All of us at Choices Natural Market, we're all really different people. We have different personalities, different points of view, different life experiences, and different goals.

But we do have one common obsession.

Yes... obsession.

Good Food!

At Choices, food brings us together.

If there's one thing my coworkers and I are constantly talking about, it's how hungry we are, how we can't wait to eat, what's the greatest thing we ate last, what's the newest food product we just got in & can't wait to try, and what's the latest food adventure we're going on next... usually after work.

One thing I'm fine-tuning on my food journey is making sure I get more fresh, organic fruits & veggies. You would think this wouldn't be a big thing, or a very tall order, considering I work in an organic grocery store, and a big focus for me there is produce.

I'm literally right next to produce every time I work. It's seriously right there.

So why is it so hard?

You got me. I have no excuse for not eating more fruits and veggies. I really should be a model of health in this regard - I'm a vegan, I work for Choices, my focus is produce - but I'm definitely not a model in this area, and I think it's due to a combination of things...

Well, okay... excuses.

A combination of excuses.

Three excuses.

Three lame excuses.

Maybe they're your excuses too.

Time, Money, and Energy

In that order.

Let's start with time. 

My life is busy. Yours is too. Who has time to eat healthy all the time? Not only do you have to take the time to procure the healthy foods - you have to prepare them too - and that takes time - plus cleanup. Plus planning a healthy lifestyle every single day - all of that and more takes time. Your time's precious - so is mine. That's always my first lame excuse.

Then there's money.

Money's tight. Who really has the money to go completely organic? Seriously, you could go broke trying all the amazing new health products out there these days - that's not exclusive to Choices. Ask anyone who works at here - none of us is getting rich anytime soon. Healthier if we keep making it a point, but that's about it. Most of us spend our days outside work worrying and figuring out how to make the rent or keep up with our student loan repayments or support our families. Money's always an issue - for everybody. Too true, but still... that's my second lame excuse.

Then last there's energy.

There are days where I have next to no energy. Take today, for instance! Today's my day off, and as I'm writing this, and I haven't even had breakfast yet! Procrastination dominates my life sometimes! So where am I supposed to magically find this energy to eat more fruits and veggies? That's always my last excuse - I'm too tired to ______(insert healthy choice here)____.

So now that I know what my three main excuses are, I know what these three excuses are really saying.

My three main excuses for not eating more fruits and veggies are saying that in those moments where I cave to these excuses - it must not be worth it to me - being healthy.

Well, I know that's not completely true - not in a general way - but is it? I guess I will keep asking myself that same challenging conundrum in the hopes that it will eventually light a fire under my seat every time I think I don't have the time, money, or the energy to at least make it a point to eat more healthy.

Because I do.

I know I do.

So I'm going to start by putting into practice what my mind is trying to teach me here.

Two things have worked for me thus far in 2016 as I try to eat more fruits & veggies.

The first is

Juicing

Yes, my first suggestion can be rationalized away with the same three lame excuses I just went over - time, money, and energy. I know, I know... it totally goes against all reason, but hear me out.

You can ask my coworkers or any of our regulars who juice - it's an investment.

Like a serious, life-long healthy investment.

Juicing completely changes how you taste food. What you thought about food - once you start juicing - you forget everything you thought you knew about the flavor of each and every piece of produce in its natural state. You taste everything.

Not long ago, I got into a conversation with one of our regulars about juicing. He asked me whether I prefer juicing or taking supplements - because it's hard to have money for both, isn't it? Yeah, no kidding! It's a good question. I told him that for me, even though I have found certain supplements that do improve my everyday upkeep, supplements really don't have the sensory experience a that fresh juice has inherently.

When you start juicing the fruits and veggies - stuff that your body's been craving, and in its purest form - you basically get a body buzz with every single sip. I think you can actually feel yourself getting healthier with every juice exploration you take.

And guess what? Juicers aren't as pricey as they used to be. Mine's a Gourmia - it's a slow-masticating juicer (which means it chews and mashes the fruits slowly to extract the max. amount juice without heat) and you can find it on Amazon for about a hundred bucks. It's perfect for someone who is just starting out with their first juicer.

One of the best pieces of advice I've received about juicing from one of our regulars is never put that juicer away. Because next thing you know, you won't use it.

If you're not ready to start juicing - that's okay - try blendingSmoothies are amazing too! And if you want to make a juice for super cheap, try straining your blended fruits with a nut milk bag. We sell them in the bulk aisle.

So far my favorite juice is a combination of cucumber, granny smith apples, and blackberries. My friend & colleague Steph recommended red cabbage, which I have to say I found to be lovely when paired with pineapple, blood orange, and blackberries. Next I'm going to move into juices that emphasize beets, carrots, peppers and leafy greens.

The second thing that's worked for me so far is

Center Prepared Meals Around The Fresh Fruits & Veggies

If you're as busy as I am - and you're not going to go on a raw food diet anytime soon - you're not that much of a purist - and that's cool, because nothing against it. You just know that given your busy life, you're not going to be completely rid of all boxed, bagged, or processed food. If that's you (and that's me) then remind yourself (as I do) that the least you can do is center your prepared meals around fresh fruits and veggies.

Some of my favorite vegetables are red and yellow peppers, carrots, peas, and zucchinis. If I'm having pizza - boom! Good excuse for peppers and zucchinis... also pineapple. If I'm having stir fry - no brainer! Again red peppers - maybe some carrots from Anderson Organics or some bok choy from Rebel Belly Farm. Or if I'm doing a slow cook meal, definitely some eggplant from Royal Soil Farm. The list goes on and on.

Lately I have been enjoying Daiya Non-Dairy Veggie Mac & Cheeze. I always cook the package according to the instructions, then I add chopped red and yellow peppers and chopped zucchini. Then I add a pinch of the following - garlic granules, onion powder, yellow mustard, nutritional yeast, and dried parsley (all from our bulk spice section). Then I put it all in a small greased bread loaf pan - finally adding a breadcrumb topping that's basically just a mix of finely-grated cornmeal and nutritional yeast. I bake that at about 400°. Seriously, seriously amazing.

Next time I have a Daiya Cheezecake, I'm definitely going to fancy it up with some fresh fruit. I think it would be excellent paired with a yogurt, a red wine, and a fruit plate. Next time I having my favorite packaged soup - Pacific Carrot Cashew Ginger Curry - I'm having it the way one of my regulars suggested - with fresh cashews, fresh carrots, and fresh ginger added.

The point is - you don't have to give up your busy life in order to work in more fruits and veggies. When you add fresh fruits and veggies to your already-half-done-meals, another perk is you get more food. That means more leftovers :) Which we all know can improve when stored & recooked correctly!

There is no shortage of reasons as to why our lives get so unhealthy so easily. Life is fast - things easily unravel. Health comes and goes first. Those of you who really read this - those of you who have conversations with me about food every time I see you - it is my hope that we all make it further in our own personal journey without giving up too much or asking ourselves to be unreasonable.

So in keeping with the spirit of the new year and that ever-present resolution to eat healthier every year, let's make every single meal a new opportunity to do more for ourselves and for our food.

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