5 Meals to Start Your Healthy Journey (Plus Recipe Links!)
Delving into the world of healthy eating is very overwhelming. I remember when I first started… I read so many articles and spent a ton of time experimenting with new recipes. I excitedly shopped for the healthiest ingredients to make some complicated “superfood salad” only to wrinkle my nose upon eating the first bite. My palate wasn’t used to these new flavors! Lesson learned: don’t start your healthy eating journey by picking a salad with every weird root and herb you can find in the produce aisle.
You taste buds do, in fact, grow to like those things though! After eating clean consistently, I came to want real food. Most processed foods taste overwhemlingly salty and artificial. I now eat apples, carrots, and even salads with pleasure, and I used to hate all of those things. So don’t use the excuse you don’t like healthy food; your palate is just used to what you feed it. Start with the changes you can make and keep going from there! Your body will thank you.
What’s the first thing you need to do in order start shopping for ingredients for healthy meals? Decide what healthy eating means to you. The term ‘clean eating’ is thrown around a lot; I myself use it often. But it means different things to different people. You have to decide what healthy eating means to you. I myself describe clean eating as:
- Making your meals from scratch with as close to whole food ingredients as possible.
- If it comes packaged, the fewer ingredients in it the better (a lot of people have a 3-5 ingredient rule).
- Know what each of the ingredients listed are and decide if they fit into your idea of healthy.(Most say “if you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it.” This isn’t a bad theory, but research is even better.)
- The healthiest items don’t come with a label (produce) OR only have one ingredient (bags of frozen veggies, meat, eggs, whole grains, etc.)
After you’ve pondered for a while, it’s time to start cooking! The perfect dishes to start with will align with the following characteristics:
- They will be healthy takes on classic dishes your palate already loves. You also have a better chance of getting your family members to eat them.
- You hopefully will have some of the ingredients around to make them.
- They are simple in execution and don’t take much time to make (since all of us are so busy!)
- They require affordable ingredients.
Here are my top recommendations to take on in the kitchen for your first healthy dishes! This is a collection of recipes I found around the web that are trainer-approved. I tried to choose recipes from several different websites and blogs to give you even more resources for later. These websites are some of my favorites and are packed with great clean recipes.
1. Pancake Breakfast
You can’t go wrong with a classic pancake breakfast! Clean, whole grain pancakes are simple to make, and posses a comfort factor. Top with just a hint of coconut oil or butter and a teaspoon or less of pure maple syrup (the stuff right out of a tree, not maple-flavored high fructose corn syrup; check the ingredients!). Serve with some eggs or egg whites for protein and voila!
There are SO many recipes online for clean pancakes of every flavor imaginable. Start with this simple one! From there, the sky is the limit; you can experiment with different types of flour, flavors, and toppings.
Here’s a quick and simple waffle recipe from there too!
I use the term “Mexican” loosely; I believe much of the food we consume that we consider to be Mexican are very Americanized versions. That said, many of the ingredients used to make them are quite healthy. Beans, salsa, avocado, rice… yum. These ingredients are also cheap, which makes Tex-Mex night a win-win! In addition, beans and rice, when combined, created a complete protein, which means meat is not necessary, making it cost a few dollars to put something together. It’s the ultimate “clean eating on a budget” meal. There are so many yummy varieties of dishes you can make, from burrito bowls to fajitas to tacos.
I will first share my own recipe for a simple dish that I often make because I always stock the ingredients to make it. I’m a very scattered cook (hmm, a sprinkle of this…. dump some of that…) so maybe some day I’ll actually take the time to measure and write out an official recipe for it.
Cook 1 cup of dry brown rice. Add it to a skillet with:
1 can of black beans
1 can of diced tomatos (with green chilis if you like more kick)
1 can of sliced black olives (obvoiusly optional 🙂
1 chopped onion
1 chopped bell pepper in any color
After these ingredients are together, add a little salsa to give it some moisture.
Stir over medium low heat and then add homemade taco seasoning. For me, this means a healthy dose of cumin, a little salt, garlic, a touch of smoked paprika, and oregano. Season to taste. (That phrase is my excuse for each of those things being measured in mental sprinkles and pinches! 🙂
Dish it up when it’s heated through and has a bit to simmmer (the longer it simmers the better the spices will come out) and top with shredded lettuce, salsa, shredded cheese (in moderation), and a dollop of Greek yogurt.
PS- This is one of my favorite meals to meal prep! It reheats wonderfully!
Here’s a great recipe for fajitas made in the slow cooker!
Clean Turkey and Black Bean Tacos:
Clean DIY Taco Seasoning:
Pizza is one of the most beloved foods in our country and continues to be my favorite treat meal. It’s actually not hard to clean up your pizza and make it a healthy dinner staple. Make a crust from scratch using whole grain flour and no refined sugar, make your sauce from scratch using plain tomato sauce or paste, and top it with plenty of fresh veggies, a good, lean meat, and some cheese.
Here’s a recipe for dough:
Here’s a recipe for sauce:
Get creative with your homemade pizza! There are so many brilliant and beautiful ideas out there that I have yet to try.
4. Tuna/Egg Salad Sandwiches
Sandwiches are easy to make, portable, and cheap. Tuna and egg salad also taste light and refreshing in the summer. Here’s a couple health-i-fied versions of these classic sandwiches.
This recipe adds avocado, yum!
5. Pasta Dishes
Ah, pasta. It’s right behind pizza when it comes to the top things women love and don’t want to give up. I love how filling, comforting, and cheap pasta is! (Are you sensing a trend here? Eating healthy does not have to be expensive!) Cleaning up pasta dishes is comparable to cleaning up its Italian cousin, pizza. First, replace your regular pasta with whole grain. The only ingredient on the box should be something like: whole grain duram wheat flour. Next, make your own sauce from scratch with plain tomato sauce/paste and spices. Add some chopped grilled chicken or ground turkey or beef with a sprinkle of real Parmesan cheese, and you’ve got yourself a great dinner. I like making dishes like this ahead of time and then letting it sit in the slow cooker on low or warm so it’s ready any time we want to eat it. Sometimes letting it set and simmer can bring out the flavor of the spices better, too.
Here’s some additional reading explaining why whole grain pasta is better than refined grain pasta:
If you are concerned about eating wheat, you can also find pasta varieties made from other sources.
Here’s a simple recipe for spaghetti sauce:
And here’s a meatball recipe!
I hope you can take these ideas to the kitchen and get cooking! All of these recipes come of websites that have been great sources of help and inspiration for my own journey. I make varieties of all of these meals often for my family, and they’ve always been well-received. Now it’s your turn! Do you have any healthy favorites that are on constant repeat? Let us know what they are in the comments below!