By Toni Carey
This post is sponsored by the American Heart Association Healthy For Good movement. All thoughts and opinions are, of course, my own.
Cleaning up my diet hasn’t happened overnight. It’s been a long arduous journey, that quite frankly, I’m still navigating.
As an running junkie, yogi and moonlight weightlifter, healthy eating has (and will probably always be) somewhat of a struggle. Why? Simply put, I love to eat. Like, it’s my JAM!
When I’m happy….I eat.
When I’m sad…. I eat.
[Insert any other emotion you can think of]....I eat
And for me, my diet has become something I have to keep a watchful eye on, maybe more so than most. Why? Hello, I love to eat!! After a happy (or stressful day), I’m the first one to say, “Hey! Let’s grab some French fries and celebrate (or wallow in our sorrow).”
About a year ago, it all came full circle when I discovered that over consuming heavily processed and packaged foods were not helping me towards my health goals and I accepted that the key to health really begins and ends in the kitchen. Sure, exercise is very important, but, I’m a true believer that food has a major impact, too. I’ve experienced first-hand how good foodscan completely transform your life, and nourish you on the inside and out!
So, you can see how this could pose a little conundrum in life. I believe when you know better, you should do better. But, how do you balance your love for Netflix + chill (with a bag of chips) with knowing that everything you put in your mouth is ultimately what you become?
It’s tough, but here’s a few things that helped me to arrive at a more balanced place to incorporate more healthy foods and cut out the over processed stuff.
Just Knowing Your Triggers Makes All The Difference
First, for emotional eaters, like myself, heavily processed foods were (and are) my number one go-to. I mean, let’s get real, who says, “I’m so stressed! I think I’ll binge on carrots,” or “Celery would be REALLY great while I watch an entire season of the “next must watch series.” At least that’s probably not the immediate reaction.
But, the great news is, I know that I’m an emotional eater and I know what situations might make me want to indulge in not-so-healthy foods. Knowing is half the battle! Once you know what triggers might make you want to jump in those bag of cookies, you can recognize them and decide to make better choices! At least that’s the hope (or at least maybe just indulge in a moderate portion size). Sometimes it doesn’t work out that way and that’s okay. Better luck next time! But at least you were aware!
It’s Not “I Can’t,” it’s “I Get To”
Okay, let’s get real. Whenever we think about eating healthy, we think, “Sheesh, I can’t have this or I can’t have that,” but honestly that’s not the case. I realized that I was taking for granted my ability to go to the grocery store and have access to tasty fruits and vegetables. It’s truly a privilege. Why on earth would I opt for a bag of chips when I could get nourishment directly from the source? So instead of thinking that you are depriving yourself, realize you actually get an opportunity to eat Earth’s best fast food...fruits and veggies!
Have You Looked at the Ingredient Lists Lately?? Scary stuff.
Because I have a ton of food sensitivities and allergies, I started paying much closer attention to ingredient labels on packaged foods. I was sickened by the long laundry list of man-made chemicals and other things I couldn’t pronounce that were being hocked as “good for you” or “quick and easy family meals.” We have a new house rule. If we can’t pronounce it, we don’t eat it. Let’s not even start on serving sizes! One too many times, I’ve “accidentally” eaten six servings of something when I thought I was only eating one.
Once, I was determined to choose my health over emotions and attachment to my beloved comfort foods, it was a game changer.
I’m definitely a go hard or go home kind of girl. I love extremes, but when it came to changing my snacking game, I knew it was going to be marathon, not a sprint. Large, sweeping changes, never, ever stick. Slow changes, day-by-day, do. Slowly, but surely, I started subbing out my favorite indulges with healthier options.
Here are some of my favorite substitutions:
Roasted chickpeas (get crazy with the seasonings!)
Carrots with hummus or fresh guacamole
Baked apple or pear sprinkled with cinnamon
Sliced apples with natural peanut butter spread
Fried French Fries
Roasted sweet potato wedges seasoned to perfection
Sweet potato hash with roasted potatoes
Sliced baked potatoes with salt and pepper
The American Heart Association’s (AHA) Healthy For Good website offers an extensive suite of recipes, videos, and articles to help you slowly add more healthy, tasty foods! What I love about AHA’s approach is that it’s ultimate goal is to help people navigate barriers so they can create and maintain behavior change -- they don’t just tell people what to do, they show people how to do it! You can also find other snack swaps if you have children!
June is National Fresh Fruits and Veggie Month and I want to challenge everyone to commit to one food swap! Again, baby steps! Also, join the Healthy For Good movement to get tips, tools & hacks you can actually use!