I do love junk food that I should never eat again. I won’t list names because that will make me crave them even more right now. Mostly I blame this on the incredibly unhealthy habits learned growing up. My parents struggled financially, and we ate junk food and fast food growing up. Although I do crave a fast food hamburger once in a while, I’m the pleasure while eating that food and discomfort afterwards are enough for me to avoid the purchase.
But it seems like no matter how much I enjoy healthy food, and learn to cook healthy recipes, I get cravings for the the junk food too. It seems like the habits learned early in life never go away, we just try to suppress them. And if I’m busy and preoccupied, I can’t resist the old favorites. This article explains the issue of ego-depletion (not what it sounds like) its a natural for people to struggle with making smart eating choices when they are overloaded, stressed, or preoccupied. So we need to prepare options for dealing with that situation in advance.
For people who think that eating healthy is expensive, that is a myth. Recently I made a healthy and easy dinner for $3.50, not per serving, total for 3-4 servings. I make a stir-fry mix of vegetables and noodles (egg or flour noodles, broccoli, snow peas, carrots, zucchini, and stir-fry sauce). I was shocked at the check-out stand when it was only $3.50 for this collection of produce plus noodles. This NPR story confirms my experience. If you can justify $4-6 for a latte, you can buy fresh fruits and vegetables.
We do have to research what we eat. Just the other day I read an article discussing the tricks food makers use to get us addicted to their junk food. They add fat and sugar to low sodium products to get you hooked, and other tricks. In a capitalist society, this is normal, and we must educate ourselves to avoid getting duped. Not to mention all the news stories of mislabeled food lately:
Mislabeled fish, at grocery stores and restaurants, on average they found errors with 33% of the samples tested. On the Menu but not On Your Plate. They even substituting tuna with fish that will give you indigestion.
- Surprise horse meat anyone? This food swindle has infiltrated across Europe and even into the U.S.
Even Whole Wheat does not mean that it’s whole grain, you have to check the package listing of ingredients. Multi-grain can also be misleading. All (wheat) flour comes from wheat, it’ just has been stripped of the most nutritious part of the wheat kernel. Some prepared foods use a little bit of whole grain in the ingredients, but still have more bleached flour in the recipe. You have to look for 100% whole grain to get the most healthy version. This is why people sometimes add wheat germ to a recipe. Sometimes they use unbleached flour to make it look healthier, but the flour is otherwise the same as white flour.
You have to know what works for you and your body and lifestyle. Here is an interesting article about the causes of snacking. No one solution helps all people. NPR just had a story about the way our natural tendency to be optimistic is counteractive to dieting needs these days. They have a few suggestions of ways to improve eating habits. Or trick your kids, or yourself, into eating more veggies with recipes from the Sneaky Chef.
Personally, I love Thanksgiving and all the typical foods that are unhealthy to eat together in one big meal; this meal can be 3,000 for some people. A biologist friend recently described to me the natural cycle of the human body to put on weight in the fall, when fruits and produce is harvested, and then lose weight in the winter months when food production is more scarce. This has likely been developed throughout centuries of evolution. The natural cycle of weight gain likely is a root cause to having so many traditions in the fall associated with food. I now give myself a little leniency to add a few pounds during the tasty holiday season, and in winter I kick butt working out when there are fewer events and activities happening to keep me distracted.
You can analyze your typical eating habits, and get ideas for teaching your kids how to be healthy, at My Plate.gov. My friend uses the website to teach her 7 year old how to analyze the types of each food on her plate.
Keep in mind, organic food is not necessarily healthier, although it should have fewer pesticides, but the production of food organically is better for the environment. But improving the way food is produced is a whole new conversation.