If I could have a pound for every time someone ask me: “ Do you ever crave junk food?” I would be a very rich woman by now.
We can obviously debate for hours about what healthy eating means and what we classified as junk foods and healthy foods. For me personally, eating healthy means eating predominantly whole unrefined plant based foods. I follow a plantabsed diet for health and ethical reasons but I believe this post will apply to anyone following either an omnivore or vegan diet. Because in my eyes wether vegan or animal based, junk food is still junk food. Just because it’s vegan it doesn’t mean it’s healthy (it actually took me quite some time to grasp that ;)) Don’t get me wrong I do enjoy my bit of vegan kebab, donuts, “fried chicken” every now and then but it’s definitely a rare occasion rather than a habit.
As annoying as it might sound eating healthy has become just automatic for me as it just makes me feel incredible. Although it didn’t happen overnight, I strongly believe that anybody can get to the stage where eating healthy 90% of the time (we are all human) is the norm and not the exception.
Here are some tips which I hope you will find helpful and maybe inspiring to get you started on your health journey:
1- Think baby steps – I didn’t transition to a plant based diet overnight and it actually took me quite a long time to remove all animal products from diet and make better food choices. This gradual but steady transition I believe it allowed me to make long term changes which now feel sustainable for life.
So instead of thinking “ I am going to eat super healthy ALL the time” maybe make the commitment to start having a healthy and nourishing breakfast every day. Or maybe decide that every other day you will plan in a very healthy meal cooked from scratch with lots of veggies, wholegrains or beans. Another example could be to commit to always bring your lunch at work instead of buying that maybe not so healthy sandwich every day.It really doesn’t have to be everything or nothing, especially at the beginning when making drastic changes can just feel a bit too overwhelming.
2- Out of Sight Out of Mind – It might sound obvious but if you have your cupboards stocked up with lots of junk food you will probably end up eating it. As wasteful as it might seem just get rid of it! It’s definitely more harmful to eat it than to throw it away.
Once the junk is out, stock up on all the good stuff, I am sure you are guessing what I am talking about 🙂 Start with packing your fridge with whatever fruit and veggies you like (if you hate kale just don’t buy it) When it comes to pantry staples I guess we all have different taste and preferences, these are some of my favourite cupboard staples which I always try to have on hand:
- wholegrain like brown rice and quinoa (great to serve with curries, stews, buddha bowls)
- oats – for porridge, baking and overnight oats.
- Beans & legumes ( I like to buy them dried and cook them myself to reduce waste but if you are short of time canned ones are super convenient)
- Wholegrain pasta ( my favourite are spelt, buckwheat, chickpeas and brown rice)
- Nut butters & tahini (great for dressing or on top of porridge/ overnight oats or as a snack)
- Nuts and seeds (I love sprinkle them in my salads, soups or with oats)
- Tomato passata, tamari, apple cider vinegar and miso paste for dressings and pasta sauces
Literally fill your kitchen with all the good stuff and leave the junk food for special occasion, like eating out with friends or that donut on a Friday lunch break. I am no saint myself so I know that if I buy a tray of vegan donuts guarantee they will be gone in 10 minutes 🙂 I rather have my bit of junk food when I go out and I get the chance to explore all the amazing vegan junk food options that London has to offer.
3- Fall in love with cooking – There is no easy way around this, but if you want to eat healthy you got to cook your food. That’s it, plain and simple. The food that you cook yourself will ALWAYS be healthier than any food you will buy out there (even from health food stores or healthy restaurants) because you are in control on exactly what to put in your meals. I love making my own sweets and cakes for example because I can decide exactly how much sweetener (and which kind) to use or much oil, I just love to know what goes into my food. Cooking your meals doesn’t have to complicated or take forever. Most of my meals are super easy and take less than 30-40 minutes.
There are plenty of free resources out there which have inspired me massively at the beginning of my cooking journey. In this day and age (I sound like my grandma) there is really not need to buy cookbooks (unless you want to). These are some of my favourite free online resources and inspirations:
- Deliciously Ella
- Minimalist Baker
- Oh she Glows
- Forks over Knife
- The First Mess
- Nutrition Stripped
- My New Roots
- Green Kitchen Stories
And again when it comes to cooking don’t feel like you got to spend hours in the kitchen cooking every single bite you eat. If you are completely new to cooking or not a big fan you might want to start slowly. Maybe schedule few cooking nights a week and as you become more confident the more you will enjoy and the more you will want to do it.
For me now cooking is a primary act of self care. Some people get their nails done, have a bubble bath or slap on a face mask (nothing wrong with that), I cook myself nourishing meals which I know they will feed my body in the best possible way.
4 –Your body is a creature of habit – This is something which I firmly believe in and I could see that very clearly on myself over the past few years. The more you feed your body a type a food the more it will crave it. So the more you eat junk food the more you will end up craving it. And the same goes for healthy food, of course!
I now crave huge salads, big buddha bowls, warming bean stew, veggie curries or big green smoothies. My body genuinely crave nourishing and unrefined plant based food 99% of times. And yes the 1% left is for vegan burgers, fries, cupcakes and whatever crazy exciting new vegan junk food I can get my hands on when I am out 🙂
Especially when I come back form a holiday where I normally don’t eat quite as well as when I am at home, I find myself craving the biggest bowl of kale and sweet potatoes. I feel so incredibly good and energetic when I eat well then my body remembers that and send me hints to keep eating that way. I know breaking the habit to eat junk can be hard at the beginning but I truly believe that one step at the time anybody can do it.
5- Knowledge is power– We all know that fruit and veggies are good for us, but do you know exactly why? I love googling nutrition facts about the food I eat, I find it motivates me even more to eat that particular food as I know exactly why it’s good for me. For example, did you know that flaxseeds have been proven to help prevent breast cancer? I find this mind-blowing and the more I learn about the health befits of plants the more I want to eat them. Call me a geek but it’s exciting to chew on a big mouthful of greens, carrots, beets and quinoa knowing that I am eating vitamins, antioxidants, minerals, protein and so much more.
There are also plenty of books out there that suggest that eating a diet predominantly based on unrefined plant based food is the healthiest diet on the planet. If you want to find out more these are the books which changed drastically (for the better) my prospective on food:
- “How not to Die” by Michael Greger
- “Whole” by Colin Campbell
6- Have a Plan – You know the say: “ Fail to prepare, prepare to fail” ? Well, when it comes to eating healthy it cannot be more true. Especially if you are new to cooking your meals from scratch and you have a busy life you definitely need to have a plan of action. I personally don’t do Sunday meal prep or have a meal planner because a) I am working from home b) I am a food blogger so I literally make food all the bloody time! But when it comes to simplify healthy eating I believe a meal planner could be life saving. Forks over knife has an excellent free meal planner on their website for super delicious and healthy plant based recipes, or you can just create your own by mix and matching different recipes from different blogs, write them all down and writing next to to your grocery list. By having a meal planner not only you will take out of the equation the classic question “What shall I have for dinner tonight?” But you will also save money as you will buy ingredients exactly for those recipes.
I personally love to do my big shop on a weekend so I know that I am fully stocked up on all the good stuff for the week ahead.
When I used to work in a an office to make my life even easier I would do some simple meal prep on a Sunday, like cooking a batch of brown rice or quinoa, cooking some beans (you can always use tinned ones) and making some overnight oats jars which I could take with me during the week. I would put some music on, make myself a big cup of tea and just enjoy spending some time showing
6- Never EVER strive for perfection Remember that we are only human, sometimes we overindulge, skip the gym for a month, whatever. Accept the fact from the very beginning that a perfect- super healthy-kale -juices- like- there- is- no- tomorrow-diet doesn’t exist and it’s probably not that healthy either. I have days when I can easily polish off 2 bars of Loving Earth Caramel chocolate in one sitting and sometimes I can even go for the third one. When you overindulge in something, just do it, go for it and OWN IT. Don’t dwell too much on it, it’s done, you had that kebab last Friday night, I promise you it won’t kill you. Simply move on and make better choices the next day. What you eat once in a blue moon won’t compromise your health, is what you eat everyday, day in day out that really matters.
7- Pay attention to how you feel How do you feel after eating a big Mac? Or after that packet of crisps? Do you feel vibrant, energetic or do you feel like you could go for nap? I personally feel pretty crap after junk food, most of the times takes me days to digest it, I can feel bloated, and you know that feeling of being greasy on the inside? Yes that’s exactly how I feel and yeah it’s definitely not how I want to feel everyday. My skin is also very sensitive to what I eat so if I eat lots of fried , overly salty or loaded with sugar foods, chances are I will probably break out. I remember being so jealous of my friends for always having flawless skin no mater what they ate. Now I have learn to look at my skin issues as a blessing. I think if them as a way of my body for keeping me on track to eat healthy and nourishing foods most of the times. When I eat a huge buddha bowl or a big smoothie I feel incredible, full of energy and I have that sense of really look after myself by eating something packed with vitamins, antioxidants and minerals.
8- Say a big thank you to your body – This is going to sound such a cliche but you got to love your body enough to honour it with healthy and nourishing food. If your body carries you around everyday, if you can walk and breath then you are tremendously lucky. Say a big fat thank you to you body for supporting you every day. No matter how skinny or overweight you are, no matter if your skin is not clear, your hair is not shining, you aren’t at that ideal shape you would like to be, you got to start loving yourself RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW. Because when you truly love yourself something magic happen. You start to respect and appreciate your body, you start feeling grateful for your health and you might start saying no to that donut and yes to that plate of broccoli.
I hope you found this blog post even a tiny bit useful, I wish you all the best on your health journey and I hope I can help you along the way.