In our final installment of healthy eating hacks from Sonya, she tackles a big one - Being Ready for Snacking and Cravings. Here are four ways to stay true to your healthy eating plan when those cravings hit.
1. Choose Snacks in Advance.
The first step for banishing unwanted snacking habits is to simply not have tempting snacks in the house. If that isn’t a possibility, put the snacks or foods you’re trying to avoid in a place that’s hard to get. You can put them in a cabinet where you have to get out a step stool to reach them or put them in the garage. We also do this with beer - we do not refrigerate our beer. It prevents us from opening the fridge and mindlessly grabbing one. If I have to wait for the beer to get cold, that space gives me the time to actually decide if I truly want it or not. The more convenient the snack is to grab, the harder it will be to resist. In contrast, put the snacks you want to eat in an easy place to access. We keep a giant bowl of fruit in the middle of the kitchen on an island.
Snacking isn’t evil, but unintentional snacking is what can derail the best plans. Having a plan when it comes to snacking is another way to help make it healthier. If you’re hungry, you should eat. Most athletes cannot eat just three meals a day; we need more! If you make a mental list or even a list on your fridge of easy healthy snacks, it’ll make it easier to choose them.
We like to have sprouted bread and the Boon Cinnamon Spice almond butter as a go-to snack in between meals and before workouts. We also love apples and mini tangerines. You could also use soft taco-sized tortillas with a mix of beans and avocado as a quick snack. Find snacks that are appealing and work for you so that they sound good when you want a little something.
What about when I have cravings?
Cravings are caused by a few things - our brains are addicted to sugar, oil, and salt. The more we have those things in our diet, the more we crave them. They are also caused by the make-up of your microbiome.
2. Create a Pause.
My favorite tip for dealing with a craving is creating a pause before giving in. Say you’re craving a bag of popcorn. What if you ate something healthy first (like some carrots, an apple, one of your planned snacks, or even a couple of handfuls of greens)? I will often tell myself I can have the thing I’m craving if I eat the healthy snack first. If I still want the thing I was craving after I ate a healthy snack, then I can have it. You could also go for a walk or do something else first before giving in to the craving. Creating that space helps you decide if you actually still want it.
3. Ask: What Can I Add-In?
A general strategy I like to employ is not asking “what can I cut out?” but “what can I add in?” Oftentimes, when you add in healthy foods, you tend to crowd out the unhealthy foods.
An easy food to add in is greens. I’ve mentioned it already, but eating a couple of handfuls of greens out of the container makes it easy. Many people do not want to sit down and take the time to make a salad or a greens smoothie. Pick a green you like (we love arugula, particularly because it tastes good and is a performance-enhancing food) and eat a few handfuls out of the package. Are you looking for other healthy foods to add in and boost performance? Here are some ideas.
4. Have a Back-Up Plan.
Life happens. Maybe you didn’t do any meal prep. Having a back-up plan with foods you routinely stock in your house will make things easy. The back-up meal or meals should be super simple. For us, it’s my Asian Noodle Bowl or this pasta dish. Another back-up plan is a tortilla that we keep in the freezer, some black beans from a can, and avocado and salsa. You could also keep frozen potatoes or rice plus hot sauce to have an easy and fast burrito. What ideas can you come up with for fast and easy foods that you like?
But...what about take-out?
If you still just do not want to cook, remember that it might take you the same amount of time to order and wait for takeout to be ready as it would take for you to just make your own food. If you still want take-out (it’s always nice to have a treat!), ask what you can add to that meal to make it healthier. For example, we like to get Panang Curry with tofu. We’ll ask the restaurant to add broccoli to it and make our own wild or black rice at home. Ordering a pizza? Can you add some veggies to it or throw some arugula on top? If you're ordering a burger, can you get a veggie burger instead?
Eating healthy doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing, and it doesn't always go to plan. We often beat ourselves up if things don’t look perfect, but healthy eating is about trending in the right direction. If you start trending in a direction that you don't like, make your next choice one that moves you back toward the path. Making healthy choices is about making it easier for yourself. Potential barriers like meal prep, grocery shopping, and snacking can be made simpler with a little bit of awareness around better options and finding what works best for you. And remember, focusing on the good feeling you get when you repeatedly make healthy decisions will help you stay motivated.
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