Vail Daily column: Stock your pantry with healthy foods | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily column: Stock your pantry with healthy foods

Ryan W. Richards
Make It Count

If a wellness practice isn't sustainable for life, it's not worth sustaining for 30 days. We need to get back to basics within our dietary practices and throw away our diet books. Sensible eating requires commitment and planning that rewards the individual with satisfying culinary experiences and a slim waistline. Today, I want to discuss a few planning and cooking ideas that will support healthy eating and reasonable body composition numbers.

I'm largely against dieting in favor of lifelong sensible eating that supports fat loss or maintenance combined with common sense exercise practices. As a disclaimer, I don't usually promote any specific nutrition culture or diet such as the paleo diet, veganism, counting calories or other approaches that eliminate food groups or regulate the eater. For the record, I have regularly practiced intermittent fasting for 15 years as this approach works very well for my lifestyle. If you can sustain a healthy practice for the rest of your life, it's worth pursuing. Nonetheless, I usually recommend eating a variety of foods while limiting portion sizes. Within the context of this philosophy, the following concepts might exclude specific people who follow more stringent dietary principles.

MAKE A MEAL PLAN

Regardless of how you eat, write out the following week's meal plan. This ensures that you purchase just enough to minimize waste. I usually perform my meal planning and shopping on Tuesday. Meal planning reduces buying items you don't need or that aren't good for you. The worse habit I've had to break is going shopping without a plan and after I've worked out or skied hard. Try not to shop when hungry. I end up with items I know I will regret eating.

For example, I have a dangerous sweet tooth. One of my terrible habits is buying ice cream when I'm in a ravenous state. The problem isn't eating ice cream. The problem is having ice cream in the house that won't stand a chance lasting. If it's in the house, I will eat it. The moral of the story is that you should keep your Achilles heel in check by keeping the temptation out of the house. If pizza is your weakness, go out for pizza when you must. Stocking frozen pizza in the ice box will doom you to failure.

Next, consider your pantry, and maintain a few staples that ease the entry into healthy eating. I usually maintain a par of sea salt and peppercorn varieties, stock, coconut and olive oil, maple syrup, balsamic vinegar, assorted dry spices such as cinnamon, almond butter, dark chocolate, nuts, fresh produce, chicken, eggs, butter, oats and bacon.

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This pantry represents numerous meal options that are relatively easy to prepare. For example, prepare oats in a slow cooker overnight so they are ready in the morning. Make enough to have breakfast leftovers. A few almonds, cinnamon, and maple syrup added to the oats help kick start the day. For lunch and dinner, having fresh lettuces and other greens is quick to put together. One of my favorite salads is made with chicken breast, fried eggs and avocado over lettuce drizzled with a homemade vinaigrette of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, maple syrup, salt and pepper. Another great savory option is the preparation of hearty soups. Soups are a relatively easy, cost effective, healthy option that you can freeze for leftovers. A staple soup I prepare involves heating up chicken stock, adding Brussels sprouts, butter, salt and pepper. Simmer for an hour, puree in a food processor. I have made this variation with curry and elk meatballs served over rice that is good for the spice enthusiast. For those who have a sweet tooth, place almond butter, dates and vanilla extract in a food processor. Form the mixture into bite size balls and roll in toasted coconut for a healthy dessert. The other day my friend Rick shared a homemade trail mix. It was so simple. He mixed dark chocolate chunks that were 80 percent cacao, almonds, dried cranberries and toasted coconut. This is Rick's version of an Almond Joy, and it was quite simply delicious.

In summary, get rid of your diet books in favor of finding an eating lifestyle that supports optimal health and an ideal bodyweight. Helpful tools are planning, stocking your pantry with healthy foods, and learning to navigate the kitchen to maximize time and satisfy your palate with interesting food. Have a great week!

Ryan Richards has a B.S. from Ohio University and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He is the personal trainer at the Sonnenalp Golf Club and the owner of R2HP, an athlete consulting and personal training company. His passion comes from overcoming childhood obesity and a T1-L3 spinal fusion. Contact him at http://www.r2hp.com or 970-401-0720.