This post is sponsored by United Healthcare. While I was compensated to write this post, all opinions are my own.
I know a lot of healthy living bloggers who started blogging to keep themselves accountable as they embarked on weight loss journeys, but that was never the case for me. I started blogging to fulfill an unmet passion at work, to write more, to get my name out there in the fitness industry, and to simply share my own healthy living tips and tricks. I never expected to get the blog following I have today, but I also didn’t realize that starting a blog would help me improve my own fitness levels and adopt better eating habits along the way.
While Tim and I were out the other night, we started talking about some of the ways my nutrition has changed over the years since starting F&F, and I thought this would be a fun topic to write about during the first week of National Nutrition Month. I seriously can’t believe how much my definition of healthy eating has changed. Here you go!
I no longer focus on fat free or low calorie.
I used to believe that fat free and low calorie were the two most important parts of a healthy diet. What I never realized until I started blogging and subsequently reading more nutrition articles is that when fat or calorie contents are removed from our foods, something else needs to be added in order for the food to still taste good. Enter massive amounts of sugar and chemicals, followed closely by America’s obesity epidemic. Now I feel more educated about fat free and low calorie descriptions simply being a marketing ploy, and having this knowledge is so freeing! I also realize now that not all calories are created equally. For example, 160 calories worth of almonds contain enough fiber to slow digestion and prevent blood sugar levels from spiking, but 160 calories worth of soda are absorbed straight into the liver, causing a sugar rush and an immediate conversion of sugar to fat. Both are the same amount of calories, but look at the difference in what they do to our bodies. Earlier versions of me focused on calorie or fat counts, but now I focus on eating real, whole, and unprocessed foods, including healthy fats. Bring on the guac!
I pay more attention to food labels.
If you look back to some of my blog recipes from 2011-2012, you might consider me the whole wheat girl. I honestly thought whole wheat was the answer to everything! Whole wheat bread, whole wheat flour… if something said whole wheat, I wholeheartedly (ha) believed it was healthy. However, being a part of the healthy living blog world has helped me realize just how important food labels are for figuring out what is just a marketing trick versus what it real.
Sticking with my example of whole wheat, I’ve learned that there are actually two types of grains out there. Refined grains are your breads, cereals, muffins, crackers, pasta, etc. They are typically ground into flour or meal, which results in not only the bran and germ being removed, but also the dietary fiber, B-vitamins, and iron content. Many of these types of products also have added refined sugars such as high fructose corn syrup. On the other hand, whole grains such as quinoa, barley, millet, etc. contain the entire grain, which means the nutritional content remains in tact. These grains are high in fiber and contain other nutrients that help reduce blood cholesterol levels and lower the risk of heart disease. These are the kinds of items you’ll almost always find in our cabinets now (and featured on this blog!) instead of pasta and rice.
Even if a product says that it is whole wheat, I always check food labels now to ensure the first ingredient is not bleached/refined flour or processed flour. If it is, it probably means that it’s not 100% whole wheat (aka missing the bran and germ) and enhanced with brown food coloring to simply make it look healthy. Tricky! On the same lines, I now also make sure the ingredients on food labels are pronounceable and that there aren’t a lot of them. The less ingredients listed on a food label, the better.
I’ve embraced alternative baking methods.
This one kind of goes hand in hand with the whole wheat conversation, but I rarely bake anything anymore using wheat flour or regular white flour. Let me make it clear that of course there are occasions that call for making a real cake with refined sugar and white flour, but I genuinely find it really fun to try and use grain free flours such as almond flour, coconut flour, etc. to healthify my baked goods. I also enjoy coming up with secret ingredients to trick people into thinking my baked goods are the real thing, such as chickpeas, black beans, sweet potatoes, etc. I know most of my friends and family expect it by now, but I think I’m getting pretty damn good at it!
I cook and bake a lot more food from scratch.
You will rarely find me in the center aisles of the grocery store anymore. We tend to shop the perimeter, and now our grocery stashes are typically 80% fruits and vegetables, 10% meat or seafood, 5% dairy, and 5% from the rest of the store (usually beans!). Blogging inspires me to create more homemade recipes such as salsas and salad dressings to share with you guys. We even prefer to make most of our snacks like roasted chickpeas, trail mixes, tortilla chips, and granola from scratch now because we can control the salt and sugar content that goes into them. We also make our own freezer meals more often. I completely get that after a long day at work it’s so much easier to just grab a Lean Cuisine instead of cook, but please… stop doing that! They are loaded with sodium and have little to zero nutritional value. If you spend a couple of hours every couple of weeks or so preparing some freezer friendly meals from scratch (meatballs, veggie patties, soups), you’ll realize that these are just as convenient to grab after a stressful day, with the added benefit of nutritional value and taste.
I meal plan and food prep.
This was a huge lifestyle change for me. I never used to plan my meals or do any kind of food prep on the weekends. I would order out with my roommates and shop only when I needed to. I’d buy the same things over and over again, without any idea of how I’d use them except in the same three meals over and over and over again. I think this change was influenced by both the blog world (shout out to Lindsay with her whole food prep page!) and by meeting a guy who loves to cook, but I’m so happy food prep is a part of my life now. It keeps me in control and on point with my nutrition throughout the week. I swear by it, and if you follow me on social media, you know that on most Sunday nights you can find a picture of my weekly meal plan and food prep stash.
I could go on and on, but I think these cover the main ways that my nutrition has changed over the years. Maybe some of these changes would have naturally happened as I grew out of partying so much in my earlier twenties, but I know that creating recipes for F&F and reading other blogs definitely influenced my eating habits in a positive way. This little space helps keep me accountable to practice what I preach, and you readers are always motivating me to be better and learn more so I can then in turn share my discoveries and tips with you. So thanks for that.
There’s one last thing I want to share with you before I go today that relates to nutrition and always learning more about healthy eating. I recently teamed up with United Healthcare to help promote their monthly Dare to Share Campaign. At the start of each month, United Healthcare challenges people to complete three different health related dares, and with each dare you complete, you have a chance to win a $400 gift card as a prize. This month’s three are all related to nutrition for National Nutrition Month, so I thought they’d be a good tie in for this post.
I like these dares because they are easy and quick to complete, and you can learn something from them to apply in your life. For example, this month you can learn how to read a food label, so check it out if that part of my blog post interested you! Finally, if you’re already doing some of the healthy behaviors, it’s a chance to inspire others by sharing your pictures in the share a photo section. Plus, who doesn’t like the chance to win a prize? If this interests you, take a few minutes to stop by United Healthcare’s Dare to Share site to enter.
Readers, let’s chat! Do you plan on completing the Dare to Share challenges? Are you celebrating National Nutrition Month in any other ways? How has your nutrition changed for the better over the years? What healthy eating myths did you once believe but no longer do? Bloggers, did starting a blog help you get healthier?
Please note that I do not hold any nutrition related credentials. The details I share in this post are simply lessons I’ve learned along the way from many different sources. Before making any dietary changes, please consult a physician. As always, thank you for supporting the companies who I choose to support to build and grow this blog.