or delivery order, add an extra serving of rice. Or, if that Thai order comes with steamed broccoli you don’t eat, throw it in the freezer instead of tossing it. Then, when you are in the mood to cook, you’ll have pieces of the meal already prepared without spending more money or producing more waste.

Start small in the kitchen. I often hear kitchen newbies making resolutions to cook 3 nights per week, but that’s actually a lot. Start with once a week and make it something really simple, like soup. Below is one of my favorite recipes to help you get started. I’d suggest doubling the recipe so you can freeze the leftovers for an easy, quick meal down the line. (Pro tip: label your leftovers before throwing them in the freezer. I have one bag of cake mix and another of duck fat in my freezer at the moment, and I can’t tell which is which. That should be a fun discovery one day.)


Vegetable Soup With Pesto

(adapted from this Soupe au Pistou recipe)

Ingredients (Yield: 6 servings)

4 oz. dried white beans (soaked overnight, drained) or 1 can of white beans

6 c. water

2 qt. chicken stock*

2 carrots, diced

1 lb. tomatoes, peeled, cored, seeded, and chopped

1 onion, chopped

1 leek, tender parts only, diced

Bouquet garni: 1 bay leaf, 1 thyme sprig, 1.5 parsley stems

Salt and freshly ground pepper

4 oz. green beans, trimmed, cut into 1/2 inch lengths

2 small zucchini, diced

Pesto

1.5 garlic cloves

1 c. packed basil leaves

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 c. olive oil

*I haven’t tried it, but I’m sure a good vegetable stock could replace the chicken stock for a vegetarian version.

For the soup

  • If using dried, put beans in a pot with the water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 1 hour or until tender, then drain. If using canned beans, skip to step 2.
  • Put the beans, carrots, onions, leek, and tomatoes in a stock pot and add chicken stock. Add bouquet garni of bay leaf, thyme sprigs, parsley, salt, and pepper.
  • Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 30 minutes.
  • Add green beans and zucchini and cook for 10 minutes. Discard the bouquet garni. Taste for seasoning.

For the pesto

  • Pound the garlic, basil, and salt in a large mortar. Work in some of the Parmesan until the mixture is a stiff paste, then add the oil gradually, adding more Parmesan until the mixture has barely any liquid. Alternatively, you can use a food processor.

Now serve

  • Ladle the hot soup into hot bowls with pesto on top or pass pesto separately.
  • This soup is pretty blah without the basil, so don’t skip it!
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