today I want to introduce you to Anjali, the author of the food blog "The Picky Eater". She's an amazing and inspiring woman, why I asked her to share her story with you. Guess what, she agreed!
Enjoy her story and get motivated.
I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area: a culture of healthy-eating, organic food, farmer's market visits, and being outdoors all the time. In contrast, my husband grew up in the deep-dish-pizza culture of Chicago. When my husband and I first started dating, I went to his house for dinner and he literally had: a box of Lucky Charms, milk, a loaf of Wonder Bread, Kraft Singles, Iceberg lettuce, and 1 sad tomato in his fridge! That was it! Oh and in his freezer there were about 10 Totino's Frozen Pizzas (ha!) His regular breakfast was 3 donuts and a glass of milk, meanwhile I'm making oatmeal from scratch with fresh blueberries every morning.
I was raised to be "picky" about the foods I put into my body -- always focusing on fresh fruits, vegetables, whole foods, whole grains, and lean protein - and avoiding fast food and processed food. Meanwhile, my husband's regular dinner was a frozen pizza or Taco Bell.
When we got married, the question was: What would the picky eater and her fast food husband eat for dinner? Prior to getting married, I didn't even know how to use a can opener! So the journey towards healthy cooking was really one we both ended up on: me as the chef, him as the "guinea pig" with a commitment to expand his palate. I realized that the only way I would be able to bridge the gap between our very different food worlds would be to cook healthy versions of foods that my husband enjoyed. And so, at the age of 24, I taught myself to cook.
Gradually, I started making healthier swaps in my husband’s diet, “sneaking” in the good stuff without him noticing. Slowly but surely he began to identify different flavors like cumin, ginger, and garlic, and he even started asking for vegetables in his dishes! He said it was because he learned that healthy food could taste good, which meant the world to me.
Some of the simplest healthy swaps I made actually had the biggest impact - both health-wise and taste-wise! These included: swapping out white grains for sprouted wheat or whole wheat (pasta, rice, bread, tortillas), adding vegetables even when recipes didn't call for it (e.g. adding pureed butternut squash to mac & cheese, sneaking in sauteed veggies into quesadillas, etc.), and reducing the amount of cream and fat in favor of spices and texture (e.g. did you know that you can add pureed cannelini beans + vegetable broth to soups instead of cream to get the same creamy texture?)
I also tried making healthier versions of fast foods he loved - which was a success! For example, one of healthy homemade pita pizzas, which are seriously just as good as a regular pizza but so much better for you! Another one of our favorites is this lightened up vegetarian chili - where even meat-eaters won't miss the meat!
The journey towards healthier eating is one we both ended up on together. I learned that incorporating healthier habits into your family's life doesn't have to be difficult, and it doesn't have to happen all at once. Instead, incremental small changes can make a big difference! And my husband learned that healthy food didn't have to taste like "cardboard," that it could actually taste amazing. Over the years, he has learned to be less "picky" about what foods he didn't like, and I have continued to be "picky" and choosy about the foods we do eat -- aiming for organic, whole foods, lots of fruits and veggies, and limited junk food/fast food/processed food for our meals!
Anjali Shah is a food writer, board certified health coach, and owner of The Picky Eater, a healthy food and lifestyle blog. Her work has been featured on Oprah.com, Women' s Health, Cooking Light, Reader's Digest, CNN, Food Network, Glamour, Ladies' Home Journal, Whole Foods, SHAPE, and at Kaiser Permanente. Through her blog, The Picky Eater, Anjali shares her passion for tasty, healthy cooking. Follow her Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram.