How familiar is this scenario? You make a resolution to eat better. You start the day off well, feel encouraged and in charge. Then the afternoon hits. You feel like you did so well all day and now you are feeling like you are starving. You head down to the vending machine and grab a candy bar, because that one little piece of food probably could not offset all of the progress you made earlier. A caffeinated soda washes it down to give you the boost to get through.
Later, work ran late, the kids are grumpy and dinner turns a la carte. Even later, your day was so exhausting and you did so well that you also have another little snack that turns into not such a little snack in front of the television. You think that it is probably good to get the junk out of the house anyway, because now it will not be there tomorrow to tempt you. You really did try and your day just got out of hand, as it usually does. You resolve to do better tomorrow.
Choosing better nutrition is not as complicated as the victim mentality professes it to be. Many people express that making better food choices simply does not fit into their busy schedules, is too overwhelming, too expensive or a myriad of other ‘toos’ which are built up into a protective wall around their existing habits.
This mentality is based on the all-or-nothing approach, which simply is not realistic when it comes to food choices in the world we live in. Perfect nutrition is not necessary to be healthier, and the difficulty or impossibility of achieving perfect nutrition should not be a barrier to making better choices.
When a person wants to make a big change, the best way to achieve that is to make smaller changes that are liveable and then watch them add up into big results. Instead of trying to overhaul an entire diet at one time, which is very likely to leave a person feeling deprived or overwhelmed, it would be better to try changing just one component first. Let’s start with snacks.
When it comes to making better choices with regards to snacks, there are some good rules that can be followed to start evaluating their selections. When a person looks at the nutrition facts, most will go straight for the information regarding the number of overall calories. They compare this with some abstract expectation without thinking really about what they are comparing it to or why, and if the number seems high based on those perimeters, they put it down (sometimes).
Really though, the quality of calories matters much more than simply trying to get by on eating as few of them as possible. This is important for everyone, but especially if a person wants to lose weight. If a person wants to lose weight permanently, it is vital that they nourish their body properly, not starve it. There are some basic snack perimeters to keep in mind when reaching for those nutrition facts to make a selection.
Basic Snack Perimeters:
- Less than 3g of fat (and no saturated or transfats at all)
- Less than 140mg of sodium (salt)
- Less than 15g of sugar (ideally you would be looking for something around 5g or less or none at all!)
- At least 2-3 grams of fiber (more is better!)
- About 4-7g protein (to feel satisfied longer)
- Made with whole grains (to feel satisfied longer)
These perimeters are meant to guide you and help you compare choices and should not be considered laws written in stone. Even if a person found a snack that met all of the better choice criteria, it is important to have variety and eating the same snack all of the time would not be recommended even if it fits the rules. A variety of better choices will accumulate into better nutrition, feeling better and reaching goals in a realistic and permanent manner.
With these loose rules in place, the next step is to actually have a snack. This requires think-ahead planning. There is nothing wrong with being hungry; it is a sign that a body needs fuel. A person should plan for this eventuality by having those good choices on hand with the expectation that they should be eaten. Do not expect yourself to go food-less and then only eat when your body can’t handle waiting any longer and you cave in. That is a recipe for snack time disaster and fuels the overeating cycles that so many are stuck in.
The science of nutrition can get complicated and there always seems to be an even better decision could be made, but the key is to focus on what can be controlled in the present. Small better decisions add up and will encourage progress towards long term goals. In the end, we have more control than most of us feel that we have. It might feel easier to blame the environment that influences our choices for our end results, and in some temporary cases, it may even be warranted.
Most people are busy, there is a lot of information out there which can feel overwhelming and life does happen. Despite this, the short comfort of a good excuse will never be better than the feeling of making better choices despite having a good excuse.