One of the biggest barriers to maintaining healthy eating habits comes in those moments when you are hungry and just want something to eat regardless! No one likes to be hungry. Food is fuel and we need to tank up at least a few times in the day. Unless you are stocked up and prepared for those moments, its pretty certain you’re going to grab whatever is quick, easily prepared or just to hand, to satisfy that growling tummy!!
Added to this we live in a world that makes it so easy for us to fill up on those convenient nutrition-less empty calories. The occasional instant gratification is completely fine, but not only are we humans hungry creatures, we are also creatures of habit and that ‘occasional’ soon becomes a regular habit. And, guess what, those same foods are usually addictive, so if you don’t want to get hooked you’re best off avoiding them.
Does this sound familiar to you? Well you are not alone! This is a challenge that so many of us deal with on a day to day basis, and the only way around it is to be prepared. A really good place to start is with a kitchen makeover. Bringing fresh energy and fresh food into the kitchen and removing all of the foods and items that make us unhealthy and unwell, is an important step to making better choices and overcoming food cravings and addictions.
The cure for what ails us all, in both our bodies and the world outside our front door, can be found in the kitchen. It could be a place to rebuild community and connection, strengthen bonds with family and friends, teach life-giving skills to our children, and enrich and nourish our bodies and souls.
But first, we need to break the addiction cycle and put a halt to our cravings. These cravings may have sabotaged your weight loss efforts now or in the past? Why not stack the odds in your favour by removing the items that have kept you trapped, sick and miserable? Or, to put it another way: Why not set yourself up for optimal success by making your kitchen a happy, hopeful place filled only with delicious real whole foods that will nourish and genuinely feed your body and soul?
If you make your kitchen a safe zone, with only foods that nourish rather than damage, then you will automatically make the right choices. If you fill it with processed convenience foods, you will eat that junk no matter how much willpower you have.
Kitchen ready in 4 easy steps
Step 1: Reclaim your kitchen by replacing anything that is processed with real, fresh, whole foods without labels. A fresh avocado or a kiwi doesn’t come with a nutrition facts label, a bar code or an ingredient list. Some of the more questionable items are those that come in boxes, jars, cans and other packaging. In other words most convenience foods. When reading through the ingredients, look for items that you don’t recognize, can’t pronounce, are listed in Latin or aren’t items you would normally have in your cupboard. Think twice about purchasing foods with health claims on the labels. These claims usually signal a marketing ploy to make you think they’re good for you when they’re really just pretending to be healthy. Examples include items like sports beverages, energy bars and even cereals fortified with this, that and the other.
Step 2: In a bid to remove all the junk food from the cupboard, don’t forget that this includes any food which contains added sugar and goods that contain refined and processed white flours. Examples include biscuits, cakes, white bread and white pasta. Even seemingly safe foods like spices and seasonings can contain maltodextrin and autolyzed yeast extract, that have no place in a healthy kitchen. Sometimes you need a magnifier to read labels. This is convenient for the food producer and makes it less likely that you will examine it. Option 1: Buy a magnifying glass? Option 2: Buy only packaged foods with a minimum of added ingredients. If you are finding that you require a degree in food chemistry to identify the ingredients on a package, simply leave it on the supermarket shelf.
Step 3: Remove all unhealthy fats. The wrong fats can wreak havoc on your metabolism. Throw out any highly refined cooking oils such as corn and soy, fried foods you may have stored in your freezer and margarine or shortening. These products have dangerous trans fats that create inflammation and cause heart disease. Check food labels for the words “hydrogenated fat” (another phrase for trans fat), which has been declared as unsafe for human consumption by the Food and Drug Administration [FDA} in the US. The Food Safety Authority in Ireland is not quite there yet but cautions somewhat about excess consumption of trans fats. The science is much more clear – they are damaging to your health, full stop!
Step 4: Throw out any food with artificial sweeteners of all kinds (aspartame, NutraSweet, Splenda, sucralose, and sugar alcohols — any word that ends with “ol,” like xylitol or sorbitol). Stevia may be better than aspartame but only whole plant extract. You may be able to purchase this from a health store. And when using whole plant extract stevia, use it sparingly. But remember, any sweetener can cause you to be hungry, lower your metabolism, create gas, disrupt you brain chemistry and store belly fat. You can’t fool your body, it tastes the sweetness and looks for the hit. No calories, no energy, no hit… physiological response… I need more!! In the long run it may actually be wiser to use some cane or coconut sugar.
If you’re on a budget and don’t want to chuck out these toxic foods before you do your next shop, then just don’t continue to replace them once they are gone. You will quickly and easily be able to swap them with delicious healthy alternatives that will leave you more than satisfied.
Stock Up On the Right Foods
Next, you’ll want to fill your fridge with plenty of fresh/frozen vegetables, fruits, healthy proteins and fats. You’ll also want to keep plenty of healthy snacks around in case you ever run into a food emergency. Instead of reaching for sugary, processed snacks, you can reach for nourishing ones like nuts and seeds, dips and veggies, fresh fruit and more.
Step 1: Focus on non-starchy veggies. These are things like broccoli, kale, tomatoes, bok choy, peppers, asparagus, cauliflower and so much more! Eat as many as you like! Limit fruit to twice per day because, although healthy, they can increase your insulin levels. Berries are low glycaemic and so these are fine. Have your fruit with a source of fat or protein. Example: frozen berries with some live natural yogurt or an apple with a handful of almonds. Whenever possible choose organic, seasonal and local produce.
Step 2: Stock up on dry foods. These staples usually have a longer shelf life and include raw or lightly roasted nuts and seeds, legumes, lentils, quinoa, brown or wild rice and gluten-free grains like oats, buckwheat and millet. These can form the basis of hot, cold, savoury and sweet dishes.
Step 3: You’ll want to have a range of ingredients including herbs, seasonings and spices to hand. Buy organic whenever possible. ‘The Health Store Ireland’ do a range of organic spices ‘Suma’ which are no more expensive than what you buy in the supermarket. Also, many of the Asian stores stock organic spices. Because you only use a little of some of these, they tend to last a long time so you get a lot of value from them. Here are some suggestions of what you might stock up on: Extra-virgin olive oil, extra-virgin coconut oil, sea salt, black peppercorns, and spices like turmeric, ginger, oregano, cayenne pepper, garlic and more. If you buy these in the supermarket just read the labels to make sure they don’t contain hidden sugar, gluten or other problematic additives.
Step 4: Keep your fridge and freezer stocked with protein. Good protein choices include: boneless, skinless chicken and turkey breasts; beef, lamb and fish like sardines, salmon and herring. Avoid those fish that are high in mercury such as tuna and swordfish. Free range or organic eggs are a great source of protein as are non-GMO soy food like tofu, tempeh and gluten-free miso.
Step 5: Get yourself a folder. Build up your very own recipe collection and meal plans for the kitchen shelf. No one knows you and your family’s taste buds better than you do. It’s easy to just say, I’ll buy tons of veggies and some fruit and healthy meats and fats, but what are you going to do with all of that food? Just start on a new path with a step by step approach to healthier eating. Begin maybe with a breakfast makeover, snacks makeover, lunches make over then dinners makeover. Healthy does not have to be boring or tasteless. Try to develop snack and meal plans that will ensure plenty of flavour and variety. By degrees your shopping trolly will be filled with real, recognizable food.
Here’s one to start off your collection – a link to a recipe for home made ‘Low Sugar Sweet & Sour Sauce’ that can be used in many different dishes. Its on the website of Christine Bailey, Nutritional Therapist, who was part of a BBC documentary about hidden sugars in everyday foods.
Eating food that is good for you is not about feeling deprived though it may seem like that if you haven’t even taken the first step. If you choose the right foods and the right recipes, you can reap the benefits of a healthy lifestyle without feeling denied. With the right planning your’re well on your way to banishing those cravings and gaining your health back. As creatures of habit it’s a little challenging at first but it will soon become effortless. A new habit! And remember, nothing tastes as good as healthy feels!
© Limelight Nutrition 2019