I Know What to Do, But I am not Doing It
At Advice for Eating, we hear this every day. Our clients know what foods are healthy for them: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and low-fat dairy products along with healthy fats. They know they should eat processed foods, fried foods and high fat foods in moderation, but why is it so hard to put these concepts into practice? And how can they overcome the obstacles that get in your way this year?
If this is you, there are many factors that can affect your eating habits.
Emotions. You may be using food for comfort, entertainment or stress relief. You may have grown up a member of the “clean plate club”, where you eat everything on your plate without listening to your hunger cues.
Food may help you feel better in the short term, but play the story forward. How will you feel the next day physically and mentally? Is it worth it in the long term? What would be a more constructive way to deal with these emotions? Something that will help you feel better for the long term versus eating foods that are destructive to your health to feel better in the short term.
Environment. If a tempting meal or food is nearby or easy to get, it is only a matter of time before you will eat it. No one has the willpower to avoid the food forever, so it is not due to a lack of willpower. The most successful people keep trigger foods or highly tempting foods away, so they are less likely to consume them. This does not mean that you can never eat these foods, but surround yourself with healthy foods and save the treats for special occasions.
Physical. When you are physically hungry, your body craves instant energy, which typically is a craving to eat carbohydrate-rich food. Your body easily processes carbohydrates, which leads your body to crave them when you are hungry and especially too hungry. This is why we recommend that you eat every 3-4 hours so that your blood sugar never dips so low that you feel too hungry. We want to avoid the cycle of eating sugar, craving more sugar, eating sugar, craving more sugar. This results in a downward spiral physically and mentally.
Here are some realistic tips to make sustainable changes this year. Choose one and work on it until you master it and then you can move to another one.
Eat More Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are filled with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals to fight disease. Diets high in fruits and vegetables can reduce the risk of many chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer and heart disease. Start by aiming for a minimum of 3 fruits and 3 vegetables per day with the long-term goal of eating 10 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. A serving size is 1 tennis ball size piece of fruit or 1 cup of fruit and ½ cup of cooked vegetables or 1 cup of raw vegetables.
Quick tips. Eat 1-2 servings at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Start with produce you like and is easy such as baby carrots, your favorite fruit, salad or frozen vegetables to make preparation easy. Make a smoothie that includes both fruits and vegetables. Greens and frozen cauliflower are great additions to smoothies without changing the taste. Add veggies such as cucumbers, lettuce, onion, peppers, spinach, sprouts or tomatoes to a sandwich or make a vegetable soup with a variety of vegetables.
Fill half of your plate with vegetables at dinner. They are low calorie yet high in nutrients and fiber. Fresh, frozen and canned are all good choices. Putting more vegetables on your plate can reduce the portion sizes of other less nutritious food. Cook a large batch of vegetables on the weekend, so you have easy access to them throughout the week.
Strive to eat a variety of colors. When you go to the grocery store try to get to get at least 3 different colors per week and 6, if you can. Each color contains different phytochemicals to improve your health.
Healthy snacks will keep you fueled and satiated to reduce cravings. You want to eat a meal or snack every 3-4 hours. This means you may need a mid-morning snack and most people will need an afternoon snack to curb evening cravings. Always combine a carbohydrate with a protein to give you energy yet fill you up.
Apple + 1 oz. of cheese
1 cup of berries mixed in yogurt
Banana + 1-2 Tbsp. of nut butter
Vegetables dipped in hummus
Piece of fruit and a closed handful of nuts
Increase Fiber Intake
Higher fiber intake reduces the risk of chronic diseases, such as cancers, diabetes, and heart disease. Foods high in fiber tend to have a lower glycemic index, which results in better blood sugar regulation. Because fiber is filling, it can help with weight management. Fiber, also, optimizes gut health and aids in digestion.
Add more fruits and vegetables to your diet. Use whole grains such as brown rice, bulgur wheat, barley and quinoa. Add beans to your diet such edamame, garbanzo beans, black beans or kidney beans.
Reduce Sugar Intake
Diets high in sugar can contribute to decreased oral health, elevated triglycerides, increased inflammation, increased risk of chronic diseases such as cancer and diabetes, and weight gain. Sugar contains empty calories and does not fill you up.
Eat every 3-4 hours so that you do not experience sugar cravings due to hunger. Plan sugar into your routine. Sugar is not forbidden. Allow yourself a dessert for special occasions and eat smaller portions. Find rewards that are not related to food such as: getting a massage or manicure or pedicure; exercise, playing or listening to music, calling a friend, taking a warm bath or watching a special show or movie.
Make small, realistic goals in 2023 by choosing one of these to work on. Small changes to your diet and exercise can produce large results, if you are consistent. If you do not do as well as you would like one day, flush it and make sure not to make it a habit by doing it 2 days in a row.
If we can help you individually come up with a plan that fits your lifestyle and is realistic, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.