I hear it over and over again: “I know what to do, but I don’t.” You know what foods are ideal and should be incorporated into your regular routine: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, etc. You also know which foods should be reduced or eaten in moderation: baked goods, fried foods, foods high in sugar, etc. But with such information readily available, why is it so difficult to put these concepts into practice?
There are many factors that can affect your eating habits. These are not excuses. They are real reasons why eating healthy can be a challenge.
emotions. Patterns and habits shape what you consume, and changing your habits is not easy. You may have forged romantic relationships with food, whether it was using food for comfort or stress management, or growing up in a “clean plate club,” where you were asked to eat all the food on your plate regardless of hunger cues, or using food for festivities.
Food plays a role in your emotional state. Specific foods increase the happiness hormones, dopamine and serotonin, which stimulate your brain to associate food as a reward. This can lead to you becoming dependent on food when you feel any type of negative emotion such as anxiety, depression, or stress. You begin to “need” to eat this food to feel better and compensate for the negative feelings.
environment. Living in a certain area can mean access to a minimum number of healthy options, and the low cost of cheap but unhealthy food may make it the only option even though this food may be higher in additives, fats, sodium and sugars.
Environmental factors also include the location of the food. If a tempting meal is close or easy to come by, it is only a matter of time before eating it. Sometimes you may feel disappointed by your lack of willpower to avoid unhealthy foods, but no one has enough willpower to stay away from it forever. The most successful people are those who keep trigger foods or foods that are very tempting, so they are less likely to consume them. All of these environmental factors can make eating healthy food a challenge, especially when optimal food choices are not easily accessible.
Physical – physical. Physical factors include the actual feeling of physical hunger. When you are physically hungry, your body craves for instant energy, which generally leads to the craving for a carbohydrate-rich food made of simple sugars. Your body easily processes carbohydrates, which leads your body to crave them when you’re hungry. For this reason, if you do not eat regularly and skip or postpone meals, you will tend to have sugar cravings. Once you eat sugar, your body craves more sugar, which leads to a deterioration in your physical and mental health due to feelings of guilt and lack of control.
Another physical factor includes genetics. Certain genes influence your eating preferences and behaviors and the way your brain is affected by certain receptor genes. These factors contribute to the way the foods you eat affect you, which also affects how easy or difficult it is to make changes in your eating habits.
Emotions, the environment, and physical bodies can influence your food choices, habits, and patterns. So what can you do about it? Here are some real-world tips for taking sustainable steps toward positive changes.
Eat fruits and vegetables
Why is it important. Fruits and vegetables provide great sources of antioxidants, minerals, nutrients, phytochemicals, and vitamins essential to health. Diets rich in fruits and vegetables can reduce the risk of many chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and others. Fruits and vegetables are also full of fiber that fills the body and helps maintain a healthy gut.
Focus on the colors of the rainbow
Foods of different colors provide different antioxidants, nutrients, and benefits. For example, red fruits and vegetables (red peppers, strawberries, tomatoes, and melons) improve heart health and memory. Orange and yellow fruits and vegetables (carrots, oranges, pineapple, yellow squash) improve eyesight and support your immune system. Green fruits and vegetables (manna, kale, kiwi, and spinach) help strengthen bones and teeth. Blue and purple fruits and vegetables (berries, eggplant, purple cabbage, and purple grapes) improve memory and reduce inflammation.
Quick info. Eat at least one color of fruit and vegetables every day. For example, eat something red on Monday, something orange on Tuesday, something yellow on Wednesday, something green on Thursday, and something blue or purple on Friday. This way, you eat all the colors throughout the week in order to get a variety of nutrients in them. If you eat more than one color a day, you will gain more strength.
Fill half of your plate with vegetables
Vegetables are low in calories and rich in nutrients and fiber, which means they will fill you with guilt. Whether you buy canned, fresh, or frozen, all vegetables are good. Putting more vegetables on your plate can also reduce the portion sizes of other foods because there is less room for them.
Quick info. Cook loads of veggies on the weekend, so you can have easy access to them all week long. Check out the recipe for Balsamic-glazed Roasted Vegetables on page XX.
Include fruits and vegetables in every meal
Focus on eating at least one serving of fruit or vegetables at breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Quick info. Make a smoothie that contains fruits or vegetables. Eat a soup full of vegetables. Add vegetables such as cucumber, lettuce, onions, peppers, spinach, sprouts, or tomatoes to a sandwich. Add a side salad with the meal. Add vegetables to an omelet. Try swaps for vegetable-based recipes like cauliflower rice or zucchini noodles. Make a quick stir fry that includes lots of vegetables. Add diced carrots, mushrooms, and onions to the meatloaf.
Have healthy snacks readily available. Healthy, accessible snacks will set you up for success and prevent temptations from other unwanted food choices. Healthy snacks will keep you full of energy and satiety to reduce food cravings. When having a good snack, people are more likely to choose this option.
Quick info. Spend about 10 minutes a week planning and preparing healthy snack options that include fruits and vegetables. Examples of delicious snacks include fruit paired with cheese, nuts, or yogurt; Vegetables with sauces such as hummus. Fruit kebab with fruits and cheese. Fruit with nut butter. Or a delicious snack of celery, nut butter, and raisins.
Increase fiber intake
Why is it important. High-fiber foods provide satiety and many health benefits. High fiber intake reduces the risk of chronic diseases, such as many types of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and more. High-fiber foods tend to be lower on the glycemic index, which leads to better blood sugar regulation. Because fiber fills us up, it can also help with weight management. Moreover, fiber improves gut health and aids in digestive and bowel movements.
Quick info. Add more fruits and vegetables to your routine using the tips above. Consider replacing brown rice with white rice or making a combination of the two. Add more fiber to your salad by including bulgur wheat, edamame, chickpeas, or kidney beans. Add artichokes to pasta or pizza. Enjoy oatmeal with blueberries and chia seeds for breakfast. See the sidebar for high-fiber foods.
Reduce your intake of sugar and sweets
Why is it important. Diets high in sugar can contribute to poor oral health, high triglycerides, increased inflammation, an increased risk of chronic diseases such as cancer and diabetes, and weight gain. Sugar is empty calories, which means it contains little or no nutrients. Sugar does not fill you up and causes spikes and crashes in your energy levels. Sugar can also contribute to headaches. For all these reasons, sugar is not good for eating in large quantities. Here’s how to reduce your intake.
When you are hungry, you tend to eat sugary sweets that provide instant energy. Sugar cravings are generally highest between 3 pm and 5 pm
Quick info. To better control your hunger, have a healthy afternoon snack already prepared, so there is less temptation for a sugary snack. See the Fruits and Vegetables section for snack ideas. If you notice that you feel hungry around 3:30 p.m., eat a snack around 3 p.m. to reduce sugar cravings and control hunger levels.
Put sugar in your routine
All-or-nothing thoughts are very common, and restriction can lead to overeating and exacerbation of guilt, which can also lead to eating more sugar. Look for the gray area when it comes to sugar.
Quick info. Allow yourself to eat dessert once or twice a week at a social event. This way, you enjoy being drunk without feeling guilty and you can participate in social activities. Give yourself permission to eat some sugar throughout the week. Eat a small, controllable dessert such as a small square of chocolate or a small piece of ice cream a few times a week. Getting a custom portion and quantity can help incorporate moderation and balance in sugar without the guilt and overeating factor.
Look for rewards not related to food
Stress contributes to sugar cravings and sugar intake. When you feel stressed, the level of cortisol (the stress hormone) increases, and the level of dopamine (the happiness hormone) decreases. Sugar increases dopamine levels, and your body wants to feel better when exposed to large amounts of stress. Plus, the faster you feed yourself sugar, the more your brain associates it with it as a reward and a coping tool when you’re stressed. Therefore, you will tend to crave sugar when stressed or while you need to unwind after a long and hard day.
Quick info. To combat sugar cravings during times of high stress, identify non-food related rewards that will boost those happy hormones and relieve stress. This is not easy and takes a lot of training and time. Some alternative rewards could be deep breathing; doing arts and crafts such as painting or knitting; doing some kind of self-pampering like getting a facial, massage, manicure or pedicure; exercise and movement. go for a swim or walk; Meditation. planning a trip or adventure; playing music; reading; Online shopping Take a warm bath or watch a special show or movie. Basically, do something that makes you feel good.
One last thought
Feeling overwhelmed by all these options? Take small, realistic steps to reach your goals. Pick one or two tips to implement. Make these changes over three to four weeks to encourage the routine. Once the routine becomes more accustomed, choose another tip to implement. Slowly, you will notice how you develop strong and sustainable strategies and habits for better eating.