When it comes to food most of the time you have one choice: You eat what is in your house or you don’t eat. Now, more than any other time, you are feel FORCED to make this decision.
Even if you were not thinking about 2 minute noodles 2 minutes before opening the pantry, you are forced to think about it when you see it right there sitting on the shelve.
You are FORCED to choose whether or not to eat that meal. Now, of course, there’s NOTHING wrong with the occasional treat or cheat meal provided you eat well on a consistent basis, but my point is this: Seeing and smelling this food FORCES you to make a choice about whether or not to eat it.
In this scenario, the environment is causing you to think about a comfort food/ junk food (whatever you want to call it), and the meal is convenient. It’s right in front of you, ready to eat!
Now, let’s consider a different scenario: You finish your daily chores and there is nothing ready to eat sitting on the shelves. You DO have ground beef in the freezer buried under the frozen vegetables, hamburger buns, and potatoes in the pantry, and some cheese in the refrigerator. In this situation, you can still enjoy a burger and fries, but you’re FAR less likely to do so. Why?
The primary reason is that you may not even think about a burger and fries. There’s nothing forcing you to think about those foods. The next reason is that there’s a higher “effort” involved in making this meal from scratch. It is inconvenient and requires time and effort to prepare. If there is a considerably easier option, even if it’s less tasty, you’ll probably choose it.
Managing your food environment has the potential to make healthy choices easier. With some proper planning and minimal upkeep, you can manipulate your cravings in such a way to cause you to think about food a little less, reduce the number of extraneous temptations you face every day.
Here’s a few easy to follow guidelines to make changes around your kitchen that can make it easier for you to make better choices.
1) In some cases, the best decision might be to not purchase something in the
first place. For example, I have trouble controlling myself around chocolate, so I’ve made the choice to purchase it less frequently. Since making this change in my shopping habits, I eat less chocolate.
This strategy is not always possible depending on your living arrangements and family dynamic. 2)
Keep the calorie-dense, low-satiety food, or anything else that might tempt you in a less visible and less convenient location. For example, keep the chocolate in the highest shelve so that you can’t see it and you have to work for it.
3) If you want nutrient-dense foods to be prevalent in your diet, make it prevalent in your kitchen. For example, keep a fruit bowl in plain sight in your kitchen so you can easily see AND access it.
4) Generally speaking, food variety may increase food consumption. Consequently, keep a wide variety of foods you want to eat more of (like fruits, vegetables, and lean protein sources), and keep a narrow variety of junk foods. So, for example, if you’re going to keep potato chips in the house, only keep one bag and not five different flavors of chips.
5) Try to eat meals in a non-distracted setting like at a table without a television, no phones, etc.
6) If you are serving food out of large bowls/containers, do not keep the serving bowls at the dining table. Leave them on a counter or in the kitchen so you have to portion your food on to your plate and bring the plate to the table. This makes it less likely that you’ll keep adding more food to your plate. This same strategy applies to snack foods. If you are going to eat some snack crackers, take your intended serving out of the box, put the box away, and walk away to eat.
7) In your work environment, avoid keeping candy dishes and other snack foods on your desk. If there are tempting food items out in the open, do your best to avoid walking by them.
In a few words: Foods that you should be eating MORE of need to be more visible, more convenient, more prevalent, and of greater variety in your environment. Foods that you need to eat LESS of should be less visible, less convenient, less prevalent, and of lower variety (or non at all!).
Practice intelligent and regular grocery shopping. What you purchase determines what ends up in your body. Prepare your own food. If you take the time to prepare food in advance,
you’ll have something healthy readily available when hunger (and temptation) strike.
Take some time to use some of these strategies and I’m sure you’ll find yourself making better choices about food, and not having to test your willpower as frequently.