7 Things I Learned When I Actually Paid Attention to My Eating Habits

I’m a creature of habit when it comes to food. I like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and have a weakness for beef jerky. I think it’s safe to say I don’t put a whole lot of thought into what I put into my mouth. So, I decided—for health and journalistic reasons—to pay attention for once and see where I could up my healthy eating game. So, I tracked what I ate for a week, talked to a dietitian about how I can improve my eating habits, and spent a week trying to do a little better. Here’s what I learned.

1. I should start eating earlier in the day.

I travel often for work so when I’m home, preparing healthy food often plays second fiddle to deadlines and social activities. I typically wait until I’m ravenous to eat, shove food into my pie hole, and pay little attention to nutritional value. This is particularly true when it comes to lunch. I often don’t eat breakfast, which means I’m famished by lunchtime. If I decide to have a morning meal, it’s often a couple of pieces of toast with butter. It’s beige and boring and I learn that this is a pattern in my food routine. (In fact, it’s lesson number two. Keep reading.)

Alix Turoff, M.S., R.D., C.D.N., C.P.T., tells me that one of the most important bits of info she tells her clients is to never wait too long to eat. “The main reason is because once we’re ‘starving’ we’re much more likely to grab the closest thing available or the most convenient food rather than the most nutritious food. With a little bit of prep work, which doesn’t have to mean cooking, you can ensure that you always have a good option around. Having some healthy frozen options (such as frozen organic turkey burgers and vegetables) or even a rotisserie chicken that you pick up at the store ready to go, you can avoid this.”

2. I eat a lot of beige food.

My fine-I’ll-eat-something breakfast? Beige. So is my go-to lunch of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. (Basically, it’s like I have the eating habits of a 10-year-old, but mostly I like this “meal” because it’s super-fast and I can eat it at my desk/sofa while writing.) I use regular creamy Skippy or Jif and not-especially-good-for-me strawberry jelly and whatever whole grain bread is lying around. We have “Tater Tuesday” in our home, which is when dinner consists of baked potatoes topped with various accouterments. Mine is often Greek yogurt and about 100 pickled jalapeños. It’s easy and inexpensive and sort of fun—but under the tasty trimmings, it’s about as beige as it gets.

Anne Roderique-Jones

Beige, beige, beige.

The problem is that my proclivity for boring brown foods means I’m not getting a wide range of nutrients. Nutritionists often say to “eat the rainbow,” which means choosing fruits and vegetables in a variety of colors. That’s because the phytonutrients that give produce its nutritional goodness is also typically what gives it its color. So the more colors you eat, the more nutrients you’re getting. My monochrome diet is clearly lacking.

3. My big batch cooking routine could use an upgrade.

For dinner, convenience reigns supreme. I make a pot of red beans and rice in the slow-cooker on Monday and plan to eat this for a few days during the week. (Though not on Tater Tuesday, obviously.) My other go-to for dinner is quinoa topped with black beans, avocado, queso fresco, and hot sauce. My husband and I eat this ALL. THE. TIME. because it’s healthy and affordable.

Turoff suggests that I swap my slow cooker rice and beans for chili. “For vegans and vegetarians, they can stick with a variety of beans as their protein source. For meat eaters, I recommend lean white meat turkey or chicken breast,” she says. “It’s also a great way to get tons of veggies in because the more veggies you chop up and add into there, the more volume you get per serving!” During my healthier eating week, I try her suggested healthy chili, loaded with white beans, kale, broth, onion, garlic, and tomato—a pile of good for you that clock in at just about 10 bucks. It’s bland. I add a few strips of chopped bacon that really kick up the flavor and is worth the extra $5 I have to spend on it.

But by day three, I am very tired of white bean chili. I am having flashbacks to the cabbage soup diet from high school. Turoff says that the freezer is my friend and suggests that I make a big, cost-savings one-pot meal, but rather than eat the same thing over and over every day that week, to leave out a few servings and freeze the rest in individual Tupperware. I freeze the rest of my chili and make a batch of turkey meatballs to serve over zoodles for dinner. (Cheap—and on trend!) There’s plenty left over, so my husband and I eat said balls again the next evening over cauliflower rice.

Anne Roderique-Jones

New and improved dinner, now with colors!

4. Weekends are my Kryptonite.

I often feel that I have zero self-control come Friday at 5 P.M. I live in a city that offers a cornucopia of delicious food and beverage options and while I often eat healthfully, enjoying things like oysters and veggies, I’m easily tempted with delicious restaurants around every corner. The weekend I start tracking my eating is a hot mess of food and cocktails that starts with an Oktoberfest where my dinner consists of a gigantic bowl of sauerkraut and two massive beers. (Hi, beige!) We spend the entire weekend eating out with gluttonous dinners and too much booze. My one at-home meal is a tortilla with cheese (see numbers two and three).

Turoff warns me not to give into what is sometimes called the “What the hell effect.” “Inhibitions go down and it’s hard to resist the chips and guac. Then it becomes well, why don’t I just treat myself to a margarita because I already screwed up?” She tells her clients to balance their choices rather than thinking of healthy eating as an all or nothing proposition. “Try to think about making one good choice for every ‘not-so-good’ food choice,” she suggests. For instance, if I have French fries at lunch, then I should eat salad at dinner. I like this theory. It feels manageable. I am happy to have a salad (and find that I crave greens) and healthful lunches if I know that I can treat myself over the weekend.

5. Airports are dangerous, but I can arm myself with nutritional weapons (and still get through the metal detectors).

I travel a lot and the airport is my personal diet shame spiral and an excuse to eat an obscene amount of beef jerky and drink loads of coffee.

Turoff suggests that I “BYOS,” which is something she lives by. “BYOS or ‘bring your own snacks’ is how I ensure that first of all, I’m not forced to spend $5 on a KIND Bar (airport food is so overpriced!), but also, so that I never have an excuse to make a ‘bad’ choice.”

On my next trip out of town I give this tip a try by stuffing an RX Bar in my backpack and purchasing an almond milk latte. I miss my breakfast beef jerky, but it sets the tone for my trip, and the following weekend I keep my momentum when I opt for healthy options like a poke bowl and green juice.

I now make sure to have a banana, a few hard-boiled eggs (apologies to my fellow passengers), and a healthy beef jerky in my carry-on, because Turoff tells me that beef jerky is making a comeback (praise the lord) and brands that are 100 percent grass-fed with no added sugar are okay. (Stay tuned for my next story on my all-beef jerky diet.)

6. Tiny things can really easy elevate a quick at-home meal from “meh” to “oh, this is actually really good.”

After talking to Turoff, I decide that I’ll start each day on a healthy note and make eggs for breakfast. They’re high in protein and very inexpensive. I whisk in a tablespoon of miso paste that’s been sitting in my refrigerator (I got the idea from Tasty.com) and they’re the best scrambled eggs I’ve ever had.

For lunch, I upgrade my PB&J. Turoff advises using sprouted grain bread, raw nut butter, and fresh berries or sliced bananas instead of the sugary jelly. It costs a few extra bucks, it’s just as delicious and definitely more healthful.

7. I like cooking more than I thought.

One thing that I learned during this experiment is that if I carve out time to cook, it’s something I thoroughly enjoy. There’s something that feels more like an event when I make a healthy home-cooked meal, rather than the same boring option that my husband and I have had a million times. It made us more likely to sit at the table, rather than in front of the TV, and we took our time and enjoyed our (significantly more healthy, less beige) dinner together.


Anne Roderique-Jones is a freelance writer and editor whose work has appeared in Vogue, Marie Claire, Southern Living, Town & Country, and Condé Nast Traveler. Twitter: @AnnieMarie_ Instagram: @AnnieMarie_


Source Article from https://www.self.com/story/paid-attention-eating-habits-for-a-week