Do you want to be let in on a secret that can transform your eating habits with little to no added stress or pressure? What if I told you that you can start to make better decisions without needing to think about it.
Imagine yourself sitting at home on a Tuesday night after dinner when the craving for something sweet comes on. You start to go over in your head what sweet snack you want to satisfy this craving. You think to yourself “I really want that ice cream tonight but I know I shouldn’t have it”.
You are at a crossroads here - to choose to eat that dessert or choose a healthier option that seems more boring (ie. apple).
Some nights your craving will take you over and you will get up, take the ice cream out and start enjoying it. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this.
Some nights you might “stay strong” and resist the temptation to eat ice cream. You might tell yourself how it’s important to you to stay away from the ice cream because you don’t want it to impact your fit goals.
Now what if there was a way to make this decision a lot easier?
What I want to talk about today is how creating solid options in your house is at the cornerstone of a healthy lifestyle. Keeping good foods close by will have enormous impact for you and your family’s overall health.
It starts at the grocery store.
Our environments can either be used to help us with our goals, or hurt us. Think about how you feel when you have a clean house as opposed to when you have dishes in the sink, laundry in the bin and carpets that need to be vacuumed.
How do you feel when your house is in disarray? Are you more prone to feeling anxious? Do you feel uneasy and cluttered?
I know for me if we have a bunch of clothes in the basket sitting in our bedroom I feel this sense of lack, a feeling that something needs to be done. There are plenty of times where we simply don’t have the time to fold the laundry and put it away nicely.
Conversely, having a room that is tight and tidy gives a sense of relaxation, a sense of calm. Knowing that things are in order has a direct impact on mood and perception of your surroundings.
How can we relate this to food and staying fit?
There are many ways to set your environment up for success, but the first thing I want to focus on is how important your trip the grocery store is.
When you are walking up and down the aisles of the grocery store, you are making small decisions every time you put an item in your cart. That item is there for a reason, it’s there to be eaten at some point during the week.
No matter if it’s a food that is a worse or a great option - that food item will be eaten by someone in your household, at some point.
How many times have you gone to the grocery store, only to come back home and start unpacking several bags of chips and cookies. These bags are not inherently bad but again think about how your environment impacts your choices.
If you have many different choices for a late night craving, you're going to be more likely to find one that you want, in that moment if you have many options. Having the choice of something creamy and sweet (ice cream), salty and crunch (chips), or soft and airy (cupcakes/muffins) allows you to always match the craving that you have.
If on the other hand you only have 1-2 options for “late night snacks”, there will be nights that the craving you have just can’t be met with the food you have available in the house. On those nights you might just need to go the night without a late night snack! This can be a beneficial thing for you as it will help control what you are able to put in your body regardless of any cravings you have that come up.
This is a solid way to set your environment up for success when it comes to cravings and treats. What about real food though?
Real food works in the same exact way - what you buy on the day of shopping will indicate what options you have for your meals at home.
If you are buying a load of cold cuts, bread, and pasta you will most definitely be eating those meals throughout the week. Again these foods aren’t bad inherently but if you fill your cart and get home to unpack mostly heavily processed items, your diet will consist of those exact meals.
Copy a fit parent’s shopping cart
When you think about those people who seem to have it all figured out with their health - take a peak at what they eat.
Do they fill up their carts with vegetables, lean meats, healthy fats and smart carbohydrates? Do you see potatoes, broccoli, asparagus, chicken and ground turkey?
These foods can help bring you the success in your diet that you wish to see.
Just like in business if you want to be a better salesperson, you need to look at what the best sales person is doing and replicate those things. There is a reason people find success in their endeavors, there are no big secrets anymore.
This is not to say that these “fit parents” are perfect but it does hint towards the fact that making smart choices at the grocery store can have profound impacts on your health and lifestyle.
By just having the proper food around you, you are far more likely to make good choices day in and day out. If you are able to make healthy choices day in and day out - your body and health will follow those choices.
Making healthy living the easiest choice
As busy parents we know it’s incredibly hard to fit everything into your day. You need to take care of the house (cleaning, laundry, sweeping, mopping, dusting, organizing), take care of the kids (remind them of chores, help with homework, drive to friends or events) and feed the family (make meals, decide on what to order from). All while having work on your own to do to help keep the family financially safe and sound….this sounds exhausting!
In times of stress our bodies and minds want things that are easy and don’t require a ton of energy. Mental energy attempting to navigate your food choices for the night can be the final nail in the coffin, it can cause you to go over your mental energy limit and not make the best decision.
Have you ever felt you had the intention of making a healthy dinner that included some baked chicken, roasted vegetables, and sweet potato only to end up ordering food out because the day got too backed up?
Have you ever decided on just heating up some frozen chicken strips with a side of microwavable french fries just because it was easier and more timely?
In moments of higher stress we will go for the easiest option. This might not be the best option, but it is the option that we feel is workable for the moment.
This is why it’s so important to have easy, healthy options available in times of mental, emotional and physical drain.
If we consider how our shopping impacts our at home environment we can paint a picture of 2 different kinds of parents.
Parent A bought lots of quick meals because she knows that they come in handy. For example she might buy mac and cheese, cereal, protein bars, granola bars, deli meats, frozen waffles, chicken fingers and fries.
She also buys some fresh vegetables, fish, and some avocado’s.
On those nights that a full dinner can’t be made, or if she doesn’t feel like cooking a big meal she might resort to having chicken fingers and fries for dinner. Her kids love this meal and she feels like it’s a good one to have in a pinch.
She might feel guilty for eating chicken fingers and fries or feel that she can’t make the progress she sees others are making. She isn’t purposely making bad decisions but it’s just so damn hard to stay in on track all the time!
Parent B on the other hand, might buy things such as ground turkey, ground beef, frozen bags of vegetables, brown rice, oatmeal, almonds and cashews. She finds that these foods are also good in a pinch and are quick to make something for dinner.
On those nights that a full dinner can’t be made, or if she doesn’t feel like cooking a big meal she might instead prepare a stir fry meal that includes ground turkey, a frozen bag of veggies and brown rice. This is a meal she can prepare in 1 pan with limited clean up, and quick cooking time. This saves her the time that she doesn’t have as well as provide a good meal for her and her family.
What’s the difference between these 2 parents?
It’s about what they have available in their environment! Parent A can’t create a quick healthy meal because she went to the food store shopping for quick meals that are not great options. Parent B on the other hand was better prepared for these types of nights and has two-three 20 minute meals to prepare and cook at a moments notice.
This alleviates stress, creates good opportunity, and takes back control in every possible situation at home!
Which parent do you want to be?