It seems our society is obsessed with quantity instead of quality. Less is more when it comes to eating to live. This doesn’t mean...

It seems our society is obsessed with quantity instead of quality.

Less is more when it comes to eating to live. This doesn’t mean starving yourself. Eat foods that are flavorful and satisfying that don’t have processed sugar in them, and you won’t feel deprived. I used to crave ice cream before bedtime, but since I have cut out processed sugar in my diet, ice cream is just too sweet for my taste buds. Never thought I’d say that! Ice cream truly is a treat for me about every six to eight weeks instead of every night.

Instead of eating a large meal in the evening, eat small meals more often or healthy snacks in between meals if you are hungry. Keep veggie salads in the fridge for snacking, have gluten-free muffins or make a smoothie if hungry. The key word here is hungry – try not to eat to relieve stress or out of boredom. Take a walk or exercise for 10 or 15 minutes instead. Simple meals can be just two or three things and should include whole foods, like soup and salad, sweet potato, quinoa, and beans or greens, etc.

Vary the colors on your plate to appeal to your eye as well as your mouth. Substitute veggies like carrots, celery, or sweet pepper strips to eat with healthy dips like hummus and homemade dressings instead of chips or crackers. I never was much of a celery fan growing up; far too stringy, although I’ve always liked it cooked in soups. Recently I gave raw celery another try, and much to my surprise, I liked it. The crunch, the freshness, and, of course, the fiber, were all very appealing this time around.

It is great to have fresh fruits and veggies on hand for planning simple meals. Keep them in refrigerator drawers to last longer.

Cut carrots and celery into strips and place in jars and add water to keep them from drying out. Also, roasting veggies is a great option that enhances the flavor and prolongs the shelf life. Put them in jars and add a little vinegar to pickle them – a real gut-healthy option.

To get started, keep the word “simple” in the forefront: the fewer the ingredients, the better. Freeze or ferment the extras and you are off to a great start to planning simple meals.

To simplify the process of preparing healthy meals, make them ahead in batches. Think about foods that have multiple purposes. Beans are a good example of this. Make a pot of beans for Monday night with New Orleans-inspired seasonings. On Tuesday night, serve beans over rice or quinoa for a rice bowl and add other veggies like roasted red peppers, tomatoes, relish or avocados to your dish. On Wednesday, if you still have beans left over, add a can of diced tomatoes, green chilies and cooked ground chicken or turkey, and voila – you have a pot of chili. Of course, you can add fresh tomatoes and broth instead of the canned tomatoes.

Eating fresh vegetables instead of canned ones may require you to shop more often, and there lies temptation around every corner: baked goods, chips, sodas, etc. It helps to have a list before you enter the store. Don’t be tempted by “buy one, get one free” specials of processed snack foods that are laden with salt, sugar and other added ingredients. It is perfectly legal now for manufacturers to add the words “natural flavors” to the ingredient list, but what are natural flavors? I’m very suspect of those ingredients too.

Luckily we have several good farmers markets around Chester where you can get good quality produce. I always ask if it is organic. If they say yes, I’m excited. If they say they use organic protocols like “no synthetic pesticides,” but they just aren’t certified organic, then I usually move forward with the purchase too. I have a veggie wash at home that I use to clean up any residue that might be on the produce.