Don’t let your lack of preparation get in the way of your goals. Incorporate these 5 food rules into your daily routine, and you’ll be on your way to a heathy new year.
You may be familiar with Michael Pollan’s book, “food rules.” In his food, he’s encouraging us to eat real food, reminding us that “eating doesn’t have to be difficult” and that daily decisions about food should be simple. For example, he suggests we “eat our colors” and “eat when we are hungry not when we are bored.”
Seems simple enough, right?
Actually, no it’s not.
While I agree with many (but not all) of his food rules, unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Telling people what to eat, and not eat, is more complex than that. People eat for many different reasons. Culture, food likes and dislikes, behavior and habits all play a huge role in what we choose.
Think about it. How many times have you eaten something when you knew you weren’t hungry? Why did you eat it?
When it comes to our food selection, the best food choice and the desired food choice can end up at war, with the sugary, salty snack often ending on top. This isn’t all that surprising either. Research shows us time and again that when hunger strikes, poor food choices often follow. Boredom, sleep deprivation and social situations also influence our food choices.
Instead of fighting with yourself about foods you shouldn’t eat, consider creating new behaviors that will set you up for successful. Consider these Food Rules that work.
FOOD RULE #1 – Keep a Clean Kitchen
Though food safety is important, that’s not what I’m referring to here. I’m talking about the foods you choose to put in your kitchen. Clients will tell me they know it wasn’t the best choice, but they went for the chips instead of the vegetable tray anyway. My question is never why did you choose chips over veggies. That’s kind of obvious. My question is , “why were the chips in your kitchen to begin with? You can’t eat what’s not there. Keep your kitchen stocked with healthy options, and clean house of the tempting treats. That brings us to our next food rule.
FOOD RULE #2 – Use a Grocery List
Healthy eating starts in the grocery store. If it ends up in your cart, it’s likely to end up in your stomach. Using a grocery list not only lands you healthier food, it also saves you money. This food rule is much easier to stick to than “don’t eat the chocolate cookies I purchased because I shopped without a list.” And don’t even think about going to the store hungry.
FOOD RULE #3 – Close the Kitchen
How many times do you or a member of your family stroll back into the kitchen after dinner searching for something to fill your boredom? The kitchen is not the place. Create a food rule around when the kitchen closes and make sure the entire family knows. This is helpful to teach kids, too, so they learn not to mindlessly munch in the evenings. Make an announcement to the family such as, “would anyone like a drink or small snack because the kitchen in closes.” This allows everyone the opportunity to grab something if hungry without creating a habit that food cures boredom. It helps keep your kitchen clean, too.
FOOD RULE #4 – Never Eat While Watching TV
This is a hard one! Think about it, popcorn and the movies just go together. But believe me, it’s easy to eat an extra few hundred calories of anything if you’re not paying attention to what you are doing. Meals and mini-meals should be consumed at a table with all electronics off. Focus on the food and make meal time about having a conversation with your family.
FOOD RULE #5 – Create a Menu Cycle
Preparation is the key to success. How many parents can relate to the kids asking, “What’s for dinner?” When we create a menu cycle in advance, the answer to this question is easy. Knowing on Sunday what will be for dinner on Wednesday gives you time to shop for the ingredients and minimizes your chance of picking up a pizza on the way home from work. And, if Wednesday comes and you don’t feel like cooking what was planned, simply swap it for another day on the menu cycle. Now that you have choices, you have flexibility.
Incorporate these healthy living tips into your daily routine, and you’ll be off to a healthy year.