The other day my husband finished his plate of dinner and wandered into the kitchen and made himself a salad. He quietly returned to the table and started eating. I didn’t say anything for a while because I was so shocked and confused. Who stole my meat loving, seconds eating husband and replaced him with a rabbit?
Eventually I found my voice and casually asked what was wrong with the dinner I had served (one of his favorites!). He quickly explained that there was nothing wrong with the meal and it tasted great, as usual (bonus points for a good response). He has just recently realized that he doesn’t eat many vegetables, so he thought he should eat a salad instead of a second helping.
At first I was a little hurt that he didn’t consider my meal healthy enough, but then I remembered the numerous times that I’ve made plenty of vegetable side dishes and the only person who ate the veggies was my vegetable loving 5 year old. His actions are the reason I stopped making extra vegetables!
We have both allowed our diets to consist of very limited fresh produce. The kids will eat massive amounts of fresh fruits as long as they’re available, but the adults in our house don’t even do that.
My husband is also a huge snacker. I always find him rummaging through the pantry for something to eat when he gets home from work or just after we put the kids to bed. You’ll also find him raiding the candy bowl on the top of the fridge and hiding from the kids to eat his candy treasures on a regular basis. I’m not much of a snacker, but my meals aren’t exactly filled with solid nutrition either, so I don’t have a whole lot of room to talk.
Recently, I’ve started implementing a new concept to our eating habits that I want to share with you, it’s called “crowding out”. The concept behind crowding out is to add more good, healthy food to your diet. That’s essentially it! But it has the power to completely transform your eating, and possibly your waistline. You crowd out the junk food with lots of healthy food.
Have you ever decided to start a diet and failed by the end of the first day because you ate a forbidden food? It is never any fun to start something that involves taking away something we love! So quit trying. Quit depriving yourself of your beloved chocolate cake. Quit making a list of forbidden cheese fries, potato chips, bacon, candy, soda, and the list goes on.
Food deprivation only makes you sad.
We’ve talked about the power of our thoughts before. The same type of thing applies here. When you are trying to improve your eating habits, you should never focus on what you can’t have. Deprivation diets don’t work because your focus is on what you can’t eat. When we’re talking about making healthy changes, our goal should always be about adding healthy foods to our diet in creative, convenient, and delicious ways. That is the goal and the only thing to spend a lot of time focusing on.
How does this work? Fill up your tank with lots of nutrient dense foods and you will crowd out more and more junk. If you make (and eat) a big salad before you start on your lunch, you just might find yourself too full to eat every last bite of your main course. If you start your day with a big green smoothie full of fresh fruits and vegetables, you won’t need such a big breakfast. Eat an apple with some nut butter when you get hungry on those long afternoons. And if you still want those cookies later on, eat them! But you might find yourself satisfied and forget all about the cookies.
Not a fan of vegetables? It takes just about two weeks for your taste buds to change. You can improve your diet without depriving yourself of things you love. Just sneak in a few things that you just kind of like. Did you cringe when I mentioned green smoothies above? For many people the thought of adding spinach or kale to sweet and yummy fruit sounds awful. And if you start with the recommended two large handfuls (or more), you are likely to think it is awful. But what if you put in a finger full today? And then next week add a few extra green leaves, gradually working yourself up to larger amounts as your taste preferences change.
Creativity is key
Another important thing to remember is that preparation is key. The reason that we slowly started eliminating vegetables from our dinners at my house is because I got into the habit of just grabbing a bag of steam-able vegetables, microwaving them, and flopping them in a bowl. Boring! Of course we didn’t want to eat our pile of steamed green beans when we could instead get an extra plateful of cheesy, delicious enchiladas. The other day I threw together a quick kale salad with a lemony-mustard dressing and feta cheese. It took me five minutes to put together (I bought a bag of already chopped kale), but it tasted amazing. My husband and I both ended up having seconds of the salad instead of our stuffed pork chops main dish that we love because the salad was delicious! (If you are interested in the recipe, you need this cookbook!) Be willing to branch out and try new ways to prepare and eat your vegetables and fruits. You don’t have to eat things you don’t like. Keep trying new recipes until you find a flavor that tickles your fancy. The important thing is to not give up. Remember that your taste buds can and do change in just a couple weeks.
You can also start sneaking in more healthy foods (besides fruit and vegetables) while working toward this overhaul of your diet. Do you hate the taste of whole grain pasta? What if you tried half whole grain and half white pasta for a while and gradually increased it until you didn’t notice (or at least didn’t mind)?
Just eat! more fruits and vegetables whenever you want
I’ve recently started a new “rule” that the first and last thing I eat each day needs to be a fresh, raw fruit or vegetable. Nearly everyday, I’ve been making a smoothie (no sugar/junk added!) to start my day. This gives me at least 2-3 servings of fruit and a serving of vegetables, guaranteed. After just a couple days I realized that my smoothie was keeping me full until lunch. I don’t even need an extra breakfast or mid-morning snack. And I love that this rule automatically means that I am actually eating a few servings of fruits and/or vegetables each day, which to be honest, is much better than I was doing most days! See where you can add extra food into your day. Pack an apple or a banana to eat each day during your commute to work. Keep a bag of carrot sticks or sliced peppers in the break room fridge at work to graze on when you get bored and need something fresh to pep up your day.
What kind of healthy eating habits can you implement to help bring a crowd of health to your diet?