When it comes to eating healthy, there’s no need to restrict the foods you love. But unfortunately, most of us have spent a lifetime receiving conflicting messages that can create a challenge around the fall season and holidays.
On the one hand, we are told that certain foods can make or break our health. But, on the other hand, pumpkin spice, apple pie, and Christmas cookies.
At this time of year, messages like “sugar will kill you” and “you only have a limited time to enjoy seasonal treats!” compete with each other for your attention. It can be difficult to know
what to do.
The fact is that restricting foods works to our disadvantage. Avoiding the foods we love can lead to bingeing and preoccupation with those foods. Deprivation also often results in disconnection with hunger cues making it harder for us to know when we are hungry or full.
When you make all foods ok to eat, you are much less likely to obsess about or overeat them.
Not only can you maintain a healthy diet while eating your favorite foods, but enjoying them is part of the reason for having a nutritious diet in the first place!
So how can you balance a nutrient-dense diet with the treats you love?
Find foods that you enjoy eating.
It’s important to find foods you like eating and make them part of your routine. Otherwise, you’re likely to get bored with your diet. Try out new recipes and explore different cuisines to find meals that you love.
If you are substituting ingredients in your favorite dishes that make them less palatable to you, try making them the way you prefer them sometimes. This will help combat feelings of deprivation.
Don’t label foods as good or bad.
A diet composed mainly of ultra-processed foods can be detrimental to your health. But eating a balanced diet of nutrient-dense foods along with foods that are less so is absolutely fine! This will not make or break your health.
There is no such thing as good or bad food. It’s all just food with varying nutrient profiles, and all of it can fit into a healthy lifestyle. A more helpful way to think about nutrient-dense foods vs. treats is the term “fun and functional.” Referring to foods this way can remove the judgment while maintaining an understanding of the differences.
Make sure you’re getting enough nutrients.
It’s important to ensure you’re getting all the nutrients your body needs. However, you can still enjoy eating without restricting yourself if you pay attention to what you’re eating. Make sure to include plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in your diet.
Meals balanced with protein, healthy fats, and fiber will keep you satisfied throughout the day and make you less likely to binge on less nutrient-dense foods.
Don’t deprive yourself of foods you love.
One of the worst things you can do is deprive yourself of the foods you love. This will only make you crave them more. Giving yourself permission to eat what you want removes the urgency.
For example, if you know you can have ice cream any time you want, you will be less likely to eat more than you want in a sitting.
Listening to your hunger cues can help you eat the appropriate amount of food.
Your body is very good at telling you when it needs nourishment. Unfortunately, many of us have become disconnected from these cues. We often eat based on what time of day it is or what we ate last rather than how our bodies feel. This can lead to eating too much or too little. It is also a surefire way to feel deprived.
Listening to your hunger cues is a key part of mindful eating. This means paying attention to your body’s signals, eating when you’re hungry, and stopping when you’re full.
There are several hunger cues you can learn to pay attention to:
- Stomach growling or rumbling
- Feeling lightheaded or dizzy
- Feeling irritable or crabby
- Having difficulty concentrating
- Feeling fatigue
If you’re paying attention to your hunger cues, you’re less likely to overeat or undereat. You’ll be more in tune with your body’s needs and will be able to eat the appropriate amount of food.
Make mealtimes enjoyable.
Eating should be a pleasant experience, so make sure to take the time to enjoy your meals. Sit down and savor each bite. This will help you appreciate the food more and prevent you from eating more or less than your body needs.
Avoid distractions like TV, phones, or computers when you’re eating. This will help you focus on your food and pay attention to how much you’re eating.
Eating mindfully will help you enjoy your food more.
Your relationship with food is as important as what you eat.
The way you think and feel about food can have a significant impact on your health. If you’re constantly restricting yourself or feeling guilty after eating, that can lead to unhealthy behaviors like bingeing.
It’s important to have a healthy relationship with food. This means not labeling foods as good or bad and not depriving yourself of the foods you love. When you have a healthy relationship with food, you’re more likely to make nutritious choices and have plenty of room to enjoy fun foods.
Mindful eating is a great way to improve your relationship with food. By paying attention to your hunger cues and eating without distractions, you’ll be more attuned to your body and know when to start and stop eating.
The benefits of mindful eating include:
- Improved digestion
- Better blood sugar control
- Reduced stress and anxiety around food
- Improved mental clarity
- Greater satisfaction with meals
- More enjoyment of food
By following these tips, you can enjoy eating without restricting yourself. Just remember to listen to your body and eat mindfully!
So enjoy your pumpkin spice latte! There is nothing to feel guilty about!
Want more tips to help you enjoy food while getting good nutrition check out this Food Hacks post and this post on snacks for busy moms!