Here at Wellbeing Escapes I'm proud to say we eat fairly healthily on the whole. But obviously even though we know the importance of healthy eating, waft even the idea of chocolaty snacks under the nose of a hungry and stressed-out person at four in the afternoon on a busy work day and watch them zip to the shop faster than you can say carrot sticks.
Turns out we're not alone. I asked a few friends what they though the biggest barriers to them eating healthily were. The range of responses I received included "being too busy", "not having time to cook and prepare healthy meals", "I don't know where to begin", that it "feels too much like 'work' to prepare good food", that healthy or organic food is "too expensive", and my personal favourite - that "pizza, cakes and chocolate just taste too damn good!".
I can completely sympathise. Most people know that they shouldn't be eating the convenience food that's so readily available in shops and supermarkets, but they don't know how to break the habit. You don't need someone to tell you the damage that putting away numerous biscuits and chips will do. You want someone to show you how it's done.
First let's address some of these hurdles to healthy eating:
"I'm too busy"
It's true that when your schedule gets super-busy it gives you limited time to prepare healthy meals. You're more likely to skip meals when you're running around juggling various projects then end up snacking on foods that you don't even like because this point you'll eat anything. Sound familiar? The truth is that when you make healthy eating a priority you will be more focused, more productive and more efficient. Eating healthy will provide your body with the nutrients it needs to leave you feeling satisfied and will actually give you more energy and help you manage stress. You'll be the one in control of your schedule - instead of letting your schedule rule you!
"It feels too much like hard work"
In our days of microwaves and takeaways it's easy to see how this has become the case. Food companies have laced their ready-meals with addictive chemicals and added sugar. Look on the back of most pasta sauces, soups and 'low-fat' food options and you'll be stunned by the amount of sugar, not to mention other substances in them. As a nation it's no surprise we're hooked. Even if you're not burdened by a busy schedule, planning a healthy meal can seem an overwhelming task when there's a microwave and an episode of Homeland beckoning. If you think of eating healthy not as a sacrifice, but more as an opportunity for self-improvement, it can make life a lot easier.
"I don't know where to begin"
Knowledge is power my friend. You probably already know that the majority of your diet should include fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, some dairy or dairy substitutes, whole grains, beans and healthy fats from nuts, avocado, olive oil and fish. But you need some healthy eating strategies. One that works well for many people is to include a protein food with meals and snacks, especially at breakfast. This will keep you feeling fuller for longer as you slowly release the energy from your food. Try to sneak a fruit or vegetable in with each meal and snack. And change up your whole-grain intake to include brown rice, bulgur, quinoa, barley, spelt and oats. Stay hydrated by drinking water throughout the day - sometimes people mistake hunger for thirst.
"It just tastes too good!"
Thanks to the erroneous genes of our cavemen ancestors we have a biological propensity towards food high in fat and sugar. Again, food companies have exploited this state of affairs making irresistible tasting snacks that leave us wanting more. This has lead to widespread obesity in the UK and America. The only way is to break the habit. Wean yourself off sugar slowly and watch as your taste-buds come alive to new flavours and textures from healthier foods - we promise the will start to taste better! Always be prepared and have something on hand to combat temptation when it rears its delicious head.
"It's a lot more expensive"
The jury is out on this one and this debate could be the subject of a whole blog in itself! It's true that bad quality meat is cheap (because it's pumped full of hormones, and comes from animals kept in very cruel conditions). But we're eating far more meat than we ever have and we really don't need to. I've had people tell me they don't think they are eating a proper meal if it doesn't have meat in it! If people spent the same amount on less, better quality meat I'm convinced they'd be healthier for it. Loading up on vegetables at good farmers markets or grocery shops is relatively inexpensive compared to stocking your fridge with loads of ready-meals.
It's impossible to deny that organic options are more costly (as anyone who has wandered around Whole Foods can testify!). However, even 'regular' fresh fruit and veg is a step up from convenience food. I think in the end it comes down to perspective and knowledge. If you know how to prepare healthy meals from scratch you'll see that they really aren't any more expensive. Plus, if you cook in bulk you can freeze portions down - et voilà - the convenience problem is sorted!
In the long run although it might seem expensive to spend a bit more on buying healthy ingredients, but you might save yourself the greater expense that can come from poor health further down the line. And that is definitely worth it.
If you want to learn more time-saving tricks to eating healthily click here.
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