Food for Thought


We all have heard the saying “we are what we eat” and may know that what we consume greatly effects not only our physical health but our mental health as well. Part of our programming at Thrive is not only educating our clients on healthy lifestyles skills, which includes nutrition and healthy eating, but also modeling those skills daily during their stay.

How can we do that? Well, as providers who are responsible for supplying and cooking food, we have the opportunity to provide healthy food options for our clients and encourage them to increase their healthy eating within our program. One of the biggest barriers in healthy eating is that it includes real, whole, unprocessed foods, which, unfortunately, are usually the more expensive items in the store. Cooking on a budget, and sometimes with limited cooking skills, can lead to a lot of frozen and/or processed foods, a lot of carbs, or generally just an “easy fix”. However, there are a lot of quick, simple, and cheap ways that we can incorporate more healthful eating for ourselves and for the people that we support.

As a meal planner at Willow Haven, I wanted to share some ways that I have been incorporating healthier options into our meals. One of the first things that I started doing is replacing a few meals throughout the week with “Whole 30” meals, which means no gluten, no sugar, and no dairy. There are Whole 30 recipes for almost any of your favorite dishes and you really can’t tell the difference! I can tell you first hand that there have been no complaints. There are plenty of amazing recipes to search online. A couple of my favorite websites are: The Defined Dish and Real Simple Good

Easy Replacements

  1. Cauliflower Rice - super easy to make but most stores have it available in the fresh or frozen aisle as well. Personally, I grate fresh cauliflower and toss it in a frying pan with avocado or olive oil, parsley and salt for about five minutes. Every time I make it, it goes faster than real rice!

  2. Brown Rice – has a lot more nutrients that white rice

  3. Veggie noodles – spiralizers are inexpensive and easy to use. Spiralize zucchini or squash to replace grain noodles, and you can thinly slice zucchini or eggplant to make lasagna noodles. If adding more vegetables seems daunting, another acceptable replacement is to use whole grain pasta.

  4. Avocado or Olive Oil instead of corn oil

  5. Coconut anything! (butter, oil, milk, flour, sugar) – even if you don’t like coconut, in most things you can’t even tell the difference and coconut aminos instead of soy sauce:
    What Is Coconut? How to Enjoy the Fruit-Nut-Seed and What It Offers Your Health

  6. Ground Turkey instead of ground beef

  7. Lettuce wraps – a head of bibb or butter lettuce goes a long way and not just for regular tacos either. This recipe for Thai lettuce wraps is one of my favorites (I use ground Turkey)
    Paleo + Whole30 Thai Chicken Lettuce Wraps

There are always going to be those times when we’re just going to need to make hot dogs & mac and cheese, sloppy joes, or heat up some chicken nuggets. However, incorporating some of these little replacements throughout our weekly meal planning can make a difference in our overall health and the health of our clients.

If anyone has their own food hacks for meal planning or would like to swap recipes, feel free to leave a comment below for discussion!