Delicious

Eating Healthy: What I’ve Learned by Prioritizing Nutrition

Eating healthy can be an intimidating concept at times, but listening to your body and eating clean has a larger effect than you might expect.

I’ve always been fascinated with artsy photos of smoothies and healthy dinners that people post on Instagram and Pinterest – endlessly curious about what vegetables were used to make the smoothies look pink (probably beets), and if there really is any way to make kale taste good in a stir fry (I have yet to figure that one out).

Growing up, my mother always turned on the oven to make us a healthy dinner, even after working all day; and I’ve always had a love for cooking and all things food. My parents shop for fresh produce each week, and our fridge is always stocked with fruits and vegetables to cook with and snack on.

I fully acknowledge that being able to afford healthy food is a privilege, not a right.

But it wasn’t until I got home from school this summer that I decided I wanted to make my own smoothies and take artsy photos of my dinner. The decision came from deciding that I wanted to take full advantage of having a kitchen to cook in, and not being confined to a dining hall.  I also wanted to start making healthier choices about how I ate and what I ate. My dad brought me home a compact blender from a yard sale (which was only $10 and works wonderfully), and I’ve been hooked since. Now, I wake up every day and make a smoothie. I also eventually started posting photos and videos of my cooking and blending on my Snapchat story.

Here’s my most-favorite smoothie recipe:

1 frozen sweet potato, steamed and frozen

1-2 ripe bananas

2 tsp of chia seeds

1 cup of almond milk

(The chia seeds add protein, and sweet potatoes are root vegetables which are incredibly skin nourishing!)

While this sounds a lot like anyone’s journey to eating healthy – mine feels multifaceted.

I started preparing healthy meals and smoothies for myself out of my love for cooking and desire to eat well, but I also found that eating well immensely improved my mental health. I learned early on at a middle school running camp that your body works like a car— if you put junk into it, it won’t run properly, and if you don’t put any gas in it at all, it’ll stop working all together. But I never truly understood how great it would make me feel. I have more energy, I sleep better at night, and I just feel better about myself overall. There are plenty of studies out there about how your diet can affect you, and since I’ve started treating my body kindly in this way, I can’t imagine living without it.

I’ve also learned that eating healthy isn’t as simple as it sounds.

As I mentioned earlier, I am privileged. My parents can afford to buy me the ingredients to eat well – and I think we tend to forget that those artsy photos of smoothies and healthy dinners that are posted by fitness professionals are also privileged. We shame people for eating poorly, but it’s cheaper to feed a whole family unhealthy fast food than buy a bag of organic produce. So if we’re opening up the conversation about healthy eating, it has to be an acknowledgement that the way we talk about eating well has to be examined closely.

Eating well shouldn’t be a privilege, it should be a right.

And those fitness professionals I keep mentioning that post on social media? I follow tons of them, and I’m sure you do, too. They can be inspiring, but they can also be intimidating and discouraging at times. Since I’ve been posting my smoothies and healthy eating on my snapchat story, I’ve gained a little bit of what my best friend calls a “social media presence,” and with that comes power. It still amazes me that there are people out there who care about what I post on social media— but then I remember how social media can influence us.

Everyone’s journey toward eating and living healthy comes in their own time, and their own way. I think it’s great to see how other people live and get ideas/learn (for example, I figured out how to make the perfect turmeric latte from Instagram), but it’s important to take their lives and images/videos with a grain of salt.

Unplugging and taking care of you is what comes first.

Eating well has most importantly taught me that my body and mind are more in tune with each other that I realized. So, I allow myself to eat the things that I want as well as the things I know my body needs. I don’t restrict myself from enjoying the gooey mac-and-cheese bites that I love, and I don’t feel guilty for not eating “well” every single day. Eating what you want and living how you want is the most important part of just being a human, and I’m so glad I’ve discovered it for myself.

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Check out Metiza’s “Foodie Faves” Pinterest board for simple, healthy recipe ideas!

Cover image via Little Things.

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Dani Bowes is a nineteen year old living in Maryland. She has a passion...