It’s not that hard to start eating healthy as a millennial.
I’ve always been a picky eater, and my parents have spent my whole lifetime trying to get me to eat better.
My relationship with food is still contentious at best. It’s the old push-and-pull—I either eat really well, or don’t at all. After spending five years in university, and then one year working for a pittance, I can confidently say this out loud… a healthy diet seemed more myth than reality.
But now that I’ve finally started working full-time, I’ve realised that a diet filled with unhealthy and unstructured meals does not cut it.
So here’s how I maintain a semi-healthy diet while working!
What I mean when I say healthy eating
Healthy eating to me is a balanced diet.
I do not believe in denying myself any food I love, because I think denial is not the best way to stay healthy.
I have long been taught that not enjoying your meals can impact the way your body reacts to the food you consume.
Instead of denial, I like to ensure that my meals balance themselves out. I never eat gluttonously, and I try very hard to make sure that all the vitamins and minerals and nutrients I need get covered over the course of a day.
I know it’s hard to stick to the three-meals-a-day plan, so I try to have two big meals and two to three small meals every day. This also depends on your body type and nutrition requirements, and those should always be factored into your meal plan.
Breakfast is truly the most important meal
Perhaps this sounds like a cliche, but I’ve found that when I skip the first meal of the day, I end up being cranky and irritable throughout.
So I have a standard breakfast route with a few alternatives thrown in here and there for variety.
I make sure I eat one egg and one fruit every morning, and to avoid waking up super early and eating, I just pack both and eat them as soon as I get to work.
This means that I don’t have to rely on processed snacks before lunchtime, and this allows me to avoid the lethargy that these snacks bring in.
I try to take different fruits everyday, because I know it can get boring to repeat the same thing.
Occasionally, if I have the time, I’ll whip up something quick like masala oats or upma, which are super easy to make and don’t take much time! And when I feel like breaking away from all the super healthy stuff, I’ll bring in a grilled cheese sandwich, cause as I’ve said before, denial is the worst way to approach eating.
Fulfilling “home food” cravings with healthy eating
The three staple foods I consumed as a child are fruits, milk, and eggs. As a student in college, I was purposely lazy, and didn’t make an effort to include these in my unhealthy lifestyle.
But as a working woman, I’ve realised how much fruits, milk, and eggs can impact my energy levels and ability to concentrate at work.
For those who are allergic, vegetarian, or vegan, I would recommend substitutes which can offer the same benefits. For example, eggs can be replaced with paneer, tofu, and even peas. I like to add some flavour to my eggs by dusting them with salt and peri-peri, but you can do the same with chaat masala, oregano, chilli sauce or any other condiments. These will go well with the substitutes too!
If you want to replace childhood carb staples like rice or roti, quinoa or millets are simple and delicious to prepare. Milk, of course, can be substituted with almond or soy milk.
Meal-planning is hard, but grocery shopping isn’t
If there’s a meal planner out there, I’ve probably tried it. But nothing ever works, because the fact is that something or the other will always come in the way of a hyper-organised life.
So instead, I stock up on basics which can be used to prepare a variety of meals.
These include tomato puree, garlic paste, coconut milk, fresh cream, and my biggest partner in all Indian meals—mixed masala packets. These packets have a combination of all those spices which make desi food delicious, and they eliminate the need to learn what each masala does, and where it should be added. I also always ensure that I have some stir-fry sauces and gravy packets handy.
And most importantly, I stock up on a weekly basis, picking up the veggies (and meats) I would like to eat and then figure out what I want to make the night before. A strict meal plan can always feel suffocating and difficult to follow, but shopping can be stimulating and the flexibility of the main protein (whether paneer or chicken or fish) keeps things interesting.
Make your snacks a part of healthy eating
One of the biggest chinks in the healthy-eating-armour is unhealthy snacking.
Oh, the terrible fried and oily snacks I have consumed on a daily basis throughout my college life! How I regret those choices!
Now I purposefully choose to limit my consumption of chips and biscuits, and opt for equally delicious versions of healthy snacks. Flavoured sunflower seeds, puffed rice and roasted foxnuts in a variety of flavours, homemade baked sweet potato fries, trail mix—all of these are great snacking options you could incorporate into your diet.
There are also other simple ways of adding a touch of healthy eating to your daily life: chia seeds and lemon added to my everyday water, keeping a box of dry fruits on my work desk, and avoiding eating out on a day-to-day basis.
Keep at least one meal relaxed
If there’s one thing more grating than a meal plan, it’s prep work!
I like to ensure that my lunch-time meal requires less prep and cooking time, because I usually make it in the morning. To balance out the nutrition aspect with the time, I like to ensure that if any hardcore prep is required, I do it the night before.
Rushing while cooking is the easiest way to lose control over your meals, so I like to keep my time and energy in mind always.
With dinner, I take my time, because there is no rush, and I can make something a little more elaborate.
Learn to love cooking
As millennials, we like to avoid the kitchen as though it carries the plague.
But here’s a little tough love: as an adult, it’s kind of abysmal when one does not know how to feed oneself.
It’s time that we put our assumptions and biases aside, and venture forth into the kitchen. I did not know how to cook till I was 20, but I just started googling simple recipes and asking people in my family when I needed some tips. And within the year, I was making proper meals for myself.
There is only one way to overcome our prejudices, and it is to jump right in. So drop the attitude, and pick up a recipe!