One of the greatest conundrums in our society is that of healthy eating: we all know what we should really be eating, yet we all fall to what’s easiest and/or tastiest.
You do it, I do it. Zac Efron eats Carl’s Jr. Bacon Cheeseburgers. Chuck Liddell eats “rich desserts.” Brad Pitt no doubt does it too.
Some of us, however, do it more than others, and the prepared food industry does us no favors. From the fast food and “casual dining” restaurants on every street to the mountain of prepared and frozen foods at your grocery store, most corporations create food using two criteria:
- Cost of goods
That’s pretty much it.
And it doesn’t help that the other side of the equation – healthy eating – is dominated by fad diets. Atkins, Paleo, Blood-Type…every one a “breakthrough” that will speed your path to a slim physique. The problem is that a lot of these diets play with your body chemistry along the way, and quite frankly, the vast majority of people can’t sustain a restrictive eating program.
Eat Healthy Forever
The solution is simple in theory:
- Eat a balanced diet with approximately equal amounts of protein, fats and carbohydrates.
- Consume mainly white or grass-fed meats, fish, fruits and vegetables.
- Minimize sugar, white flour and any fat that isn’t monounsaturated.
- Completely avoid corn sweeteners, hydrogenated fats and trans fats.
- If you need to lose weight, eat fewer calories than you burn each day.
We’ve now got a complete diet. By following these simple rules, you’ll look better, feel better, live longer, lose weight if you need to, and minimize your risk of cancer, diabetes and other nasty diseases that can haunt you the rest of your life. Plus you can buy all the food you need to live by taking your shopping cart around the outside aisles of the supermarket, avoiding the prepared-food aisles completely. Good times!
The Rub (or Why You’re Not Using One)
So what’s the problem? Well, not everyone knows how or likes to cook, and the raw ingredients must be combined and flavored to make something edible. And that’s work! Most healthy foods are also perishable: you can’t go to Costco and buy three month’s worth of bananas.
There’s not much you can do about this, unless you can afford a chef. Cooking is really an essential skill (and will come in very handy for impressing women as well). But you can shave time and effort off your meal preparation with the right tools. For a great starter list, head over to Unclutterer. If you have the desire and cash to go beyond the basics, you might consider a food processor or rice steamer, but a couple of decent pans and a good set of knives are critical.
And I’d add one more important item to the list: I’ve told you about the crock-pot before, and one feature of slow cooking is that you can toss some meat, vegetables and liquid in before you go to work, then return to something pretty tasty.
Make a List, Check It Twice
The next hurdle you’ll face is the grocery list: if you’re like most guys you don’t use one. However, if you’re going to be using ingredients to make your own tasty meals, you’d better remember to get all of the ingredients, right? A beef stew isn’t quite as flavorful without onion, and a Denver omelette needs peppers, and if you forget them you might be eating oatmeal again. (Oh, don’t forget to get oatmeal: a bowl of Old Fashioned (not instant) covered with water and nuked for two minutes, with raisins and lowfat milk, maybe some flax seed…mmm…)
But I digress. You’ll initially need to equip your kitchen with spices (extra points for growing your own, I sure wish I had the time) and other staples. Here are a couple of lists, from Core Performance and eHow. Your other items will depend on the recipes you use, but if you were to buy the foods listed as the 12 Abs Diet* “Power Foods,” you wouldn’t go far wrong. For recipes, you can find a wide variety of healthy-eating recipe books at Amazon.com, and for free on the Food Network web site.
As we go along, I’ll have more on this, including the single man’s grocery list, a selection of recipes, foods for specific health and fitness purposes, some prepared foods that are actually good for you, and tips on cooking, both for yourself and to impress that special date.
Oh, and once a week or so, feel free to eat that Carl’s Jr. cheeseburger.
(*Note: while I recommend the list of foods, I think the Abs Diet book itself is too skimpy on actual recipes to get my nod. Plus, as the Men’s Health editors do in their magazine every month, they’re overemphasizing the effect on your abs. As always, don’t take my word for it.)