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Introduction to Preparing Nutritious Food

Miscellaneous pantry items

Learning how to more healthfully prepare your favorite dishes and meals can be an adventure.

Some healthier ingredients can simply be used as a direct substitute for the not-so-healthy ones in your old favorite recipes. Others, such as gluten-free and lectin-free items, may require learning some “new” tweaks or preparation methods.

Straight Substitutions: Here are a few simple substitutions that you might try:

  • Try sheep milk yogurt instead of cow milk yogurt for breakfast.
  • Use sweet potatoes instead of white ones in beef stew.
  • Choose broccoli instead of zucchini as side with your baked salmon.
  • Use avocado oil for sauteing, coconut and olive oil for baking instead of canola or other vegetable oils.
  • Snack on sweet potato, plantain or kale chips rather than more ubiquitous corn or potato chips. They are easy to make yourself!
  • Try baking with cassava and nut flours instead of gluten-laden wheat or rice flours.
  • Lightly sweeten your herbal tea with monkfruit or erythritol instead of cane or coconut sugars.

Chop and Serve: Raw, whole foods are the most nutritious foods. They are quick and simple to prepare.

Gently Warmed: Slow-cooked, steamed and roasted items are generally more nutritious than sauteed or fried.

Pressure Cooked: Lectin content can be reduced by pressure cooking. Meats, poultry, beans and lentils are excellent candidates for this type of preparation.

More Complicated Substitutions: Gluten is the first ingredient that comes to mind in this category because it is more difficult to replace, but it is not impossible. Extra proteins, starches and binders along with other tweaks are usually needed in order to make this work.

“Some old-fashioned things like fresh air and sunshine are hard to beat. In our mad rush for progress and modern improvements let’s be sure we take along with us all the old-fashioned things worth while.”

~ Laura Ingalls Wilder

Where to Find Nutritious Food


Growing your own nutritious food at home was commonplace in the not so distant past, but most of us do not have the time or skill to maintain such a garden nowadays. A trip to a modern grocery store, with so many unrecognizable prepared offerings and artificial ingredients, would no doubt be very confusing for our ancestors!

These days, grocery stores can be a mine field for healthy conscious folks. It is possible to find nutritious items in typical grocery and even big box stores, but if you can find a nearby cooperative or health food store, they will usually have a wider selection of healthier options.

Carefully reading the labels on product packages is vital, not just for identifying any potentially harmful ingredients but also for determining the source of acceptable ingredients. Food that is grown or prepared closer to home is preferable. It is also worth noting that some companies and foreign countries are known for their poor farming and preparation practices.

One of the best places to find nutritious food is at your local farmers market. As a bonus, you can talk directly to the folks who grow (and eat) it, so you can ask questions about pesticide usage or seek advice on how to prepare something new.

Managing Stress

Stress is a major contributing factor to overall health, as well. Today’s world is full of constant change, increasing demands and an abundance of frivolous distractions. Most of us find it hard to keep up with even the most basic tasks of the daily grind like eating right and taking proper care of ourselves and our home. It is widely accepted that high stress levels and poor health are woefully linked but much can be done to counteract the effects.

Sitting in an apple tree

Spending time outside, walking barefoot on soft grass, daily prayer, meditation or simply sitting silently and peacefully for an extended period of time can be refreshing and will help to keep you centered as well as mentally sharp.

Hobbies are another great outlet for releasing stress. They might be as simple as listening to music or reading a book, or more interactive like playing a sport, practicing handcrafts or gardening. The intent is to give your mind and body a change of pace and a chance to relax, as well as the opportunity to meet new people with similar interests. If you don’t already have a hobby, experiment with new activities until you find something that appeals to you.

“Yes, in the poor man’s garden grow Far more than herbs and flowers – Kind thoughts, contentment, peace of mind, And joy for weary hours.”

author unknown

Positively Encouraging Botanicals

Remember sleeping with the windows open on muggy summer nights so you could smell the sweet, rich fragrance of gardenias and the strawberry bush in your grandmother’s back yard? Remember the refreshing, sweet taste of peppermint in your iced tea as you would swing lazily in the hammock on the porch? Remember that old willow tree out by the pond, and the way it’s long boughs of leaves whispered in a gentle breeze?

It’s not just a coincidence that some of our fondest memories involve botanicals, especially fragrant and tasty ones. Though they seem to be just humble plants, modern research reinforces what our ancestors discovered long ago: that botanicals can have a surprisingly, powerfully positive influence on our well-being.

Utilitarian Kitchen Gardens


Gardens of early America were managed according to the idea that all plants grown in a garden should be useful in some way: whether for “meate” (to eat – e.g., sallet herbs and roots, pot herbs) or for “physick” (to heal or provide other household assistance – e.g., strewing herbs, medicinal plants).

Early American settlers relied heavily on botanicals for various practical uses, including food, medicine and hygiene. These useful botanicals were either grown in kitchen gardens or gathered from the wilderness, and many of these plants served multiple purposes.

The settlers brought seeds and cuttings of their favorite plants with them to the New World, and discovered many new and unfamiliar plants once they arrived. Native American indians were especially helpful in teaching the settlers about useful botanical resources in their new surroundings. A number of these useful native plants eventually found their way into cultivated gardens.

Known as “kitchen gardens”, they were typically tended by the lady of the house. The gardens found in rural areas were much less formal than those found in cities and towns; however, they were all arranged in an orderly manner. Every garden would have a border or fence around the perimeter, dedicated plots inside for various types of plants, and paths for walking among them.

Kitchen gardens contained a wide variety of vegetables, herbs, and flowers and many of them served multiple purposes.

Planning the Switch to More Nutritious Food

The overall approach to changing your eating habits is to systematically eliminate unhealthy items and find nourishing and delicious replacements for them.

Switching over can be immediate or gradual. The most dramatic results are realized by adventurous folks who aren’t afraid to make these kind of big changes all at once. However, it is fine to make incremental changes at a moderate pace, or even rather slowly for those folks with a more timid disposition.

A gradual switch over might begin with a small selection of maybe 3 to 5 of the most egregious ingredients in your old diet. Once you’ve become comfortable with the new healthier substitutions, you may continue to phase out more of the most unhealthy ingredients a few at the time.

“Keep your thoughts positive because your thoughts become your words. Keep your words positive because your words become your behaviors. Keep your behaviors positive because your behaviors become your habits. Keep your habits positive because your habits become your destiny.”

~ Mahatma Gandhi