Whether it’s January 1st or July 21st, any time is a good time to start your family’s commitment to eating healthier. I can’t promise that it will be easy, but I do have some tips and advice to make following through on that commitment as straightforward and reasonable as possible.

Natural Selection
Eating healthier starts with selecting your ingredients. Try to avoid buying an abundance of processed foods in order to better control what you’re putting in (or not putting in) to the foods you eat – specifically the fat, salt and sugar content.

Commit to preparing more foods from scratch at home. And when it comes to selecting your ingredients, fresher is better – and local is fresher. If you know what’s in season at what time of year, you’ll end up with ingredients that have more nutritional impact than those out of season.

During January, for instance, citrus is in peak season in Florida and California. Eat your oranges and grapefruits then. If you’re buying strawberries in June, choose the ones from Ontario, B.C. or Nova Scotia instead of those that have been trucked in from California.

And when it comes to being economical (and health-conscious) with your ingredients, cut down on your meats and look to vegetable-based proteins such as legumes, lentils and beans. They’re far more cost-effective and nutritious, and they don’t have any saturated fat, either. Try pairing your legume with a carbohydrate to create a full protein replacement such as beans and rice or chickpea curry on rice.

Meal Preparation
Believe it or not, you can cook with a lot less oil and butter if you choose to. At my home, we’ve put the olive oil bottle away to avoiding using it as much as possible. Braising and stewing are two ideal cooking methods because when you’re braising or stewing, the fat floats to the top, which you can easily skim off. Plus, you can braise or stew with a slow cooker, on the stovetop or in your oven – any appliance will work.

Actifry It
Of course, eating is about texture as well as flavour. That’s where something like T-Fal’s Actifry comes in handy. I got my husband one for Christmas, and it makes great French fries. By blowing hot air, the Actifry toasts the outside of your fries to create that crispy texture without all the oil of a traditional deep fryer. Plus it’s a good transition tool to help you eat healthier while still enjoying the flavours you crave.

Blending In
Immersion blenders are a restaurant industry staple, and with the Kuraidori home model you can prepare great soups at home easily. I use mine to make soups almost every day in winter. Soup is a great clear-the-fridge meal because it can be made of almost anything. It’s great for puréed soups because you can just drop the immersion blender into your soup pot instead of transferring your ingredients to a blender and back again.

I also use it for salad dressing. When I crave something creamy, I make a dressing using avocado, non-fat Greek yogurt, green onion, a little rice vinegar and any fresh herbs I can get my hands on: dill, fresh basil, cilantro, coriander or a mix. I purée it all, and the rice vinegar prevents the avocado from going brown. The result is a delightfully creamy dressing for salads or to dollop on top of a nice, puréed soup.

Soup It Up
Puréed soups allow you to enjoy a wonderfully creamy texture without adding any actual cream. Start with your soup basics (onion, celery and carrot) and add your desired flavour profile (broccoli, squash, mushroom, etc.). When they’re all cooked, purée them, add liquid (such as low-sodium chicken stock) and you’re done. If you want to get creative, try using coconut milk to your sweet potato soup instead of chicken stock.

Final Thoughts
If you’re a newcomer to cooking, don’t get discouraged if your first attempts aren’t as delicious as you’d hoped for. You won’t be a Gordon Ramsay on your first try. But it’s with repetition and practice that your skills improve – whether it’s cooking, golfing or playing video games.

And remember – we all have bad days. If you end up cheating at a fast food restaurant, there’s no need to beat yourself up over it. Let the next meal or the next day be your fresh start. Let now be the moment. When you put so much pressure on yourself, you’re really only setting yourself up for failure. Take little steps to achieve small accomplishments that will make change easier – and make you more likely to follow through on them.

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