Eating Healthier
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We hear so much about eating healthier these days, but the truth is, for some of us anyway (me included), that it can sometimes seem difficult to eat really healthy meals on a regular basis.

The typical North American diet is usually very high in simple carbohydrates (sugar and white flour).

We also tend to eat large amounts of protein, often quite a bit more than a balanced healthy diet requires.

We all know that eating more whole grains and less sugar is a huge step in the right direction because we have heard it over and over from Dr. Oz and almost every health expert we see.

Here are 5 more ways to begin eating healthier and developing your own healthy eating plan:

1. Eat At Least One Meatless Dinner Per Week

So many of us turn to some form of meat or fish for dinner, simply because it is what we are used to eating. Men particularly (rightly or wrongly) are seen to be real carnivores, preferring meat to other options at most meals.

The truth is that, with time and some trial and error, even the most die hard meat fans will enjoy a few delicious meat free dinners.

Here are a few suggestions to get your family eating healthier using less meat:

Try vegetable and black bean burritos in whole wheat tortillas. The beans create a tasty filling that also fill you up. Add onions, garlic and corn, plus zucchini, mushrooms or tomatoes in the filling for even more nutrition.

How about a vegetable stir fry served alongside fried rice with peas and scrambled eggs? Cheese ravioli with tomato sauce and lots of parmesan cheese is another delicious and easy dinner recipe with no meat.

2. Stretch Out The Meat

You don't have to become a vegetarian to begin eating healthier and developing a healthy eating plan. Many of my favorite easy dinner recipes simply stretch the meat out so a pound of meat serves more people. Instead of eating 4 to 8 ounces of meat in a serving, you may only be eating 2 or 3 ounces.

Stretching out the meat consumed at a meal is also much easier on the budget, so it serves two great purposes.

Here are a couple of suggestions for how to take a pound of meat and stretch it to serve six instead of two to four -

Make fajitas with grilled onions and lots of multi colored peppers. Add a pound of very thinly sliced grilled chicken or steak.

To slice the meat very thinly, slice it while it is still partially frozen. Then chop the slices into smaller pieces so it goes even farther. Add some grilled mushrooms to stretch it out a bit farther.

Add your favorite add-ons and you will have fantastic tasting fajitas that everyone will love, with much less meat in each one.

Here is another tasty suggestion for eating healthier:

Take 4 to 6 ounces of leftover ham and make a large pot of lentil soup. When you start the soup with lots of chopped onions, celery and garlic, not only is this a healthy dinner recipe, but also delicious, budget friendly and a fantastic way to start eating healthier.

3. Try Something Different

Having a balanced healthy diet means incorporating a variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet on an every day basis.

Many of us (me included much of the time) have gotten into a bit of a rut, eating the vegetables we grew up with - corn, potatoes, carrots, peas, green and yellow beans and salad ingredients.

They are all part of a healthy eating plan but a balanced healthy diet includes nutrient rich fruits and vegetables in a rainbow of colors.

Make a promise to yourself that you are going to try something new on a regular basis. For example, maybe southern greens like collards if you haven't tried them; beet greens; Swiss chard; Jerusalem artichokes or Italian broccoli rabe. (Here's a tip - super healthy garlic is perfect with each of these.)

Also try new fruits like boysenberries, kumquats, prickly pears or fresh dates (fantastic by the way).

4. Try Different Grains

Many health experts tell us that, on average, we eat far too much wheat, especially refined white flour, but wheat in general too.

There are many, many grains available that have fantastic health benefits. The one we are most familiar with is oats. Try adding delicious oatmeal for breakfast, oat bran or oatmeal bread, muffins and cookies.

Quinoa (pronounced keen' wah) is becoming more popular and is a powerhouse of nutrition. It is packed with protein which makes it an excellent replacement for meat in your weekly non-meat meal, and also provides healthy amounts of fiber, magnesium, manganese and copper, all necessary for maintaining a healthy, disease free body.

Also try other grains like millet, barley, buckwheat (or kasha), amaranth, kamut, rye, sorghum and spelt. All have wonderful health benefits and you would be surprised at the ones you will come to love.

5. Hide Vegetables Everywhere

Most of us know someone who says they don't like vegetables. Many of us are related to at least a few.

If you have family members who are picky eaters you will be amazed at the way you can hide vegetables in food. Here are a few examples:

When I make chili, with ground beef, chicken or turkey, I add as many vegetables as I can, including onions, celery, garlic (really a herb), carrots, cauliflower, corn and tomatoes.

Finely chop the vegetables or whirr them in the blender after they are cooked and before adding the meat to the chili pot. No one will be able to tell what is hidden and they will probably think it is the best chili you have ever made.

When I make spaghetti sauce I add in lots of healthy vegetables. In addition to my tried and true onions, celery and garlic (lots), I add in some finely chopped carrots, zucchini and mushrooms. Again, it can all be processed in the blender to hide the evidence from your favorite veggie haters.

Cooking pasta sauce, soups and casseroles are fantastic ways to hide vegetables. Eating healthier can also be sweet, with vegetable and fruit based, low sugar muffins and cakes.

The road to developing a healthy eating plan begins with small, manageable and delicious steps that can usually fit in quite nicely with your current lifestyle. It just takes a little bit of preparation and a willingness to embark on a great adventure.

You will find more tips for eating healthier here.

And more information about healthy food here.

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