We, as Americans, tend to have a poor relationship with food. Our fast-paced lifestyles seldom lend time for adequate meal preparation, so we turn to pre-packaged food or restaurants. Unfortunately, pre-packaged and restaurant foods tend be high in fat, sodium, and carbohydrates. These foods make our bellies round and us very unhappy, which causes us to go on starvation or deprivation diets—neither of which are sustainable. So what can we do to start a healthy diet?
First thing first, we must change how we view food. Food is not something to ever restrict ourselves from but, rather, enjoy it in the proper amounts. For example, if a small piece of pie is the recommended serving, opt for exactly that amount. You will enjoy your pie without overfilling or overindulging with a large piece, plus the inevitable ice cream and caramel sauce. If you still don’t feel satisfied with you single piece of pie, try using a smaller plate. Our brains can be deceived into believing we ate more than we did when we use smaller plates. Because smaller plates seem to be more full (even with exactly the same amount of food), your brain will be tricked and you will feel more satisfied!
Second, who really wants to give up something forever? We all have our vices (sourdough bread, cupcakes, cookies, frappachinos, etc.) and, at some point, we will give in to those temptations. Instead of trying to avoid those culinary delights, learn how to make healthier versions of the foods you love, instead of avoiding them for the “virtuous” but sad alternatives. For example, you can learn how to roast everything from chicken fingers to French fries which requires vastly less oil than frying, and makes your food much healthier (but still delicious!). Or, substitute whole grain flour in your baked goods—you won’t even notice the difference!
Another way to become healthier is by going without meat at least one day a week. This doesn’t mean you should eat three sad salads. Instead, get creative and eat more vegetables in place of your meat like having a Portobello mushroom in place of a hamburger patty. Or try making a tofu stir fry! If giving up meat is entirely too difficult, try eating more fish. Fish is high in healthy omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and even vitamin D which are all incredibly important for your body and brain. For an even healthier choice, eat more fatty fish like salmon, trout, tuna, and mackerel because they are higher in fat-based nutrients that your body needs! As an added bonus, fish can lower your risk of heart attacks and strokes as well as protect your brain against age-related deterioration.
Finally, if making these healthy changes aren’t possible because you are out at your favorite restaurant, remember to savor. Ask for a box and put about half of your plate in it for another meal later. Plus, if you take the time to savor every bite, you are much more likely to feel full sooner, and you won’t even have to dig into the take-home box. You can even order your favorite dessert; just don’t forget to share. Now, pass the cake!