Meal Planning: What is Healthy?

This was a question that was made when I asked for what people wanted to know about meal planning. Recently, this term seems to mean different things to different people.
As most of you know, I am LDS (a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).  In our church we believe in taking care of our bodies because they are a gift from a loving Heavenly Father. In our scriptures*, we refer to it as the Word of Wisdom, that outlines what we should do to best care for our bodies.

Some of the principles are to eat meat sparingly, eat seasonal fruits, vegetables, and that grains are the "staff of life." Now, there is always some debate about grains, whether or not they are good for you. There are people that cannot physically tolerate grains, and I do believe that since some grains have been genetically modified and most crops have pesticides and herbicides it can really affect how our bodies digest and react to them. That being said, we use organic whole grains in our house and I feel that they are an important part of our diet. 

I truly believe in the Word of Wisdom and I have adapted the way I cook to fit the principles outlined in the scripture.

Here is what I believe to be truly healthy, and meal planning has helped immensely in making it easier to reach these goals:

  • Everything in moderation. It seems that most fad diets advocate eating one food group, which is not healthy. I believe that our bodies need a good balance of fruits, vegetables, and meat/dairy. 
  • Eat seasonally. I've done some research on nutrients in fruits and vegetables and I was surprised to find that fresh produce loses almost HALF of all it's nutrients in the first few days after being picked. (source) If your produce is picked green in Mexico and shipped to your local grocery store it has lost most of it's nutrients. One solution is to simply eat seasonally and locally. I've found that the farms around us offer "pick your own" that is cheaper than the grocery store. If you buy local and seasonal you are getting fresher, healthier food that is actually less expensive than the store.
  • Eat less meat and dairy. I tried to eat vegetarian and even vegan for a while, but soon I started to have pretty bad joint pain in my fingers. I did some research and found that I was missing certain proteins that repair your joint lining. I started making homemade bone broths and my joints came back to normal. I realized that my body needs meat and dairy, especially during child-bearing years. However, I believe that the cheap meat and dairy at the store are not nearly as healthy as pastured, organic meat and dairy. Instead of buying and eating lots of cheap meat and dairy we buy small amounts of high quality meat/dairy from local farmers. This keeps us eating meat in moderation (2-3 times per week) and our dairy and eggs  so much richer in flavor and nutrients because the cows (and chickens) are grazing on grass all day and are kept healthy, so we end up needing less because we get more "bang for our buck."
  • If you can't make it at home, don't eat it. This helps you avoid eating overly-processed foods that your body shouldn't be consuming. For example, you can make olive oil, honey, and cheese in your own home. It would take a lot of work and I wouldn't recommend it, but it has been done for hundreds of years without the need for industrialization. Foods that you can't make in your own home are certain vegetable oils, hydrogenated and partially-hydrogenated oils, homogenized milk, soy lecithin, aspartame, etc. So just don't eat them. I know it may be unavoidable at times, especially if you're at a restaurant, but for the foods you eat at home on a regular basis stick to the rule that if you can't make it at home (or your ancestors couldn't have made it) don't eat it.
  • Enjoy eating! This isn't really scientific, but personal experience. Part of eating healthy is enjoying the food you eat. I have tried eating extremely healthy (salads with little or no dressing, raw fruits and vegetables all day, 100% whole wheat baked goods) and found that I just didn't enjoy food. I would try and think about other things while I ate to distract me from the unpleasant taste/texture.
    I realized that it's okay to spice up your veggies with some olive oil or butter and its okay to use a little all-purpose flour to add some lightness to your baked goods. It's important to be healthy, but I also believe its important to have a healthy relationship with that food.
    I try to stick to the 80/20 rule. Eighty percent of our food is healthy, whole, and unadulterated. The other 20% is there to make life enjoyable :)

There are so many different ideas of what healthy is, and this is just my personal opinion based on what I've researched and experienced. Meal planning has made it so much easier to eat the way we want to!

What are your thoughts on what healthy is? Have you tried to eat healthy in the past and gave up? Do you think that meal planning will make a difference?

*You can read the Word of Wisdom here, starting at verse 4.

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