Real Food: A Recipe for a Happy, Healthy 2016

You are what you eat, so learn some healthy food habits with our great tricks!

San Diego Union Tribune

January is the best time of year to hit the reset button and embark on new projects to make us happy, healthy people. The countless decisions we all make throughout our days leads to how high we score on the Happy & Healthy Meter. My best decision-making is fueled by eating real food and the amount of vigorous exercise I can squeeze into my week of organized chaos. What do I mean by “real food”? Well, food that isn’t filled with preservatives and manmade ingredients like GMOs. These days real food is easily found in markets like Whole Foods and farm–to–fork style restaurants—but these destinations usually come with a hearty price tag too. If I told my Grandma she could sell what others referred to as her “peasant food,” now marketed as “organic and gourmet food,” for a small fortune, I would get the whoop’n–spoon for telling tales.

There is more profit in mass– produced processed foods than the local farm stand with field greens and grass–fed, hormone–free beef, chicken, pork or lamb, which means those poor imitations of real food are more readily available. Too many Americans spend hard–earned money on food that really isn’t food. Many of us recognize the poor quality of our diets, but have difficulty in changing those engrained habits. It has taken our whole lives to create the eating habits we have, and it will take some serious work to reset those habits with health as a priority.

Most of us give little thought to where our food comes from or the ingredients it consists of, as long as it tastes good and satisfies our cravings. We simply don’t have time to put a home–cooked meal together—or so we think. If we rewire or reset these few habits—grocery shopping, cooking and eating—we can make great progress.



Choose a grocery store that is health– conscious and requires strict “real food” guidelines, instead of the big chains that sell food made with heavy preservatives and artificial ingredients. Read labels and get to know what your food is made of. If you don’t have a Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods in your area, choose foods in their most natural state with a short ingredient list. Also, beware of packaging tricks like “Natural Flavors” or “Whole Grain”; if they are not listed as one of the top three ingredients, they probably have no real nutritional value.



We recognize that cooking can require a lot of time and effort, so make it worthwhile! When making a meal, prepare extra so you’ll have leftovers to last throughout your week. If you prepare roasted chicken, for example, those leftovers make great sandwiches or salads. Turning cooking into a fun activity, rather than a chore, can also inspire you to eat healthier and more carefully. Turn dinner–making into a fun activity the whole family can enjoy, and you’ll cultivate a whole new appreciation for your food.



Your overall daily meals should have 50% veggies and fruits, 25% protein and 25% grains, along with at least eight cups of water and 20 minutes of vigorous exercise. Making small changes, like one less soda and one more glass of water or partaking in red wine instead of a sugary cocktail, will help you succeed in resetting years of eating habits. Oh yes, and don’t forget to reward yourself when you reach your goals, even the tiny ones.

Happy starts with knowing what inspires and motivates you, but it’s equally as important to know what has the opposite effect. It may sound easy and it can be with the right source of motivation. Real food can be an inspiration, not just for your eating habits, but for your entire lifestyle. So this new year, allow yourself to be inspired and start climbing up that Happy & Healthy Meter!