Eating healthy--seems like a simple enough thing to do. In reality it isn't. Eating healthy almost seems countercultural, as everywhere you go, there are reminders to eat --restaurants, billboards, coffee shops and bakeries seemingly on every street corner. Unfortunately many of these promote foods that only taste good, ones loaded with fat, sugar and sodium and few nutrients. Knowing this, there are steps you can take to make healthy eating a natural part of your life.
Resolve that you will be responsible for what you eat, and that you will no longer be at the mercy of advertisers and food marketers who attempt to convince you to eat foods that may taste good, but that are not good for you. Remind yourself that you are important, your health is important and you will treat yourself well by eating nourishing foods. This mindset change involves thinking about food and eating in a different way, a way that helps you embrace healthy eating.
The Importance of Planning
Planning is such an important, yet commonly overlooked, healthy eating strategy. If you don't prepare ahead and have a plan to deal with unhealthy food messages, then the sights, sounds and smells of food become too much, and you end up eating the wrong foods. Pack some great-tasting, healthy snacks in your purse or briefcase, so you have them with you when that urge to eat strikes. Nuts, apples, pears, dried fruits and granola bars are portable and don't require refrigeration.
Dealing with Stress
When under stress, many women tend to overeat. Even though food isn't what will truly satisfy, eating is still comforting because it is so familiar, especially when it involves comfort food like ice cream, potato chips, cookies or pasta. Often the result of one binge causes a downward spiral; "blowing it" leads to giving up on all healthy eating intentions. Take time and think about four or five different activities you could do when the next stressful situation strikes--go for a walk, take a bubble bath, watch a funny movie or talk on the phone to a good, understanding friend.
Keep a food journal to increase your awareness of what you eat and why. To do this, record all the foods you eat, the amount eaten and the situations you find yourself in while eating. Your thoughts and feelings both before and after you eat are helpful additions, too. This journal provides powerful insights into your food choices and the factors that influence them, especially when the record is kept for any length of time. Patterns begin to emerge that may not have been evident earlier.
Limit Portion Sizes
American culture considers virtually anything "big" to be "better," and it's certainly true when it comes to food. Dr. Lisa Young, in her book "The Portion Teller," explains how our view of what a normal portion size is has grown over the years. For example, in 1960 a common size for a muffin was 2 to 3 ounces. In 2000, its commonly 5 to 7 ounces, over a 250 percent increase! Use smaller bowls, plates, cups and glasses to reduce portion size, as researchers have found that the identical portion of food is perceived as being larger when served on a smaller plate.
Healthy Food Choices
A healthy diet includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, legumes and low-fat dairy products. Reduce your consumption of fats and oils, replace fatty meats with leaner cuts and avoid highly processed and fast foods. MyPlate.gov recommends a mealtime plate half-full of veggies and fruit, one-quarter full with grains and the other quarter with a small portion of lean protein. At least half your grains should be whole grains, and drink water in place of sweetened beverages.
- The Portion Teller; Lisa R. Young. Ph.D., R.D.
- The Beck Diet Solution; Judith S. Beck, Ph.D
- Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think; Brian Wansink, Ph.D
- U. S. Department of Agriculture; Choose MyPlate.gov; Selected Messages for Consumers
- Vanderbilt University Medical Center; Vanderbilt Diabetes: Importance of Food Diaries
Sue Roberts began writing in 1989. Her work has appeared in such publications as “Today’s Dietitian” and "Journal of Food Science." Roberts holds a Bachelor of Science in nutrition from Pennsylvania State University, a Master of Public Health in nutrition from the University of Minnesota and a Master of Science in food science from Michigan State University. She is a registered dietitian and certified nutritionist.