Baby Steps Add Up To Big, Healthy Steps

As the sister who both helped and hindered Little Sis’ foray into healthier eating, I must confess that although Little Sis’ words regarding Baby Steps might have helped me chill out a little earlier, either age or cumulative eye rolls from my victims have tempered my assumption that everyone wants to know my opinions about food.  Indeed, I have a joke with a friend (who has eluded my nutritive grasp for many years) that one reason I became a nurse is that I have a captive audience for dispensing nutritional advice.  That is a delightful perk of my profession, however, I tend to leave my friends alone now….. unless they ask!

Baby Steps is a solution that I have used personally and professionally as a move for positive change.  In all honesty, all of the lasting nutritional changes that earned me the title ‘health whack’  from my 11 year old son have started as Baby Steps.

And so I offer here a baby step that is very much in keeping with the positive intentions of many of you to eat more healthfully, and / or lose weight.  The Salad.  The wonderful, crunchy, healthy, raw, make-it-the-way-you-like-it-all-you-can-eat-salad-bar Salad.  So where is there a Baby Step needed with salads?  It’s all in the dressing baby.  You can dress it up, but you can no longer call it a healthy alternative if you’re smothering it in chemical goo.  That’s right… go ahead and roll your eyes (I’m used to it) – chemical goo.  Check out the label on your favorite salad dressing.  Does it say, oil, vinegar and perhaps a few spices or mustard?  I bet it has some ingredients you can’t pronounce.  AND it has cheap oils that have been refined and thereby block the absorption of nutrients like vitamins A, K, E and choline.  So there goes a bunch of the nutrients from your lovely salad.  And I bet a bunch of the ingredients are vague.  When the ingredient is vague, it’s possible that they don’t want you to know what the actual ingredient is… like HIDDEN Valley Ranch dressing listing vegetable oil as the first ingredient.  What kind of vegetable oil?  What has been done to that vegetable oil?  These are questions that an ingredient label SHOULD answer…, but that is a future and very angry post.

So the baby step is to make your own salad dressing.  You can pour a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar right over the salad – no fuss, no muss.  Rachael Ray recommends squeezing fresh lemon juice over the salad.  There is the incredibly simple approach.  If you want to mix ahead of time, the basic salad dressing mix is 3 to 1 oil to vinegar – be it balsamic, apple cider, lemon juice, red wine, rice or a combo thereof.  Now… if you want to get a little fancy you can then add some dijon mustard, or a pinch of salt and/or oregano, plain yogurt or tahini.  You may have to experiment a little to get it the way you like it, but if you add a little at a time and then taste it, you can always add more.

Here is a more complicated dressing that my family (including my 11 year old son) likes a lot:

1 cup olive oil
1/4 cup tahini
1 1/2 Tbsp soy sauce or Bragg’s liquid aminos
1 tsp honey
0-2 Tbsp water (taste it first and see if it’s too strong and then temper with a little water)
Put all in a jar that is at least 14oz, with a good lid and shake it up.

Now go enjoy a goo-free, crunchy, wonderful, colorful, tasty salad (I love nuts on mine) and know that baby steps add up to big steps and add up to a healthier you!

Baby Steps

I’ve been feeling super energized about improving my diet lately, and it’s possible I’ve been obsessing a little… ’cause when I obsess, I only do it a little. HA! It’s also possible that I’ve been feeling a little evangelical about good eating. I kind of want to tell everyone I know about every good thing I’ve learned about food and what makes you feel awesome that also tastes great. And then I think about my own food journey. I don’t know about you, but I am not really interested in being evangelized about much of anything. I sort of have an instant negative reaction to the strong sell of the extremely earnest enthusiast. I remember anticipating my sister’s reactions (sorry Big Sis) if I ordered a Diet Coke or if I ate… well, whatever it was that I used to eat that disgusted her… oh right, a 7-11 hot dog (oh yeah, it was like that). Those of you who know me well also know that anticipating her reaction didn’t mean cleaning up my act or considering her point of view; it meant something more like rolling my eyes and digging in to the offensive item with gusto.

I’ve become convinced that most healthful changes that are not precipitated by an actual health crisis are best taken on incrementally. Baby steps are remarkable. It is easy, in the face of vast amounts of information and the sense that your diet is WAY off track, to become discouraged and simply shrug. It’s just too hard. But baby steps allow us to be a little kinder to ourselves – you know you want to make BIG changes, but today you’re just going to make one. You’re going to try that one on for a week, or two and see how that fits, see how you feel. And when you’re ready for more try another.

An early baby step for me was as a direct result of a conversation with the same sister. This time I was actually seeking advice and she, knowing that we are pasta fiends, suggested I try whole wheat pasta, just for a while, see how it goes. We did. It REALLY took. Honestly, I really don’t like other pasta anymore, too soft, a little slimy, no nutty goodness. No thanks. A million baby steps later, we’re toying with vegan dishes, and feeling better than we have in a long time. Each of those steps took us further away from highly processed food, farther into a world of eating what WE decide to put in our bodies, and with a greater appreciation of the amazing variety of flavors that the natural world has to offer. Do you hear the fervor building? I can barely help it – I don’t just want me to eat better – I admit it; I want you to eat better too. I think it’s worse than that; I want you to WANT to eat better. And I want to cheer you on!! So I apologize in advance for my gushing enthusiasm. Please believe me when I tell you it comes from a place of high hopes for both of us; perhaps you are more mature in the face of evangelizing than I have ever managed to be. In the meantime I will continue to attempt to stop myself before I make a bunch of pamphlets to hand out. BABY STEPS!! So for me, tomorrow’s baby step: breakfast without dairy. What’s your baby step going to be?