You’ve seen the headlines:
Ten power foods you should eat to live longer and healthier
Low carb diet secrets for dropping 15 pounds before summer
Indulge yourself with the most decadent chocolate cake recipe ever!
We’re bombarded with conflicting messages – often side by side on the same magazine cover. These conflicting messages can create internal conflict when we decide what to eat. What we want to eat must face off with what we should eat according to the latest diet.
People often struggle with being good when there are so many bad foods to choose from. Ironically, we’re supposed to define ourselves by what we put in our mouths despite the fact that the definition of good and bad foods changes every few years or so. Many people feel confused and overwhelmed by all the conflicting and often arbitrary messages about
what they’re supposed to eat.
But it’s possible to find that balance between eating for health and eating for pleasure. In fact, one of the keys to optimal health and lifelong weight management is to nourish your body and your soul with the foods you eat. So how do you drown out all the noise and find that balance when you decide what to eat?
Start by asking yourself three simple questions when you’re hungry:
- What do I want to eat?
- What do I need to eat?
- What do I have to eat?
What do I want to eat?
This question often comes as a surprise, but what happens when you try to avoid food you really want – like those Girl Scout cookies that were delivered after you started your new low-carb diet?
First, you check the label and confirm the cookies are off limits so you put them in the freezer. Two days later they whisper to you from their hiding place, “Pssst. We’re in here!” You manage to resist them, instead munching on some olives, four cubes of cheese, a hunk of leftover meatloaf with a side of celery sticks, two pieces of low-carb toast. Yet, you still don’t feel satisfied.
“Hey! We’re in here and we taste great frozen!” You finally give in to your urge and have two Thin Mints®. Blew it again! Might as well eat a few more-and a bowl of ice cream-and start over tomorrow. Sound familiar? Thinking about what you really want to eat without judging yourself will keep you from feeling deprived and out of control when you choose to eat certain foods.
You might be worried that if you ask yourself what you’re really hungry for, you’ll always choose foods you shouldn’t. At first this might seem true, since cravings tend to get stronger when you try to ignore them for too long. But once you let go of the guilt about eating certain foods, you’ll find that you want to eat a variety of foods to feel healthy and satisfied.
What do I need to eat?
While food decisions aren’t good or bad, clearly some foods offer more nutritional benefits than others. As you consider what food to choose, ask yourself, “What does my body need?” Keep in mind the principles of variety, balance, and moderation when deciding what to eat. Consider nutritional information, your personal health issues, your family history, what else you’re eating that day, and how your body responds to certain foods.
Enjoy your healthy choices by focusing on fresh foods, appealing combinations, new flavors and interesting recipes.
What do I have to eat?
If you feel hungry and the only thing available is a vending machine, you’re likely to choose a snack food that may not be very healthy, may not taste very good, and may not really be what you were hungry for anyway. Instead, strive to have a variety of foods available that are healthful and appealing but not overly tempting. These are foods that you enjoy when you’re hungry but won’t be calling out to you from their storage place saying, “Come eat me!”
Of course, you’re not always in control of which foods are available. At a restaurant, office potluck, or friend’s house, simply see what is available and ask yourself “Is there a healthy choice that will meet my needs without making me feel deprived?” For example, could you be happy with frozen yogurt instead of ice cream this time?
Matching the food you choose to what you’re really hungry for and what your body needs leads to greater satisfaction and more enjoyment – with less food. Remember that small changes really do make a difference and balanced eating is simply the result of all of the individual positive decisions you make. Eating food you truly enjoy while taking good care of your body is the best way to make long term changes that you can live with.
What tips help you make good food choices?