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Eating healthy in a food crazed culture

Kate Freeman

Do you find it difficult to eat healthy food when those around you aren’t? You’re not alone.

We live in a culture where food is everywhere! What makes it even worse is that we eat food for so many more reasons than just hunger and fueling our bodies.

The truth is that food is and always will be a vital part of our culture and society. We eat to celebrate and to mourn. We eat socially and in isolation. We eat at a party and we eat when we’re depressed. We eat cause we’re bored or because we’re busy. We eat out of habit, ritual or even religion.

So how do we make healthy food choices everyday when there is so much food all around us? Here are my top 12 tips for eating healthy in a food crazed culture:

Pre-decide

The great thing about eating is that what you put in your mouth is totally and utterly up to you. You have the power to choose what foods you will and will not eat. End of story. It’s important to remember however, is that you need to pre-decide these things. Don’t decide when the food is right in front of you or you’ll find it too hard to say no.

For example: If your work place regularly holds morning or afternoon teas and your colleagues bring in mountains of cakes, biscuits and chips you need to have decided well before the moment what you will and will not partake in, depending on your goals. If you are trying to lose weight I suggest you decide to either not partake at all or, if you have the self control, decide you will only have 1 biscuit or 1 handful of chips and that is all.

Be mindful

Healthy eating is mindful eating. You need to be aware of certain habits that cause you to over eat.

For example: If you like to nibble or snack while at the computer or in front of the TV then make strategies to break this habit. It’s eating while you’re doing other things that quickly adds up the kilojoules because we are unaware of how much we are putting in our mouths. Try sipping on a water bottle while you work or watch TV. If you really need to eat something then cut up some raw veggies (carrots, celery, capsicum, snow peas, beans etc) and nibble on those. I also find a flavoured herbal tea also does the trick. The aromas are beautiful and they contain zero kilojoules!

Write out your goals

If you are trying to lose weight it’s very important to watch what goes in your mouth. Weight loss will not happen without discipline. You don’t have to be perfect but you do have to be consistent.

Writing out your goals and then re-reading them whenever you feel tempted or feel like giving up is a great way to remind yourself of what you want to achieve. In that tempting moment you can decide what is more important. Do you want that piece of cheesecake or do you want to fit in your wedding dress? Do you want that packet of chips or do you want your pre-baby body back? Do you want those chocolate biscuits or do you want to feel healthy again?

If you are craving food, it doesn’t mean your body needs it. Check out this post on sugar and food addiction to get the verdict on whether you’re addicted or you just can’t say no.

Be prepared

Preparation is such a vital part of making healthy food choices. In fact, I cannot stress enough the importance of being thoroughly organised in order to eat well. Plan your meals, write a shopping list, keep a neat, well stocked pantry and mark days on your calendar that have events or appointments that may contain an over-availability of food that you shouldn’t be eating.

Don’t keep ‘junk’ food in the house

This is an especially important tip if you are a boredom or emotional eater or you spend lots of time at home (stay-at-home parent). If the food you shouldn’t be eating is not in the house than you can’t eat it. Simple. I don’t keep biscuits, chips, cakes, crackers, dips, softdrinks or other high kilojoule/low nutrient foods in my house ever, because if it’s there, I will eat it. If we have people bring this kind of food over, I throw the leftovers in the bin. Think of it this way, the food is either going to be wasted in the bin or wasted on your bottom. I know where I’d rather it be.

Get support

Making healthy choices is tough when you are constantly surrounded by food that doesn’t help you achieve your goals. This is why it’s vital that you either recruit others to join you on your health crusade or ask those closest to you for their support. My husband may get some ice-cream out for himself, but he never offers me any. He knows that I don’t eat that kind of food everyday and he respects my decision. I went over to a good friend of mine’s for lunch the other day and she is aware that I generally eat well, especially during the week (I loosen the reigns a little on the weekends). She had cooked us an amazing healthy lunch which was delicious. I really appreciated her support.

Stay away from junk food enablers

‘Junk’ food enablers are people who put you down for making healthy choices and may hassle you into eating something that you’ve decided not to. You obviously can’t avoid people altogether but you can limit your time spent with people if they make it difficult for you to achieve your goals. It’s not unreasonable to ask people to respect your choices even if they don’t agree with them.

Educate yourself

Find yourself sensible, practical and easy to follow nutrition advice that you can trust. You can subscribe to my blog or follow me on Facebook for regular updates on healthy eating and exercise advice. Regular reading on the topic will make it easier to know how to make healthy choices if you are unsure. If you feel the need for further help, make an appointment with a nutrition professional and get individual advice, particularly if you have special dietary needs such as chronic disease, allergies or food intolerance. I hold private consultations and can help you with weight loss, chronic disease management, sports nutrition and much more.

Stay away from fad diets, detox diets or any other program that has extreme dietary methods or eliminates whole food groups. Healthy eating is about balance and should be sustainable for life. You can trust advice from the Nutrition Society of Australia, the Dietetics Association of Australia, and Nutrition Australia.

Stay hydrated

If you are dehydrated your body may signal hunger but all you need is to drink more water. Staying well hydrated will help keep your appetite under control which will help you stay on track. Research has found that those who drink 500ml of water before a meal lose more weight than those who don’t.

Exercise regularly

Regular exercise is great for you for so many reasons. I believe that it goes with the territory of eating well. It’s about respecting your body enough to make the choices everyday that keep it healthy and functioning at it’s best. If you are struggling with exercise, you are not alone.

Keep a food diary

Research has shown that daily recording of food and drink intake is a vital part of healthy eating and weight loss. It helps us stay mindful of our eating habits and if you record the reason why you ate the food, you may find that you start to uncover some deeper aspects to your eating behaviour.

For example: You may be experiencing premenstrual symptoms and are recording your food intake. You eat your lunch and write down what you ate and why you ate it. Your reason was because it was lunch time and you were hungry (good reason to eat!). An hour or so later you are feeling low, maybe a little sad and you buy yourself a chocolate bar. You write down what you ate and that you ate it because you were feeling down and wanted to pick yourself up. Light bulb moment! You just pin-pointed an emotional eating trigger. Now that you are aware of your tendency to do this you can make a strategy and be prepared for the next time it happens. Maybe you go for a walk, make yourself a cup of herbal tea or call a good friend. Whatever you do make it emotionally constructive and positive.

Get a hobby

Boredom eating can be quite detrimental to weight loss. Keep yourself busy with things that you need and want to do. Get yourself a hobby that you can work on or participate in when you are bored. It’s even better if your hobby involves physical activity!

 What do you think is the most difficult aspect of making healthy food choices in our culture?

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Kate Freeman

Kate Freeman is a Registered Nutritionist and the founder and managing director of The Healthy Eating Hub. Kate’s healthy eating philosophy is all about whole, fresh foods, being realistic about life and creating long term healthy eating habits. She doesn’t believe in detoxes, fad diets or quick fixes. Once you’ve finished working with Kate, you’ll be empowered to feed yourself well for the rest of you life! More about the Author

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