As you’ve heard and read, obesity in America has reached epidemic proportions. About 2 out of 3 Americans are overweight and about 1 out of 3 Americans are obese. Our fast-paced lifestyle has not left us much time for creating nutritious meals. We eat out a lot, and fast and convenience foods are a staple of the American diet. Let’s face it – it’s a real challenge to eat healthy meals.
WHY IS IT HARD TO EAT HEALTHFULLY?
We’ve been genetically programmed to be attracted to sugar, fat, and salty foods. This was okay when those foods were harder to come by. Although a certain amount of these foods is important to a healthy diet, our bodies did not evolve to process the quantities of these foods that we put in them nowadays. These foods are ubiquitous and our taste buds scream out for the momentary pleasures that we were evolved to experience from them.
In addition to the quantities of sugar, fat, and salts that we receive in our diets, we are eating fewer fruits and vegetables and more processed foods. Someone told me that when deciding whether to eat a certain food an effective rule of thumb is: If your grandmother would not recognize it as food, don’t eat it. Our bodies don’t recognize Twinkies, Cheetos, tubed yogurt, squishy things etc. as food.
WHAT CAN WE DO TO CHANGE OUR HABITS?
I have a sweet tooth, which is often hard to fight. It’s natural that we crave sweets – we are hardwired for that. At one time, sweet meant fruits, and fruits are good sources of vitamins, fiber, and energy. However, as our society has developed, we now have capitalized on this natural desire such that we have created an endless array of tantalizing sweets to tempt us.
Instead of trying to vanquish this craving entirely (really, an impossible task), here’s a way to give in to the craving to your advantage. If after dinner you typically have something sweet, make the dessert start with fruit. Have the piece of fruit (or more if you want), and wait a few minutes. Then go for the cookies or ice cream. You will find that the fruit will satisfy your sweet tooth to some extent, and you will thus eat less of the sugar-packed, high caloric dessert.
HEALTHY HABITS ARE THE KEY TO A HEALTHY BODY
Your mom probably said this to you when you were little, but I believe that there’s a lot of truth to the saying “You are what you eat.” Our minds and bodies are connected. They are inextricably linked so that one affects the other for good or for ill. Eating healthy meals is one way of improving your cognitive and emotional functioning. It’s difficult to say what proportion of our sense of well-being is related to healthy eating habits, but one could say without reservation that having balanced, healthy eating habits could only improve our cognitive and emotional functioning.
Of course, there are a zillion diet plans out there, but I’m not talking about a diet plan. A diet implies that it is temporary. Typically people get on a diet with a specific goal to lose a few pounds and then get off of the diet once the goal is achieved. I’m referring to having a lifestyle of healthy eating habits. It might be challenging at first, but just try incorporating some small, but consistent, changes to your eating habits. You are likely to experience improved emotional and cognitive benefits along with a plethora of physical benefits.