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.

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.

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.

Real, Clean Food ~ Nutrition Naturally

Fresh fruit displayed in a traditional compote

Natural nutrition can be thought of as “real” food that is derived from a living and breathing non-human source. “Real” food includes…

  • a wide variety of vegetables,
  • nuts and seeds,
  • herbs and spices,
  • certain grains and starches,
  • seasonal fruits,
  • seafood, and
  • a minimal amount of meat and dairy.

Nutritious food does not cause harm or an inflammatory response in the human body. Food should be “clean” in the sense that it is not artificially augmented or modified. Therefore, ingredients that should be strictly avoided include…

  • Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs),
  • foods grown using harmful pesticides,
  • gluten,
  • sugars,
  • caffeine,
  • nitrates,
  • artificial additives such as MonoSodium Glutamate (MSG, which goes by many other names as well) and
  • patented natural flavors.

How to Make Fresh Herbal Tea

Fresh herbs such as mint, lemon balm, chamomile, catnip, ginger, anise hyssop and holy basil make delicious, soothing, relaxing tea. Try them individually or in combinations that suit your taste.


  1. Pick 1-2 teaspoons of fresh leaves, flowers and or roots.
  2. Gently bruise by rolling in hands.
  3. Drop into cup of hot water.
  4. Cover and let steep for a few minutes.

Tip: Smaller, finer leaves should steep for 3 to 5 minutes, while larger leaves and flowers should steep a bit longer, up to 10 minutes. Roots should be steeped longest and may even be boiled for maximum potency.

  1. Sip and Enjoy!

A New Way of Thinking about Food

Food is the body’s primary source of nutrition, which means it can profoundly boost or hinder your health. Nutritious foods can be healing. Unhealthy foods can be poisonous. And so, to the greatest extent possible, it is wise to view your food as medicine. Thinking about food in this way can be life changing.

Very simply, nutritious foods are comprised of ingredients that contribute positively to the function of the human body. Quality nutrition tends to be found in naturally occurring foods that are as clean from contamination and indigestible elements as possible, and as minimally prepared (as close to raw) as possible.

A healthier pantry should contain a good number of natural items that might have been found in a pantry belonging to your ancestors, with a few modern adaptations.

Making Healthier Choices

Breaking old, unhealthy habits is hard work. How do you even start to make these kinds of life altering changes? The short answer is: One step at a time, in a way that makes the most sense to you.

You may decide to start by focusing on just a couple of the most offending habits in your life, or you may go all out with a fully documented plan to tackle them all. Either way, as you gain confidence and begin to notice improvements, you will be encouraged to continue making changes.

Copyright 2019, Ruffin Associates, LLC. All rights reserved.
Colonial Garden Bench
© 2019, Colonial Botanicals

You might find it helpful to write a letter to yourself so that when setbacks or doubts creep up, you’ll have a reminder of why you wanted to make such a change in the first place.

Take into account your true motivations, realistically recognizing your own personal strengths and weaknesses, and reasonably considering any other opportunities and limitations that may affect your desired outcome.

Give yourself credit for the healthy habits you already have and define achievable phases or steps to improve in other areas.

Whether you write it all down or not, planning and thinking through the implications of these changes before you get started will raise the level of your success.

At first it may take a little time and effort to change those old habits but before long, you’ll begin to realize positive results and an efficient routine will evolve.

It is true that transitions on this scale can be overwhelming, but they don’t have to be. Listen to your heart. If you know that changes are necessary, you can find the right way to make them happen.