Healthy eating isn't just about long-term goals or benefits. Here are 7 ways healthy eating can benefit you immediately...
Let’s talk about how it can be one of the most important factors in your nutrition goals and health.
1. Saves money
Having a plan allows you to see what you need in bulk and how to spread ingredients across meals so there’s less food waste (and money waste). Also, it cuts down the times you need to run to the grocery store – and buying extra things that rack up the grocery bill.
2. Saves time
Sure, there’s some time investment forefront, but it allows you to have time freedom later in the week. And saved time is useful for getting other things done that you need to focus on. That extra time can also be spend sitting down and having a meal with family and building priceless memories.
3. Keeps you healthier
Having your food planned helps keep you on track to your nutrition-related goals by giving you a “fast food” option right at home. It’s hard to eat healthy if you don’t have the resources available to take advantage of.
4. Promotes a healthy weight
Meal prepping allows you to eat what you need so you aren’t falling back on getting that bag of chips or candy bar (or any highly processed, high calorie foods, hyper-palatable foods that make it easy to over consume).
5. Takes the guesswork out
Ever wonder what to make for dinner or lunch the next day? Meal planning allows you to do the work beforehand, leaving that stress behind.
6. Helps prevent overeating
Having your meals portioned out can be helpful if you struggle with eating too fast and missing fullness cues. Of course, you can always get more food if you’re still hungry, but having meals prepped gives your body a chance to relearn fullness cues.
7. Helps you stay consistent
It’s hard to have consistent behaviors if your environment isn’t working with you. In coaching, I help people to be consistent regardless of environment, however in the beginning, when you’re trying to make healthy choices, it can be really helpful to have an environment that is supporting you. Meal prepping is one of those environmental factors that plays a big role in building consistent and healthy practices.
8. Less brain energy and worry
The less time we spend on worrying about our food, the more time we can spend thinking of other important things. Having food prepped allows you to spend valuable mental bandwidth on other factors that can help you reach your life goals.
9. Less food waste
I briefly mentioned this above, but when you are able to plan, you can see where you can overlap ingredients. The EPA reported that Americans disposed of 37.6 billion tons of food waste in 2015. While a big portion of that is coming from restaurants, we cannot deny that a portion comes from everyday homes. Reducing food waste also lowers your carbon footprint and conserves energy and resources required to take that waste.
10. Meal planning doesn’t just benefit adults. It plays a big role in helping kids get healthier too.
Meal planning allows opportunities for repeated exposures to foods and promotes more adventurous eaters.
It can also provide an opportunity for kids to learn to trust their body for hunger and fullness cues (or course, any eating opportunity does, but teaching their body to have somewhat of a schedule and trust of when the next meal/snack is coming is important for healthy hunger and fullness cues).
Likely improved diet quality of kiddos is also a benefit. We often don’t have high diet quality when grabbing last minute items. Putting some preparation in beforehand usually allows a balanced, healthier approach.
The time saved in meal prepping allows more time to eating together as a family or with others. And with that, there are emotional and psychological benefits (of both kids and adults) of eating together.
So Where Do You Start?
You might be sold on the idea of meal prep, but doing it in another thing.
4 Tips to Start Meal Prepping
Make a plan of what you want to eat before (use my Food With Staying Power Guide for ideas).
Make a list of everything you need and ways you can double up on recipe ingredients or meal components.
Making roast? Buy a little extra or plan to use leftovers in a freezable breakfast taco.
Plan the prep (time and energy)
I like to spend as little time meal prepping as possible. You don’t have to spend hours in the kitchen. The simpler you make it (less variety), the easier and less time-consuming it is. Whether it’s making lunch from dinner the previous night, or having 1-2 variations of lunch or dinner for the week, remember simplicity is key.
Have a back up plan for when things don’t go right
There are going to be unexpected things that come up. Have some food back-ups on hand to save you. There are some really great frozen meal options these days, (evol is one of my fav brands), but you can also have frozen quinoa, frozen rice, microwavable rice packets, tuna packets, nuts, seeds, pantry-stored almond milk, peanut butter, canned green beans, and more.
Ever heard the famous Hippocrates quote?
You know. The one about food being medicine?
There are some dietitians who are completely against anyone saying food is medicine.
I get it…Food can sometimes be taken out of context of a whole diet. That’s when you start to get people overly stressed or overwhelmed about any and everything about food – thinking they will get a chronic disease after one bite of something deemed “unhealthy”.
While I agree that someone who has a very disordered relationship with food shouldn’t focus on the whole “food is medicine” idea, I think denying the power of food is a waste.
Some people can genuinely be scared of food - which is not a healthy thing and can get really scary really fast. Some can become afraid of eating the wrong things so much that they can trigger a predisposed eating disorder or disordered eating pattern, like orthorexia.
Another common reason against food being medicine is that food does not act in the same way many pharmaceuticals do.
Just because food doesn’t seem to fit the standard pharmaceutical, it doesn’t mean we have to completely disregard nutrition acting as medicine.
There is a way to approach your food with health in mind that aligns with choosing foods as medicine of some sort.
And that’s why I won’t stop saying food is medicine…
First, let’s take a step back.
Medicine is defined as:
1) The science or practice of the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease.
2) A compound or preparation used for the treatment or prevention of disease, especially a drug or drugs taken by mouth.
Food inherently is a series of compounds and can be prepared in specific ways to be beneficial for health and can be used as part of the treatment for certain conditions.
Meds are often prescribed together with other meds - if not immediately, soon after when side effects start happening or when the meds aren’t doing as much job as expected or wanted – similar to how foods are eaten together, providing us a variety of nutrition.
Yes, we can’t expect food to the be all, end all. But we can’t expect that of medicine either. We see that especially when we see pharmaceuticals on top of more pharmaceuticals on top of more.
You cannot tell me that food cannot act as part of disease treatment. I use peer-reviewed research and professional experience in my nutrition coaching and while prevention of disease gets a little sticky (we can’t prove a negative), it’s pretty well known that someone who keeps a diet filled with lots of plants, healthy fats, high quality carb sources, and healthy protein usually has a better health outcome than others.
Obviously there are always going to be outliers. There’s always going to be someone who ate very healthy and got cancer, and someone else who didn’t care too much about their food sources, drank a soda every day, and lived to be over 100. Disease is not just about food. There are so many other factors. But to deny food has any part is something I cannot ethically stand by.
I’m not saying anyone has to be so cautious about their nutrition that it runs their life and steals joy from eating. But it’s important to understand that nutrition and humans aren’t black and white. You can come from a place of understanding the medicinal qualities of food while still having a very healthy relationship with food.
I still eat cookies. I still eat donuts. I still eat ice cream. I don’t have food guilt or shame. Ask anyone who knows me and they’ll tell you I really don’t care about what you see in my grocery cart or on my plate at a restaurant. I eat foods I fully enjoy and that make me feel good. I don’t have any stress around my food choices. Was this always the case? No. Did I had to work through my issues a long time ago and I learned that dichotomous thinking is dangerous. That’s really what I’m aiming at here.
In some ways, yes, food is medicine. In other ways, not so much.
Can we use critical thinking to see how food does fit into the definition of medicine but doesn’t need to be treated in the same way or overly stressed about?
You can have a great appreciation for nutrition and how it affects your body while still having a healthy relationship with food without stress and guilt.
If you want to get started on a journey to ditching the guilt around your food and working towards your nutrition and health goals, join my free 5 day plan. In the plan, you’ll get daily emails that give you the step by step foundations I use when working with 1:1 clients. Just scroll down and you free access will slide-in!
I’m not here for everyone. I’m not trying to change everyone’s mind or to reach out to everyone. I have a specific audience in mind – one’s that need to here this message that nutrition and health doesn’t have to be black and white and that they shouldn’t feel bad about their health and weight loss goals while raising a family in an already stressful environment. It is more comfortable to live in black & white. But true growth and change comes from learning within the gray areas of life.
Here are just a few statements that address my stance on weight and diets to clear up before we continue:
· Choosing to lose weight for health is not to say that health is determined exclusively by weight.
· Weight is not everything.
· Weight is not ultimately a health indicator.
· We cannot tell someone’s health solely on their weight.
· Just because you want to lose weight doesn’t mean people at a higher weight are devalued.
· Weight does not determine self-worth.
· Weight loss itself is not a behavior. Weight loss is the outcome of many behaviors – some healthy, some not. I work with the healthy behaviors rather than the normal “diet-y”, surface-level behaviors.
· Restrictive diets aren’t sustainable for the vast majority of people.
· Physical health is one piece of the big picture of overall health.
Now let’s continue…
I help military wives lose weight. There. I said it! I’ve been silent for too long. Scared of what the dietitians who are against any form of intentional weight loss will think and say. I gotta tell you, it’s pretty terrifying putting myself out here. Some people will criticize me and my message, but “criticism is something we can avoid easily by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” I’m not going to be silent because my current and future clients deserve better. They are the reason I need to be bold.
One of the reasons I hear people tell me why they want to lose weight isn’t necessarily because they feel societal pressures to look a certain way (which I wholeheartedly believe is a shitty thing that society has done for many), but because they enjoyed living life at a lower weight – they moved better, lived better, felt better overall at that previous weight. Their lived experience, that’s what matters.
We need to look at health from a holistic view - energy levels, mental health, stress management, joyful movement, adequate sleep, and self-care among others. Do you need to lose weight to be happy? Not necessarily, but there are so many factors surrounding that which could very well increase quality of life, which has a direct impact on overall health.
For some people, pursuing weight loss does not lead to good self care practices if
· There is an increase in emotional distress around food
· Food restriction leads to guilt when food is eaten
· They are not eating enough and ending up over-hungry then over-eating or binging
· Exercise is seen as a form of punishment or penance for food eaten
· Exercise is done mainly to burn calories or fat rather than because it feels good physically and mentally
· Not being able to achieve the goal weight worsens how you feel about your body, which leads to comfort eating or giving up being more active
The thing is that these are often the result of bad diet and nutrition advice, likely from fad diet rules, nutrition gurus, and NOT by the work of quality nutrition coaching.
These are usually the outcome when we shift our focus to weight and standard dieting rather than dealing with the deeper issues keeping us away from healthy habits. It’s easier to deal with a fancy diet than with loneliness, transitioning to a new duty station, depression and anxiety, relationship issues, etc. but without doing the work, diets will ultimately fail.
I emphasize the important health indicators like how you feel, levels of stress, self-care routines, etc. Your pant size or even total weight lost is not a health indicator. And weight change on a follow up appointment does not make or break success. Again, these can be health outcomes, but they are NOT synonymous with health. I am way more concerned about controllable behaviors and how you’re feeling about implementing them than your weight. I never push a specific weight loss goal on a client as that is none of my business. I’m here to support personal weight loss goals in a realistic way by healthy behaviors while sometimes needing to modify body expectations where certain body goals might not be healthy or attainable in a healthy way.
One reason why some anti-diet dietitians refuse to support intentional weight is because of the honestly terrifying results of dieting in published journal articles. Basically, there is an 80-90% failure rate of diets and regain of previous weight, (plus more) within the dieting industry. If you look at these studies, they aren’t doing the work with a holistic approach. The interventions are weak and don’t address underlying stress management, sleep conditions, and other basic human needs and issues that sabotage. They look at dietary habits, maybe incorporate some simple nutrition counseling and call it good. I was even part of a similar study as a student! Of course, if there are underlying issues that don’t get addressed, a diet will fail. I have seen enough success from nutrition professionals doing what I do to know those study frameworks are inherently flawed. I cannot ethically deny intentional weight loss when done in a healthy way, by addressing whole health and controllable, healthy behaviors. I am the first one to agree with supporting evidence-based practices, like not practicing diets similar to the ones in the studies, but there are quality research articles to support health benefits of even minimal weight loss in a healthy way. As a health professional, we also practice based on experience (anecdotes) and professional judgment. We need to be able to take evidence, experience, and professional judgment to practice to the best of our abilities because we are working with humans. Taking only one and cherry picking information is consistent with dichotomous thinking and can be dangerous at worst, unhelpful at best for clients.
Again, if someone truly feels better overall at a lighter weight, it’s not my job to deny them help in their health goals. To deny them would be against my ethics as a health professional.
Remember, (1) You are here for so much more than a life full of chronic dieting and (2) intentionally losing weight is not synonymous with unhealthy behaviors and a life of chronic dieting. It’s time to make actual changes and stop the cycling of dieting for healthy weight loss.