You've read it all and probably tried it all: don't eat after 8 p.m.; eliminate white foods; this food is the enemy and that food is a lifesaver. It's confusing. So, it's time to break it down and understand the basics of good eating.
What: Nutritional science tells us over and over that the best diet - the one that provides the most energy with the best health benefits - is a diet built on whole grains, vegetables, and fruits. What does that mean? It means that rather than thinking of these foods as side dishes and snacks, we are to build our meals around them and consider them our go-to foods throughout the day. If you choose to include meat and poultry, choose lean cuts and smaller portions.
Where: Science again confirms that the best place to eat is at a table with little to no distractions. Eating in front of a television, iPad, while driving, at your computer, etc. can add significant calories to your day. When we are distracted while eating, we stop paying attention to our hunger. We eat mindlessly and often well past the point of being satisfied.
When: There is less agreement concerning the best times to eat but this we know. Eating causes a reaction in the body. Blood sugars rise, insulin levels rise in response to the blood sugars, the digestive process begins, body temperature rises, and a number of hormones are activated that have to do with feeling "full." The body continues to work, converting food into energy for cellular use. Understanding that, it is only logical to think that eating late can create sleeping problems. It is also logical to think that eating in the morning can help create needed energy for the day. Given that, eating regular meals - but not just before bed - makes sense.
Why: This is the simplest question: because we're hungry. But it is also the most difficult question. While we may know that food is a natural response to hunger and a need for energy, the real reasons we eat are significantly more complicated. They are related to emotions, stress, habits, family traditions, celebrations, expectations and more. What we eat, where we eat, and when we eat are often less about food and more about our lives and how we are feeling. To begin to separate food from all of the non-food reasons we eat, we must first be willing to look at what we are doing and how we are feeling. Take time to write down what you eat, when, where and most importantly - why you are eating. Are you hungry? Stressed? Sad? Because the clock says you have to? With this information, you can begin to respond to the demands and emotions of the day without using food. And that is a healthy choice.
This article was published in the November 2014 edition of the Healthy U @ Work newsletter from WorkingWell. Courtesy of Complete Wellness Solutions. WorkingWell is a network of occupational health services and part of Franciscan Health. With locations in Northwest Indiana and Greater Indianapolis, WorkingWell’s team of professionals provide high-quality medical care to business and industry, with a primary goal to work closely with employers to ensure employees are “working well.”