Post written by Leo Babauta. Follow me on twitter or identica.
These days, we usually have to choose between having complicated meals or eating unhealthy fast food or frozen food. In many cases, people who are trying to lose weight go on complicated diets that have too many requirements to remember, let alone keep up with.
However, you can eliminate stress and be healthier at the same time by simplifying your diet.
How can you do this? First, let’s consider what our needs in constructing our simple diet:
- Simple. Everything should be easy to prepare and not take long. We don’t want to be slaving over the stove — 10 minutes of prep time or cooking is long enough. And we don’t want a million ingredients.
- Nutritious. Even though we love junk food, it makes us fat (which is stressful) and lacks the nutrition we need. We need to get fiber, vitamins and minerals, protein, good fats, etc.
- Low in calories, saturated fat, sugar and cholesterol. We’re not going to get into a low carb vs. high carb debate here. Please don’t talk about this in the comments. We’ve discussed this before. These things listed are the things we really want to avoid.
OK, given that these are the essential ingredients of a simple diet, let’s look at some things we want to eliminate — things that don’t help us meet this simple diet:
- Junk food. Obviously. Although junk food can be tasty, it’s simply not healthy, and it’s high in saturated fat and sugar and that bad stuff.
- Processed food. No fiber, low in nutrition, high in calories. Try to get stuff in its natural state, without all the gravies and sauces and cheeses on top.
- Fast food. This stuff never comes to any good. Unless maybe you get a good salad, but even then.
- Red meat. I’m not saying you should become a vegetarian (though I recommend it), but red meat is high in saturated fat. If you want to eat meat, eat fish and boneless skinless chicken breast and turkey breast. Or try other forms of protein that doesn’t have all the fat: tofu, nuts, whole grains, beans.
- Fried food. High in saturated fat and calories. Look for baked or stir fried or even raw (as in fruits and veggies, not meat).
And what does that leave us with? Just the essentials. And if we stock up on those essentials, we can create simple meals that are tasty and easy to prepare. And by simplifying your eating habits, you not only shorten your prep time, but you save on groceries as well. Processed food costs a lot, especially as you usually are paying for all that wasteful packaging as well.
I would recommend also simplifying the amount you eat. If you’re eating healthy stuff, you don’t need to eat in bird-like portions … but it’s best not to have huge heaping servings or seconds and thirds. Stick to sensible portions, and only have one serving. Don’t starve yourself, as that will lead to binge eating, but don’t stuff yourself either.
So what would a simplified diet look like? It would have a lot of fresh fruits and veggies, beans, nuts, whole grains. Here are some simple meals:
- Breakfast: Whole-grain cereals (no processed or sugary cereals), fresh homemade bran muffins (use whole-grain flour), homemade granola, fresh fruits, whole-grain toast with almond butter, scrambled tofu (with onions and spices — yum).
- Lunch: Sandwiches such as turkey or avocado with tomatoes and sprouts on whole wheat bread; pita filled with hummus and tomatoes and sprouts and lettuce; leftover soup or chili.
- Dinner: Hearty soup (my recipe); homemade vegetarian chili (my recipe) — make a big pot of the easy-to-make chili or soup and it can last for days; hearty salad with nuts and spinach and avocados and lettuce and carrots and a light dressing; steamed veggies with seasoned brown rice (use sesame seeds and tamari and pepper); stir-fry tofu and veggies; veggie burgers with homemade baked fries (slice up potato, drizzle a little olive oil, salt and pepper); butternut squash with couscous and chutney.
- Snacks: Fruits, cut-up veggies, nuts, blue corn chips with Newman’s salsa.
- Treats: Every now and then you need to treat yourself. If you’ve been good, splurge on some crazy fattening dessert. Or treat yourself with little things like a little bit of dark chocolate or berries. Yum.
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