Now that spring is maybe here to stay and summer isn’t far behind, my husband and I have decided it’s a good time for a “lifestyle change” (my preferred term for “diet,” which has the connotation of temporary change and isn’t something we’ll stick to).

First, let’s be clear. I never have and never will be found gallivanting around the backyard in a bikini. That ship has sailed, so the goal for both of us is physical health. We figure any steps we can take toward improvement in the food department will help.

We’re also making an effort to move more, whether it’s playing outside with the kids, re-establishing our once-thriving garden or doing some silly dance workout in the living room. When was the last time you tried playing outside with a 4-year-old? They never get tired!

The hardest part is definitely changing our eating habits. We’ve always eaten fairly well, and we try to cook about 95 percent of our meals from scratch. (It helps that we don’t live within food-delivery distance of any town, because believe me, there have been many weekend evenings where we want nothing more than to have a pizza delivered.)

I took up weekly meal prepping about two years ago, and I’ve been able to mostly stick to that after getting used to not having to cook during the work week.

I could be considered a picky eater when it comes to veggies, but I’m learning to like more things as they’re used or cooked in different ways. And often Jake will cook and sneak things in and he won’t tell me what I’m eating until I’m done. I’ve eaten mushrooms in my spaghetti sauce and spinach in my omelets and lived to tell about it.

We’re not going too crazy with the menu changes because we know we won’t stick with it if we’re not happy. As an example, I had a hankering for baking some good old-fashioned chocolate chip cookies the other night. I started to get all the ingredients out before I decided to get online and find a new sweet treat with at least a little nutritional value.

I opted for peanut butter-chocolate chip-oatmeal protein bites, complete with chia seeds and Wisconsin honey. It was a great compromise between a plain chocolate chip cookie and a cardboard-textured protein bar, with a bit of fiber too.

We’ve also jumped on the smoothie bandwagon (is that still a trend?), and I’m looking forward to trying all sorts of fruit and veggie combos. It’s kind of neat to get full servings of several kinds of fruit, spinach and Greek yogurt, yet still feel like you’re sipping a summer dessert.

It also makes it easy to take up this new eating plan with a couple of freezers full of our own homegrown pork and beef, along with a hearty supply of venison. I’m a big fan of my slow cookers (yes, I have more than one) and my bread machine. Some might call the bread machine cheating, but I don’t use box mixes and instead find recipes I can tweak with different varieties of flours and grains. My favorite so far is a 60-minute whole-wheat-and-rolled-oats loaf, which goes great with venison stew or homemade spaghetti sauce. I have a little bit of trouble not eating an entire fresh loaf slathered with butter, but I suppose there are worse things I could be doing.

I’m always on the hunt for new recipes, so if you have one you love, feel free to send it my way. Bonus points if I can persuade my picky preschooler to eat more than chicken nuggets, peanut butter sandwiches and string cheese!

Jenn Stirmel is the copy editor for The Country Today. She can be reached at