Eating right takes planning

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Life Moments column
By Christine Bryant

I never knew eating could be so hard.

I’ve never pretended to be a healthful eater. I generally avoid fast food, don’t load up my cart at the grocery store with a ton of processed foods, and enjoy visiting farmers markets during this time of year.

When it comes to meal planning and watching what I eat, that needs some work.

Often I come home with bags full of fresh produce, only to throw half of it away at the end of the week. I have good intentions – to eat salads every day and snack on fresh fruit instead of other items in the pantry, but finding the will power to do so is harder and often more complicated than what I would like to admit.

Having two kids, like many parents, I have at least a few “snacky” items in my pantry, whether it’s crackers, granola bars or cereal that doesn’t taste like the cardboard box it comes in. The temptation to bypass those items in favor of the more healthful items I picked out earlier in the week often is too great.

Call it impulse-control problems or simply bad-decision making, but I find myself on the losing end of that battle.

Don’t get me started on when it’s Girl Scout cookie time, Halloween or Easter basket time.

I have learned a few tips along the way. The most important way to control your impulse to grab a not-so-healthy treat instead of a healthy one is to not have that option. I’ve gotten pretty good about refraining from purchasing unhealthy foods at the store, but the temptation to grab salty treats like crackers or granola bars that are more chocolate and sugar than oats and nuts is real.

Even if you have the intention of only grabbing one of those not-so-healthy treats a day, just don’t. Unless you have the impulse control of an elite athlete, don’t even bother. Keep all temptations out of the house.

If you really want to treat yourself to a treat once a day, opt for something that is easy to eat in moderation. For example, the last few times I’ve gone to the grocery store, I’ve bought hot chocolate. It’s sweet and hits the spot after dinner, but you never really want more than one cup of hot chocolate.

Meal planning also helps with the temptation of ordering pizza and take-out, and I’ve found using those curb-side grocery services really removes the temptation of impulse buying while at the store.

That’s what I’ve learned so far. I still have a long way to go, but I did find a few other tips online that might help you if you’re struggling just as I am:

•Set small, measurable goals. Often it’s easy to go all in, and then quickly opt out. Set realistic goals first, like upping your water intake or making sure each meal has at least one fruit or vegetable. Then from there, set another goal.

•Pick a day and prep the food. If you make big batches of grains at the beginning of the week, or spend an hour or two cleaning vegetables and fruit ahead of time, you may be more likely to grab them in a pinch knowing you don’t have to go through the process of prepping them each time.

•Enjoy foods in moderation. Deprivation tends to backfire, so enjoy your favorite treat in moderation. The tricky part is not overindulging.

•Lastly, perhaps the best advice I found was to not let one setback keep you from attaining your goal. It’s easy to slip up – and overindulge. If you do, make your next choice a healthy one and build from there.
Christine Bryant is a Messenger staff writer and columnist.

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