Why is it so easy to cruise through a bag of chips or a pint of ice cream, but when you get to pile of broccoli, cucumbers, or chicken, it’s hard to eat more than a cup or so? Well the truth is, it’s a little more complicated than not having self-control or even because chips or ice cream “taste so good!”
The food industry is one of the most competitive markets and there are tons of companies all clamoring for your business. Go into the center area of any grocery store and you are inundated with boxes and bags of processed food screaming for you to buy them with bright colors and million-dollar logos! Each one touting low-carb, fat-free, vegan, organic, etc all claiming to be just what you need and want. But are they?
Let’s talk about the lures of “junk food” and why it’s so easy to overeat.
Whole foods are harder to overeat because they contain more filling fiber. Whole foods usually also require more physical chewing than their processed counterparts, and this is huge! Chewing actually sends signals to your brain which help you feel more satisfied and full. Perform your own experiment! See how many chews it takes to eat a piece of carrot, chicken, or broccoli and compare that to your favorite processed food.
Beware! According to Precision Nutrition, there’s a major restaurant chain that injects chicken with sauce to flavor and tenderize it so it requires less chewing…allowing you to eat more than you need!
Money – most everyone likes to save a buck. You can walk into most fast food restaurants and pick a numbered combo meal that delivers a pile of food to munch on. To get the same volume of food in a vegetable and protein meal (like a salad or buddha bowl) you will likely pay twice as much! Even at restaurants the most healthy options on the menu are often the most expensive. But the trick is, you probably don’t need the same amount of food as that double burger with fries and soda!
Pro Tip: Creating healthy meals with veggies and lean protein at home is extremely inexpensive! In-season produce can often be picked up for fifty cents a pound, and 4 servings of organic chicken breast is likely to cost you less than $10, so get in the habit of preparing! Don’t get caught without a plan and forced to meander through the nearest fast food drive-thru.
When it comes to processed foods (something that doesn’t grow from the ground, walk, swim, or fly) a clear majority of health claims do little more for us than the traditional “junk food” brands. When grabbing that processed food with the halo, compare the label to the equivalent “not so healthy” box. Understand what you are buying. Evaluate your pantry and stick with whole foods that don’t need labels. Organic Macaroni and Cheese is not so different from the blue box brand…
Trigger Warning! Find your trigger foods, slow down your eating, and be kind to yourself! Jumping on the latest “crash diet” is not a good long-term plan. Try being honest with yourself, with how you perceive yourself, and then find a supportive environment. Look for triggers to your food choices. Are you stressed, tired, or anxious when you turn to food? When you feel the urge to overeat, from stress or otherwise, try going for a walk, spending time with a friend or pet, exercising, reading, listening to music, or anything else that will positively distract you.
Have you ever noticed it’s easier to overeat at a buffet? When “trying a little of everything” you expose yourself to more flavors and textures that your body will be more inclined to consume more. This same phenomenon applies to mix snack packages with things like pretzels, cheese crackers, etc all mixed together.
Stick with fewer food choices on your plate if you want to keep your waistline in check. A rule of thumb is to stop when you feel 80% full, because it takes time for your brain to get the signals that you have had enough to eat.
Get even more info like this from our friends at Precision Nutrition, and as always remember to…