It seems like healthier options are becoming more and more bountiful. But with that comes the increase of traditional brands re-marketing themselves as “healthy” to gain market shares and a piece of the consumer’s business. Honestly, as much as these big companies try, nothing can substitute for good, old-fashioned, clean, green eating. Sure, cereals may say whole grain, but what else is in there?

Navigating the amount of choices that are available can be difficult. However, common sense can chime in and show you that there’s nothing like eating something that was picked this morning, washed, and eaten raw or turned into something magical with the help of some other ingredients.

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Take a look at the list here to find some tips for cooking more lean, green meals without the additives and extra calories we often forget to account for. If you’re also looking to save some money while eating healthier, check out 10 Great Tips for Saving Money with Raw Food to save some green while eating green! Happy cooking, fellow Green Monsters!

1. Cut It In Half

Did you ever finish a salad to realize there is a pool of dressing at the bottom of the bowl? Left over lettuce or vegetables look like tiny islands amidst a sea of vinaigrette. What about pancakes? Is there maple syrup stickiness all over the plate with no pancakes to mop it up with? Try cutting the amount of toppings and dressings in half to avoid those extra, unnecessary calories and instead, have a perfectly portioned meal without the sea of extra sauces. Plus, think of the money you’ll save! Twice as many meals with the same amount of dressing, sauce, or syrup! Pancakes for all!

2. Snack Raw

The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) revealed “Snacking, including beverage consumption outside of a regular meal, continues to increase among Americans, accounting for more than 25 percent of calorie intake each day” in a presentation in 2011. This includes the extra sodas, “fourth meals,” and general snacking and drinking. 25 PERCENT!? Goodness gracious! The article then goes on to explain that many Americans don’t equate beverages with calorie intake, so people aren’t realizing how much they’re consuming. Instead of sticking with sodas or the innumerable snacks lining our supermarket shelves, try some water with lemon, raspberries or cucumbers, and have some nuts, seeds, or fresh veggies to snack on. Let’s not let “fourth meal” become our downfall to healthy eating habits.

3. Swap Butter and Oils For Healthier Versions

Mom used to make canned corn with a spoon of butter and garlic salt on top. As a kid, this was one of my favorites, until I started realizing how much was added to detract from the healthy nature of corn itself (albeit from a can, kept in some form of juice to preserve it). Vegetables are delicious, just the way they are. A touch of olive oil and a sprinkle of spices and 15 minutes in the oven will give you delicious corn, zucchini, eggplant, you name it. The key here is moderation. And, if you’re looking for new oils to cook with, try some coconut, sesame, sunflower, or peanut oil instead of generic cooking oil. You’d be surprised at the taste difference that accompanies these. Take a look here to read about some alternatives!

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4. Sub In Some Applesauce

Do you love mom’s oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, but can’t have them anymore because they aren’t vegan? Applesauce is here to save the day! Applesauce can be substituted for both butter and eggs if you’re really craving some old fashioned baked goods. The key here is to grab the organic, not-loaded-down-with-sugar kind and experiment. Check out this guide on How to Veganize Popular Baked Goods. Happy baking!

5. Buy Fresh

There’s nothing better than waking up on Saturday morning, making your way down to the farmer’s market and letting your cooking imagination run wild. There are so many colors, textures, vegetables, fruits, and homemade snacks to choose from. Do your shopping for the week’s produce there! You can even ask what the grower recommends as far as recipes for their delicious crops. In the end, it may even save you some money if you find a grower you like and frequent their stand. I know Marta always gives me a few extra apples and a head of lettuce when I buy from her — not to mention the discount she insists on.

6. Taste The Rainbow

No, not Skittles. They’re too sugary for my taste. Take a look at your haul from the farmer’s market. It’s so colorful! A nice goal for a salad or fresh, raw meal is to include a ton of color. It not only ensures that you’re eating a variety of fruits or vegetables, but makes any meal look amazing! This is an especially good trick if you’ve got kids who are picky eaters. The more color, the better. You can even make a game of it and encourage them to eat things in rainbow order.

7. Have Fun

Other than ensuring you’re meeting your daily needs as far as vitamins, minerals, fats, and proteins, the most important thing is to have fun. Cooking can sometimes be a chore if you’re tired or just don’t have the will to prepare something extravagant. No need to fear. Eating healthy doesn’t have to take a ton of time or effort. In fact, we’ve got you covered here at OGP with 5 Secrets For Making Quick And Healthy Vegan Meals At Home. Enjoy your healthy eating habits in a timely manner.

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Be sure to share some of your tips with fellow Green Monsters in the comments section below!

Image source: Shopping at the Farmers Market: your Questions Answered

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