Can we just cut out the term “cheat meal” already? This fuels the idea that foods are “good” or “bad,” and, in turn, our food choices then become this reflection of us, as humans, being “good” or “bad.” News flash, you are not “bad” for eating a specific food.
Balancing Physical, Mental, and Social Health
Health, as defined by the World Health Organization, “is the state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” When we pursue our health goals, we need to consider all three aspects. Often we only think of the physical, such as disease state, body composition, and weight. While we are consumed in fixing the physical, we neglect the mental and social aspects, or the very methods to “fix” the physical start to interfere with our social and mental health.
For example, have you met the person who won’t enjoy an occasional outing with friends because they are on a diet? Goodbye social health. Or have you met the person who is restricting the foods they love, such as bread or chocolate, because they hope to meet some type of health goal? Goodbye mental health (let’s be real, chocolate is good for the soul). Nine times out of ten, what ends up happening? People quit. They binge and give in to whatever they have been restricting. Well, goodbye physical health. Repeat cycle.
Let’s break the cycle. Let’s throw away that “cheat meal” mentally and explore ways to shift your mindset.
Indulge Your Cravings
Denying your body the foods you crave leads to obsessing over that food and/or constantly eating other foods to fill the never-ending void. If you have a craving, give yourself permission to eat and plan it into your regimen. Let’s say you have a caloric goal of 2,000 calories per day, and you have been craving chips. Incorporate 1–2 servings of chips into your daily snack or a meal. Read the nutrition label, account for the calories in the serving(s), and apply them to your daily calorie goal. Then, ensure that the rest of your meals include high-quality, nutritious foods that fuel your body’s needs. This is called balance.
Enjoy Special Occasions
If you are going out for a date night or meal with your friends or family, ENJOY THE OCCASION. On the day of the event, try to eat lighter meals before and after, filling up on protein-rich sources. During the event, be sure to eat, laugh, and soak in the moment. Feed your social health. Then, move on with your life. Do not stay hung up on that one night, because one night will not derail your physical health progress. It’s the foods we eat consistently over time that matter.
Find Nutritious Swaps
Food swaps usually come in handy when preparing recipes. Identify the foods you love the most, such as pizza, brownies, tacos, dips, etc. Replace ingredients with choices that are lower-calorie or better for your specific health goals. For example, instead of high-fat red meat for tacos, try lean turkey. Instead of a pizza crust made with refined flour, try a crust made with whole grains. Swap the high-fat cheese for cheese made with skim or 1% milk. Like ice cream? Consider making ice cream out of frozen fruit or trying a frozen yogurt bar. Give Greek yogurt a try for the base of your dips. The possibilities are endless. This won’t work on everything, but it can for some food choices. Pinterest will come in handy here.
Honor Your Health
I will leave you with this final thought, because it is the most important concept: Honor your health. Registered Dietitian Evelyn Tribole says it best: “Make food choices that honor your health and taste buds while making you feel good. Remember that you don’t have to eat perfectly to be healthy. You will not suddenly get a nutrient deficiency or become unhealthy, from one snack, one meal, or one day of eating. It’s what you eat consistently over time that matters. Progress, not perfection, is what counts.”
This blog was written by Sabrina Goshen, NIFS Registered Dietitian. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.