5 Tips to Help You Make Better Food Choices & Eat Healthier
Trigger Warning: This post is about food and may contain triggers to those who suffer or have suffered from eating disorders. Please know that the purpose of this post is to help the general public in terms of making healthier eating habits, including restrictions and adding in healthy foods. If these things are triggers for you, please be advised going forward.
I am not a trained professional or educated on all the ins and outs of eating disorders, I’m writing this from a perspective of having never suffered from an eating disorder and sharing tips that have helped me make better food choices and take care of my health.
You Eat What You see
There are two main sources we see food: through the media and in real life.
MEDIA: If you watch TV, I’m sure you can think of at least 2 Taco Bell commercials, 3 Sonic commercials, and 1 McDonalds commercial off the top of your head. Not only from the TV, but from ads popping up on YouTube, Netflix, Facebook, etc.
Limiting your exposure to those will help, as well as seeking to watch HEALTHY food, whether that be on a health channel or your favorite YouTuber.
I notice when I’m watching some of my favorite healthy YouTubers (PickUpLimes) I feel the most inspired to make a green juice or make a super healthy and nutrient-dense dinner! The media has a huge influence on what we crave and it can be very subliminal, but being intentional to look up HEALTH related things online will help your search-results and help shift some of the targeted ads from junk-food to health-food, at least by a little bit! And watching healthy YouTubers will keep you inspired!
REAL LIFE: Even MORE than the media’s influence, the biggest influencer to what we will eat is what we see physically in front of us. Think about it, if there’s a bowl of M&Ms on your desk, you’ll snack on those without thinking twice about it.
But imagine replacing that bowl with your favorite fruit or veggies, or even nuts. Sure, it’s not as appetizing when COMPARED to the m&ms, but if it’s standing alone on your desk and you’re feeling kind of hungry, it will sound amazing!
THE TIP: Stock your fridge and pantry with healthy items in the front so you will see them first. Hide the indulgences closer to the back (or even more hidden in a really abstract place) so that they become more of an out-of-sight, out-of-mind thing!
Stop buying the bad things
Really, the easiest sure-fire way to stop the bad habits at home is to quit bringing the bad things in. I have a few weaknesses when it comes to my cravings: carbs, salty-crunchy-things and Oreos. If I buy those things, it’s game over. I will eat it all and then feel terrible about my life choices.
The only way to avoid making those bad choices in the first place, is to simply QUIT BUYING THEM.
Instead of buying frozen fries (packed with preservatives and oils), I’ll buy potatoes, giving me the option to make my own fries if I REALLY crave them (but it makes me think twice since I’ll have to do more prep!). Instead of buying a back of deliciously addicting jalapeno kettle chips, I’ll buy blue-born tortilla chips. They’re good enough, but not so good that I will eat the entire bag in one go. Instead of Oreos, I’ll buy a small dark chocolate bar. It definitely doesn’t compare to oreos, but when I’m craving something sweet, a simple nibble of the chocolate bar will satisfy that craving, whereas it might take 15 oreos to hit the same level of sweet-satisfaction.
It takes a little bit of self control at the grocery store and A LOT of self control at home. Don’t even let the bad things make it into your home!
THE TIP: Do yourself a favor and skip the junk-food isles entirely at the grocery story! Again, you EAT WHAT YOU SEE, so don’t even go down those isles. Hang out in the produce section mostly and stock up on healthy-goodness! Don’t buy the bad things!
Have some indulgences
As I mentioned above, I still have indulgences, I’m just more intentional about how I want to indulge. Instead of frozen fries, I’ll buy potatoes that I can make into fries, or instead of oreos, I’ll have dark chocolate on hand at all times.
Allowing yourself to indulge in small ways will keep the urge to binge at bay. You DON’T ever want to create a complex when it comes to food - if holding yourself back from eating something causes an unhealthy trigger to binge or self-loathe, don’t put yourself in that position. Eating disorders are very real and can take a very large toll on your health.
EATING is about FUEL > instead of thinking about what you shouldn’t eat, focus on what you CAN AND SHOULD eat.
It’s OKAY to indulge in moderation. If you form a healthy relationship with food, the indulgences will never become binges.
It might sound trivial to those who haven’t struggled with an unhealthy relationship with food, but typically holding yourself back too much can lead to binging and loss of self-control.
The ulimate goal is to get to the place where you can crave chocolate and eat some cherries and be satisfied, but sometimes to get that point, it means giving yourself indulgences and NOT FEELING GUILTY about it.
THE TIP: Keep a small indulgence nearby that you know will keep your cravings at bay. For me, those things are frozen cherries, dark chocolate, and tortilla chips. These things give me a satisfying snack while also helping me practice self-control to not eat an entire bag of potato chips and Oreo’s.
Buy what you like & will eat
Along with NOT BUYING BAD THINGS, buy what you do like! Start slow and be honest with yourself.
For example, I know I hate salads so any time I think I want to be more healthy by buying salads, the lettuce rots in the back of my fridge. It’s much better for me to buy what I do know I like, kale, spinach, or even Tabouleh (Mediterranean Parsley Salad).
Be honest with yourself about the healthier things you like and buy that. If you love avocados, mangoes, and strawberries but hate bananas and apples, don’t buy bananas and apples and try to force yourself to eat those things! Buy the things you like and make snacks with those!
THE TIP: Buy food you will enjoy eating. For beginners, buy something (can be less-healthy) you like to pair with the healthy thing. For example, I’m not a huge raw-veggie fan, but if there’s hummus around, I’ll gladly dip carrots and broccoli in and get my veggie serving in. If it takes a dipping sauce to get you started on healthy snacks, start there! You can always remove it later as you begin to really enjoy the healthier snacks.
Preparation is key
Having healthy food ready to go is so essential when it comes to having self-control. I will be 100% honest, I am NOT cooking a healthy dinner if the dishes are dirty and rice isn’t in the rice-cooker. I don’t mind chopping veggies, so I’ll do that - but I know the things that will cause me to want to give in and go to Taco Bell.
Be honest with yourself and know what you are willing to do at breakfast, lunch, and dinner time. If you won’t want to cut onions and peel garlic while you’re prepping dinner, set aside one day a week to prep all those things; chop up onions, peel garlic & have it ready to go for the garlic press, pre-rinse your veggies and fresh herbs, etc! Having these items ready to throw in a dish and cook will encourage you to get in there and make something healthy!
It also helps having healthy snacks prepared and easily accessible. If you’re anything like me, you will consider a drive to Starbucks less effort and than washing, peeling, and cutting carrots and scooping out some hummus. Prepare that stuff beforehand so that you WANT to snack on that!
THE TIP: Pick one day of the week (Usually Saturdays or Sundays for me) and pre-cut / peel / wash / prepare everything you need to. For me, this usually includes cooking in bulk some lentils which I will eat for breakfast every day. For you, it might look like whipping together some healthy pancakes and freezing them so you have a quick breakfast item ready, or even pre-packing “smoothie” blends in the freezer so you can dump and blend when you’re craving a smoothie.
Whatever it looks like for you, it only takes about an hour to prepare everything (usually while you’re cooking dinner anyway) for the whole week and it will SET YOU UP FOR SUCCESS.