Food has been the driving force of our existence since the very beginning of our time. But now, a typical human life has unfolded into several dimensions concerned with issues way beyond mere survival. As such, to ensure a constant supply of thriving energy to fight through our daily endeavors, we need to look closely at our eating habits and reconsider how to nourish our body with the best quality fuel. Even if one’s body weight is not an area of concern, what we eat has a direct correlation to how we feel. So, when life gets difficult, a sugar crash will only make you twice as much miserable!
Eating healthy should not be designed around constraints, withdrawals and evasion of certain foods.
The sense of deprivation would only set you up for a massive binge and feelings of regret. Rather, focus on gradually establishing rituals and habits that you see yourself sticking to for a lifetime and working them with ease on autopilot. This approach is particularly crucial, since, most of us follow distracted and not mindful eating patterns.
Make yourself earn your treats – Always!
We all have weaknesses. These are the foods that we can never say no to and can’t get enough of even when we are not hungry. Some of us are especially more vulnerable to breaking down in the face of temptation and fall much harder than others.
When you do decide to make a conscious change, analyze all the drawbacks of your favorite treat and the extra calories you consume as payback for the love of its taste. With or without exercise, factor in an amount that you think you can get away with.
The condition being that you can never have your favorite poison, (whether it is ice-cream, candy, cookies, carbonated drinks or potato chips), on an empty stomach. It should be consumed only once a day after a big glass of water FOLLOWED by a meal loaded with fiber and vegetables. This way you are not likely to go for regretful second servings.
People who get into vigorous resistance training workouts can get away with a little indulgence post-workout. The key word being: a LITTLE.
As you learn to view your sinful food pleasures as an extravagance that needs to be earned and is not just given, you learn to respect the boundaries set by you and can build up on a cleaner eating plan from here.
It will eventually get much less painful to make your treats inaccessible to your kitchen and reduce the frequency of its consumption.
Customize timing and portion according to your needs.
“Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper.” This might be a popular stereotype that is associated with healthy eating, but does not necessarily require strict conformity.
All of us have different lifestyles and the timing when we need most energy and when we feel most hungry can vary a lot. A big, heavy meal leaves us sleepy because all the blood rushes to our gut. Those who need to be active on their feet during the first half of the day can get away with a dense breakfast, but it may not be ideal for those who need to be alert at a desk. A nutritionally loaded smoothie with an egg or lentil salad might prove more suitable.
Similarly, a massive lunch is best suited for those who can grab some time for a break, a little walk or a nap thereafter. One can even get away with a wholesome, three-course dinner on a daily basis; but it ought to be consumed at least three hours before bed time. Heavier the dinner, earlier should be the dinner time. Else, you might face an insulin peak and crash while you are sleeping only to wake you up in the middle of the night, messing up the quality of your slumber.
If you sense a dip in energy after every meal, you need to evaluate the amount of fat, refined carbohydrates and simple sugars that go into your food.
In case, you end up overstuffing yourself every time you sit down to eat, consider using smaller plates, bowls, cups and glasses to ensure portion control.
It is not about eating less, but eating MORE.
Every time you eliminate something from you daily diet, make sure you add something in its place that is not as calorie dense. Focusing on eating MORE vegetables (raw as well as cooked) and fruit is a simple, no brainer way of keeping yourself full for longer and proactively steering your taste buds towards instinctive clean eating simply because natural whole foods do not have an overload of contrived, artificial flavors as in the case of processed foods.
Another formula to live by is;
Fiber + Low Glycemic index = Fullness + Sustained Energy release
For the first half of the equation, think single ingredient foods like all kinds of fruits (frozen or natural state), vegetables, whole grain, multi-grain, plain yogurt and cottage cheese.
Glycemic index is the numerical measurement of the ability of a food to raise sugar levels in the blood. Simpler the state of the food (dense liquid concentrated sugars) and longer the ingredient list it is made up of, faster it gets digested. We don’t want that. So, fruit juices are definitely out.
In case, the term Glycemic Index still has you confused then another straight forward way of looking for the right foods would be that complex and fiber rich food is bound to have a big chew-factor. Something, you would have to munch on for quite some time in your mouth before you swallow it; like an Apple or an Apricot. But, it will not comprise of a long list of ingredients. For example, a sunny side-up half fried egg on a whole-wheat toast or a tomato-cucumber sandwich without a long list of dressings in between.
A little bit of experimenting and planning goes a long way to make ‘healthy’ interesting.
Start by making simple swaps for your worst weaknesses. No need to make too many changes all at once. You could try trading in ice cream for plain yogurt with frozen berries. You might have a weakness for potato chips, but baked sweet potato dressed in lime and herbs might taste even better. Oats for breakfast might be bland, but it may not taste so bad with some added strawberries or accompanying peanut butter sandwich. Explore with flavors and create your new healthy favorites.