Can you learn to love healthy food? These 4 tips make it easy.
We all know we should eat more healthy food like vegetables and less fried food. You don’t have to be a nutritionist to understand that a grilled salmon fillet with a baked sweet potato and salad is a healthier choice than a filet-o-fish from your favourite fast food joint. But knowing what we should be eating doesn’t necessarily mean we crave the junk any less. And let’s face it, zucchini noodles are fine, but they don’t pack the same comforting punch as a creamy bowl of spaghetti carbonara.
However, a promising recent study has shown that if we change our eating habits, eventually the foods we prefer can change as well.
In this study, overweight adults were shown pictures of highly palatable, calorie dense food (think burgers, fries, pizza, milkshakes and cookies) as well as pictures of more healthy nutritious meals (like our salmon, sweet potato and salad mentioned earlier) and MRI scans of their reactions were compared. After 6 months preparing meals made up of low GI carbohydrates, high quality proteins and higher than average levels of fibre, the participants’ reactions showed a preference for the healthier food.
Although this is good news, it isn’t a huge surprise. If you eat a lot of junk food, you will be prone to spikes in blood sugar levels, followed by a crash, which leads to a craving for more junk in order to give yourself the ‘boost’ (or spike) that you think you need. In contrast, eating a healthy diet stabilises blood sugar and makes for a more reliable digestive system, meaning that you aren’t prone to the same cravings.
The key, it seems, is to start eating the healthier foods in the first place. But how do you get off the spinning junk food wheel?
These 4 tips will help you learn to love healthy food:
- Learn more about food
A lot of people find it hard to lose weight because they just don’t know what kinds of food they should be eating more or less of. Here at ATP Personal Training we have lost count of the number of clients who became overweight eating a lot of healthy foods, good fats or superfoods.
The truth is that a large avocado and feta salad with a cold-pressed flax oil dressing and a generous sprinkling of tamari almonds and seeds is not likely to help you get to your goal weight, even if it is packed full of omega 3s and all the right buzzwords. Just because a food is healthy, doesn’t mean you can eat it liberally and just because another food might not be the healthiest in the world doesn’t mean you need to avoid it completely. Educate yourself about what kind of nutrition different foods provide and fuel yourself according to your goals.
- Look for healthier substitutes
We don’t necessarily expect you to have a couple of strawberries in place of a square of dark chocolate and then rave about the delights of ‘nature’s candy’. But there will be small changes to your diet and lifestyle that you can make every day and hardly notice. It’s these changes that are the key to sustainable health and keeping yourself at a healthy weight for the rest of your life. Examples can include using less oil for cooking, blending frozen banana into an ice-cream substitute or opting for fat-free yoghurt.
- Eat mindfully
When you are eating, try not to do anything else such as watching tv or checking your phone. If you focus solely on the food you are eating, you will be able to notice when you start to feel full and be less likely to overeat.
In the case of snacking, you can learn to ask yourself if you are actually hungry, or if another reason has made you want to snack, such as thirst, boredom, or the smell of freshly baked cookies wafting along the street. Even if you have a bite or two, mindful eating will teach you how to notice if the taste of those few bites has given you the sensation you wanted, rather than eating the whole bag because it’s in your hand.
- Plan ahead
Learning to cook batches (when you make a recipe that serves 4 and then split it into separate containers for the 4 days of lunch ahead) is a great way to ensure you are eating well and not being tempted to buy lunch while you’re out. You could even freeze 2 portions and make another batch for more variety, which has the added benefit of filling your freezer with healthy options too.
Spending a little time choosing recipes you know you will enjoy and planning ahead makes an enormous difference when you are dieting, and also removes much of the temptation to buy other food as it would be a waste.
Getting involved with the cooking of your own food also opens up a world of options when it comes to seasoning and using different kinds of vegetables. Have fun with it; why not try to incorporate a new kind of vegetable into your lunches each week.
Eating healthily sounds easy, right?
And it can be. The most difficult part is often simply knowing what is healthy and what isn’t. There are limitless, often conflicting versions of what is healthy, and knowing what is right for you and for your body can take a lot of research, trial and error.
ATP Personal Training takes the effort out of this by using our knowledge and experience from working successfully with 100s of clients like you. We know full well what is healthy and what the common (and uncommon) pitfalls are, so you can make the right changes you need for a sustainably healthy relationship with food.
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