When my husband and I were newlyweds, we went wild watching food documentaries on Netflix. (Spoiler Alert: Do not do this.)
If you have gone down the Netflix (or social media) rabbit hole when it comes to “what’s the best diet for…”, you will find that there are MANY ideas of how to eat a healthy diet (and most of them aren’t actually that healthy). Some ideas we explored in our Netflix journey were: Juicing, raw food, vegan, paleo, intermittent fasting, gluten-free, dairy free, all organic, locally grown, free range…these are all ways to approach eating, but it’s very difficult to do all of them in one meal. And it can be exhausting and make it super difficult to enjoy eating any food at all, which is not good for your health.
I get it. The food we put into our bodies has ethical, religious, and health consequences. The old adage, “you are what you eat” comes to mind.
But it’s also really hard to find foods that fit all the things. After painting myself into a food corner (and realizing that I really can’t afford to eat the least processed, locally grown, organic, juiced food for all my meals), I found that what I want from my diet is to feel energized, to feel satisfied, and to not be plagued with guilt about my food choices.
The great thing about guilt is that you actually can decide to just let it go (sometimes this requires professional intervention, but therapy is normal and might be a good choice for you if you feel guilt about eating chocolate chip cookies).
To feel satisfied and energized, I have a couple of tips:
1. Make the better choice the easy choice
- One of the things I’ve found in my quest to eat better is that I like salad. But, if I buy a bag of lettuce and other salad supplies, I will probably not make a salad because, in my mind, assembling the salad is too hard.Many packages of Spring Mix have gone bad in my refrigerator.
BUT – if I pay $2/package extra and get a “salad kit” – I will assemble the salad kit and eat the salad. Or if I follow a great salad recipe, I feel MUCH more comfortable doing it myself.
Is it more expensive? Kind of…but I do eat the food, which is more cost-effective than buying the cheaper food and letting it go bad in my refrigerator.
- Another thing I’ve noticed is that I enjoy snacking on apples, but I really like them sliced. So for me, getting an apple corer is worth it because it makes it easier to eat healthy food.
- Basically, anything that makes it easier for you might be worth the extra money that helps you follow through with your intentions.
2. Don’t get too hungry.
I feel like this sounds silly – especially since we’re generally told that we should “eat less.” But, I find that when I get really hungry, I’ll either eat a lot more than I normally would, go through a drive in window instead of preparing food at home, or eat a dessert instead of a meal. I also tend to be super crabby, so my family likes me a lot more when I snack.
3. Make sure your snacks are sustaining
When you have a healthy fat or protein in your snack, it will help you feel full and satisfied plus give you more sustained energy until your next meal. Here’s a useful video about the glycemic index that I think it helpful to keep in mind.
Here are a couple of things I’ve found that make pretty good snacks:
1) Raw nuts (I like almonds and cashews the best)
2) A glass of milk
3) Sliced apples with peanut butter (for kids you can also make “ants on a log“)
4) a slice of toast with butter or peanut butter on it
5) I’ve found that pepperoni’s or beef jerky can be a really good snack (especially if you can find a less processed variety)
6) I also usually keep a box of Cliff Bars or Granola bars at my Taekwondo school because during classes, you sometimes need something more filling. I don’t love granola bars because they have a lot of added sugars, and I don’t think they’re actually very good for you – but sometimes, you just really something to fill up your tummy that is convenient and shelf stable.
4. Drink a glass of water
Sometimes, when you’re “hungry” you’re actually thirsty. So, it can help to get a glass of water with your snack, too. I’ve started carrying around a reusable water bottle with me to remind me to drink water because it’s right in front of my face.
5. If there’s something you love to eat that may not be great for you, try a trade.
- Do you drink a lot of soda? Maybe try seltzer water with lemon in it.
- Do you like to snack on chips? Maybe try a sliced apple, sliced peppers with humus, or kale chips instead.
- Do you buy lunch at a restaurant/fast food place every day? Maybe you could bring a lunch once a week.
- Do you love fries? Maybe you could try baking your own sweet potato fries at home
I find if I’m making a trade, I still get the feeling of a food I enjoy and sometimes discover I like the trade more (see Exhibit A: sweet potato fries and Exhibit B: kale chips).
Overall, the one take away I’d like to offer from this is that I think most Americans (I say that because America is where I am and the place I know) could probably make better choices with our food. But (also in my unscientific observation), we don’t always go about making better choices in a sensible or sustainable way.
We try to totally reinvent our eating habits in 30 days or 6 weeks, and when that doesn’t totally transform our body we think that we (or our body) has failed. If you’ve been eating one way for 40 years, you may need to give yourself a few months or years of eating differently to let your body change. And if your diet makes you feel deprived, is difficult to do, and involves a lot of guilt and shame about food — then you’re probably not going to maintain it long enough for your body to make the changes it needs.
Just as everybody is different, every body is different, too. But I think that if you’re thinking about your diet and the changes you might want to make, think about what strategies you’ve successfully maintained in the past and think about what one little thing you could try to add into your routine could be that might make a big difference.
And most of all, find ways to enjoy the journey.