When "Healthy" Choices Backfire
In an effort to make healthier choices, you've started changing up your usual food routine. For breakfast, you have a granola bar and an apple on your way out the door. At lunch, you sit down to a salad packed with healthy vegetables, feeling great about your new way of life.
By mid-afternoon, you're ravenous and having trouble focusing so you break out your banana for a healthy snack. You're still hungry but you've been doing so good! This must just be what healthy feels like. At dinner, you have some grilled chicken and roasted vegetables but by 8:00p, you break down and find yourself halfway through a pint of ice cream with no intention of stopping.
Does this sound familiar? Maybe it's because carbohydrates and fats are often demonized in popular culture but, in an effort to make healthier choices, people often forget to include the very foods that will actually satisfy and sustain them until their next meal. This sets you up for an evening battle against biology as your body demands the nutrients that were lacking during the day. At this point, you end up eating far more than you otherwise would have.
The solution is simple - make sure each meal has a combination of fat, fiber, and protein to keep you full longer!
Although a granola bar with fruit seems like a healthy choice, it doesn't provide enough calories to make a full meal and is also lacking in filling protein and fats. Skimping on calories early in the day is not a great idea - you'll just end up ravenous later in the day! Plus, you need fuel for the most active part of your day. Here are some more filling breakfast options:
- homemade granola bites + Greek yogurt + fruit
- 2 slices whole wheat toast or 2 whole grain waffles + peanut butter + banana
- breakfast burrito: whole wheat tortilla, black beans, scrambled egg, avocado, salsa, feta cheese
Vegetables may pack a load of fiber, but salads need fat, protein, and carbohydrates if you plan to make your salad a meal. If you're bringing a salad for lunch, consider adding at least two of the following:
- protein: tuna, chicken, beans, hummus
- fat: salad dressing, nuts, avocado
- carbs: whole wheat bread or roll, whole grain crackers
While fruit is a great snack option, it isn't quite filling enough on it's own. Adding some fat and/or protein will sustain you longer. The following snack options offer more balance:
- pretzels or whole grain crackers + peanut butter or hummus
- fruit + peanut butter or trail mix
- string cheese + fruit or crackers
- Greek yogurt + nuts or nut butter
- deli meat + crackers + cheese
- veggies + hummus
- 1/2 peanut butter or deli meat sandwich
Again, although a dinner of chicken and vegetables contains foods traditionally considered healthy, it is lacking in carbohydrates. Inadequate carbohydrate intake is what leads to cravings for sugary or carbohydrate-rich foods later in the evening. Consider adding one of the following to round out the meal:
- whole wheat pasta, brown or wild rice, bread or rolls, quinoa, potatoes
Having all of the macronutrients (carbohydrate, protein, fat) at each meal fills you up and makes the meal more satisfying. You'll probably also notice more energy throughout the day. Check out our things in bowls posts if you need some recipe ideas!
Adding in some fun foods like chocolate or ice cream here and there is also a great way to make healthy eating more sustainable. One meal or snack will not make or break your health and avoiding fun foods that you enjoy only sets you up to feel out of control around those foods. You aren't a failure for wanting a food that isn't 100% nutrient packed. You're human!