Simple Yet Powerful Tips to Help You Change the Way You EatThe new year is a great time to shed old baggage, and why wait until January 1st to start setting new goals for your health. The sooner you can get into the swing of things, the sooner you can nix old habits and start building new ones. Whether you have a New Year's goal or you simply think it's time, you really can change.
Let's talk about some best practices for stocking your pantry to serve your own health.
1. Stock Foods You Like
When stocking your home with healthier foods, it's important to be realistic about what you will and will not enjoy eating. Making drastic changes that aim to eliminate instead of replace old habits is unrealistic and not sustainable in the long-term.
2. Keep Staples, Not Snacks
For many households, the word "pantry" might as well be synonymous with the words "vending machine". If sugary drinks, cakes, cookies and crisps fill the shelves of your pantry, consider how you might be able to push these out with more healthy alternatives.
Stocking your pantry with staples such as beans, rice, oils and preserved goods will make meal planning easier and grocery trips less stressful.
3. Oil vs. Oil
We're all familiar with the olive oil vs. vegetable oil debate, but is it really worth swapping out one for the other? Both have similar calorie content, and one is undeniably cheaper. So why the big fuss?
The short version is that western diets tend to be supremely deficient in omega-3 fatty acids. On the contrary, we eat a lot of foods that contain omega-6 fatty acids. Omega 6's are essential, but an unbalanced ratio promotes inflammatory conditions, high LDL, IBS and cardiovascular disease. A 6:3 omega ratio of 4:1 (or less, like 1:1) is really ideal, which is a far cry from what vegetable oils can provide. Because we tend to use oils in so many food preparations, this is a good place to start when making dietary changes. Whereas olive oil's ratio is about 13:1, vegetable oils range from 45:1 to 60:1, depending on the source and how the oil is processed.
When purchasing pre-made foods or snacks, be especially aware of this, as most processed foods contain soy, palm and other vegetable oils.
4. Spice Up Your Life
Struggling in the spice isle? With so many items on the shelf at such varying prices, things can quickly become overwhelming, making salt and pepper seem like the optimal choices. But a well-seasoned meal can mean all the difference between something you greatly enjoy and mediocrity.
Relying on salt to carry the burden of a meal that'll tantalise your tastebuds is both unrealistic and unhealthy. But if you do exclusively enjoy salty foods, consider switching to a low-sodium option such as Nu-Salt.
When creating a meal, consider some other kinds of tastes available to you:
We recommend stocking your pantry with salt-free options that can be used in versatile ways, such as garlic and onion (fresh, preferably), all-spice, cayenne pepper, paprika, cumin and curry.
Finding a local grocery store with a bulk spice isle will allow you to sample a range of tastes without committing to an amount you won’t be able to finish.
5. Broth, Soups and Sodium
Broths and soups are a great staple for your pantry because these will allow you to create quick and simple meals without the added effort of cooking completely from scratch. A hearty soup makes a great meal alone or together on a bed of mixed rice or quinoa.
However, be aware of the hidden amounts of salt found in many canned goods, namely soups and broths. The daily recommended allowance of sodium is 2,000 mg per day, which is about one tablespoon of regular table salt.
6. Other Canned Goods
Canned goods offer an easy solution to the problem of food preparation. Keeping black beans, navy beans or great northern beans in your pantry will expand your meal planning options while promoting a healthy omega 3:6 intake.
Canned vegetables are easier (and to some more palatable) than fresh options, but while most aren't a nutritional disaster, these also provide fewer vitamins and fiber.
Avoid stocking canned fruits as alternative snacks to cookies or cakes; while these might seem like a healthier option at a glance, they're often packed in sugar-laden syrup to the excess of five tablespoons per can. While peaches in their own juices will contain only about one tablespoon in each can, it's important to consider just how much more quickly this sugar can get into your bloodstream compared with the sugar found in a whole fruit, such as an apple.
Now that you’ve mentally stocked your pantry, it’s time to focus on how you’ll achieve your goals without falling back into your old ways.
You might have already noticed that setting goals is much easier than executing them over time. That's because a variety of factors come into play when you're trying to change habits, and some of these are emotional in nature, making them more difficult to identify and control.
If you find yourself setting health goals that include the words "always" or "never", we recommend a new strategy: Instead of eliminating things from your life or attempting to add a whole new routine, simply consider what it would take for you to replace a bad habit with a better one. Pushing out the bad by adding more good is a well-known and proven strategy for creating better habits, because it doesn't add unnecessary pressure that automatically sets you up for failure.
How to Change Habits Once and For All1. Identify Your Habit
Over the course of our lives, we develop thousands of habits that we never stop to think about. From putting on shoes to backing the car out of the garage, your habits save you a lot of wasted mental energy. But habits can also be dangerous; they're the reason you zone out when driving home from work and why you unthinkingly over-indulge in foods or vices.
All habits follow the same path: they are triggered by a prompt, then the habit takes place, and soon a reward follows. When you come home after a long day at work, and you're tired and hungry, your habits for microwave foods, takeaways or quick snacks kick in. After you eat, you're satisfied - if even just for a while - and the habit loop is complete.
2. Replace Something Bad with Something Better
When thinking about our health goals, it's generally pretty easy to identify the bad habits, such as ordering a lot of takeaways. And this is where most of us get overly ambitious with statements such as, “I’m never eating takeaways again.” When that doesn't work, some of us try to bargain with ourselves by promising takeaway if certain other goals are met, such as daily exercise. But a new exercise routine is difficult to fit into your life, so you try other ways to keep takeaway from weaseling its way back in, but ultimately realize that the sum these changes is simply too exhausting to follow through on. This is why so many resolutions are abandoned even before February.
When we begin to identify not just our habits, but the cue that sets a habit into motion, that's when change can really take place. Identifying your cues allows you to take control of all the actions that follow, by making proactive changes that don't change the habit in its entirety. It's important to recognize this loop because knowledge is power. Knowing how a prompt sets a habit into motion is half the battle.
Keeping a journal of your activities is a great way to help you take charge of the changes you want to see. Each time you reach for the phone to order a pizza or you plop down in front of the TV instead of picking up a resistance band or dumbbell, ask yourself "what triggered this action?"
Additionally, make a note of the anticipated reward you'd expect from completing this old habit. One journal entry might look like this:
Prompt: Nothing good to eat in fridge
Habit: Order pizza
Reward: Tasty food that doesn't require shopping, preparation or cleanup
Seeing this loop unfolding on paper gives you time to think about some alternative ways to approach this problem.
What Goes Into Creating a New Habit
Relying on Willpower
Many people believe that willpower is the key to a healthy lifestyle. Fit people are forever wondering why unfit people don't have more of it.
But, the truth is, while willpower is an absolute necessity for many things in life, it's a learned behavior, and even then, willpower tends to be highly inconsistent. In addition, evidence strongly suggests that willpower is actually a limited resource, which can be depleted by resisting your urges.
While you may be able to rely on willpower some of the time, there will be plenty of other times when willpower just won't step in to help you overcome your hurdles. This is especially true with habits rooted in addiction.
Being More Proactive
Everyone can benefit from being more proactive. Being proactive simply means that you learn to anticipate outcomes rather than blindly falling into them. This approach teaches you to take more personal responsibility for the situations you find yourself in, and is a great way to help you take more charge of your life generally. Being proactive can help you to recognize that stocking your fridge with foods you like will keep you from feeling overwhelmed when you're tired and hungry at the end of the day, something that normally leads you to order a pizza.
However, solely relying on being proactive can also lead to feelings of guilt and self-blame, so it's important to supplement this strategy.
Finding a New Reward
Being proactive helps you to focus on changing the thing that prompts a habit, but this is oftentimes more difficult than simply changing the habit instead. For example, if you find your fridge empty yet again, don't despair; now is the time to change your habit of ordering out forever. Here’s how: find an option that offers you a comparable reward - tasty food that doesn't require shopping, preparation or cleanup.
Let’s consider some options:
If the most daunting portion of changing this habit are the meal planning and grocery shopping:
- Buy health-friendly ready-to-eat meals that simply require re-heating
- Shop at smaller supermarkets during the least busy times of the week, and keep your list short or have groceries delivered
- Order boxed meals that contain all of the ingredients you'll need to prepare fresh food at home
If you find that an aversion to food preparation limits your meals:
- Purchase pre-cut fruit and veg from the local supermarket
- Enjoy pre-made meals that can be reheated in the microwave
- Use single-step or crockpot meals that require little to no preparation
If you're someone who hates cleanup:
- Prepare foods that only require one pot or pan
- Clean as you go instead of leaving pots on the range or in the sink
- Share cleaning responsibilities with a housemate or your significant other
By trading your pizza habit for an easy and satisfying crockpot roast, you still receive the reward you're used to without the empty calories and guilt.
Remember that your goals don't need to be enormous. In fact, by setting realistic goals such as replacing takeaways with a homemade pasta dish, you're much more likely to follow through.
Habit's Secret Ingredient
Why do some new habits fail to take hold? Believe it or not, the power of your own thinking has a lot to do with it. When you believe in yourself or you believe in a process, it's easier to continue even when everything else fails. It's why AA works better for alcohol dependency than quitting on your own, and why people experience real healing powers from the placebo effect.
Believing in yourself or in your process and your new habits can be challenging for many, which is why it can also help to be able to rely on others through this process.
A belief in yourself is vital, no matter which task you're tackling today. Believing in yourself gives you the confidence you'll need to give your all to a worthy cause.
The belief in others establishes strength in numbers, and is especially valuable when you're running low on self-belief. Having someone to turn to, whether it's a workout buddy, an over-eaters group or a self-help book, lets you recharge and find hope and strength again.
Sometimes it's the belief over others that carries us along. Seeing that Bob has accomplished something - even though Bob is hardly better than you in any other way - can actually renew your own belief, confidence and willpower.
The belief over everything is oftentimes referred to as faith, and while it's not for everyone, it is a tremendous resource for people who subscribe to a higher power. The belief in a god, god-like being, energy or universal truth helps to take the pressure off the individual to help create willpower without having to solely rely on yourself or other.
Take control over your habits once and for all. By recognizing your unconscious actions and making reasonable changes that are sustainable for years to come, you’ll be able to push out the things you want less of to make room for your new healthy life.