With all the myths and misconceptions about healthy eating, it's easy to feel a little apprehensive about trying to eat more healthfully. If you think you need to resort to extreme measures or overhaul your entire diet overnight, that can seem overwhelming and put you off before you've even started.
And if you're anticipating that you'll need to cut out all your favourite foods or follow a set of rigid food rules, that's not very motivating or appealing, either.
In reality, healthy eating is not a rigid set of one-size-fits-all rules. It doesn't have to be extreme in any way, and it shouldn't leave you feeling hungry or deprived from eating foods you enjoy.
Here are 5 common misconceptions about healthy eating that hold people back from making changes.
Myth #1: I won't be able to eat my favourite foods anymore.
Not true! A more realistic approach is to aim for moderation, where you shift certain foods from being daily staples to occasional treats. You can still have those foods, you just don't have them as often. So instead of having a large helping of chocolate ice-cream for dessert every evening of the week, you might want to leave it for the weekend instead.
Another approach is finding a healthy substitution that you enjoy just as much, so you can set aside the less healthy food without feeling like you're depriving yourself. For instance, you could replace that chocolate ice-cream with a healthy, homemade chocolate-banana smoothie.
Myth #2: Preparing healthy meals is time-consuming.
Meal preparation can indeed be time-consuming, but it doesn't have to be. There are plenty of dishes that are quick and easy to prepare, allowing you to go from the kitchen to the dinner table in record time. In fact, shorter cooking times actually provide a health bonus, as you'll retain more of the vitamin and mineral content of most vegetables (more nutrients are lost the longer food is exposed to heat via cooking.)
Soups and casseroles are a great time-saver, as they often require just a few minutes of prep work. You can then attend to other things while your meal is simmering on the stove or baking in the oven.
Another time-saving option is cooking in bulk (the aforementioned soups and casseroles are great for this.) You can simply reheat leftovers for lunch or dinner the next day; or you can freeze several portions for future meals.
Myth #3: Healthy eating requires complicated recipes.
Some of the best recipes are the simplest ones. It's amazing what you can come up with using just a few ingredients thrown into a crockpot or casserole dish. If your preference is for simple recipes that are easy to put together, that's entirely workable. Consider a simple stir-fry, for example. All you need are a couple of main ingredients like broccoli and mushrooms. Chop them up and sauté in olive oil, with some onions or garlic for added flavour. Not complicated at all!
An easy way to keep your recipes simple is to keep a basic collection of herbs and spices on hand, like basil, oregano, turmeric, and rosemary, along with onions and garlic. The simplest of ingredients will become more flavourful and satisfying when you spice it up a bit.
Myth #4: Healthy cooking doesn't allow for baking.
There most definitely is room for baking in a healthy eating plan! There are all kinds of ways you can experiment with recipe adjustments to make your baked treats healthier and lower in calories. For instance, if you're trying to get away from excess sugar, mashed bananas often work equally well as a sweetener. If you want to go dairy-free or vegetarian, you can easily do that as well.
Another benefit to doing your own baking is that you'll bypass all the chemical additives, artificial colours, and preservatives typically found in store-bought baked goods.
As with any of your favourite foods, the key is moderation. Go ahead and enjoy the pleasure of baking and eating your baked goods, just balance it out by choosing other healthy food options as well.
Myth #5: I'll have to start eating "strange" food that I don't like.
The great thing about eating healthfully is that you're in control. Your eating plan should serve you and your needs. That means being pleasurable and enjoyable to you, based on your needs and preferences.
As you shift your eating habits in a healthier direction and start feeling better, you may actually find yourself wanting to experiment a bit with trying new foods. But that's entirely up to you, and it should be a fun, stress-free experience. With so many foods to choose from, there's no reason why anyone should feel they need to eat something they don't genuinely enjoy.
Yes, a healthy diet can be an enjoyable one! And it's totally within reach, no matter what your starting place.
Tips for achieving optimal wellness, inside and out.