- Cook at Home
The first step to taking control of your eating habits is simple: prepare your own food. Cooking at home not only gives you the ability to know exactly what goes into your meal, but also has a multitude of additional benefits.
The act of cooking requires skills that many people do not regularly utilize, bringing out a unique type of productivity that integrates physical and cognitive function. Cooking requires you to think ahead and contemplate the composition of the food, the quality, freshness, and taste of the ingredients, along with the cooking technique you will use. For many people whose main day-to-day activities do not require these skills, the act of cooking is an opportunity to shift one’s focus and concentration. The process of cooking or baking is always rewarding, as it usually ends with a delicious meal, filling your house with pleasant aromas and enticing others to join in along the way.
To save time, Dr. Polak recommends planning ahead:
Set aside two days a week to devote to cooking, one day during the weekend and another around midweek. Store food in microwave-safe plastic containers in the fridge or the freezer for easy reheating. Prepare food the night before for the following day if you know you won’t have time.
- Snacks on Fruit, Vegetables, and Nuts
Vegetables, fruits, and nuts are excellent sources of calories, dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals, proteins, and healthy fats. A great way to eat more of these foods is to always have them available and in sight – when you can see healthy food, you are more likely to choose it over less nutritious, less filling snacks. For fruit and vegetables, Dr. Polak recommends cutting them up and storing them in clear containers on an eye-level shelf of the refrigerator: “That way, if we open the refrigerator in the middle of the workday, the vegetables will “jump in front of our eyes,” Dr. Polak says. Place fruit and vegetables that don’t need refrigeration in a bowl in the kitchen in easy reach. Nuts can be stored in jars for an easy snack, and if you find yourself looking to snack often, drinking water or tea between meals can keep you full for longer and help keep you hydrated.
- Integrate Exercise into Your Schedule
When it comes to healthy living, an active lifestyle is just as important as a good diet. Dr. Rani Polak takes a holistic approach to eating and expending calories, and suggests establishing a daily routine that keeps you both active and energized.
The goal is to pair regular activities throughout the day, which burn calories, with set meal times, effectively reducing snacking and giving the body time to rest and digest properly. “Our bodies can create an ‘internal metabolic clock’ consisting of periods of activity, periods of eating, and periods of digestion and rest,” Dr. Polak says.
You can start by imagining a regular day and thinking about how to integrate caloric expenditure – for example, light housework, climbing stairs, or a short walk in the park – and then link that with a meal. Start the morning in an active way with routine household tasks, or with moderate physical activity that includes stretching or a short walk. Breakfast will follow, with the type of food you eat and amount dictated by the intensity of your exercise. Do the same for your next two meals. If your job is mostly sedentary, take plenty of breaks to move around and healthy snacks to stay alert, energized, and active. This way, your eating habits are balanced out by physical activity.
Changing your habits and living a healthy lifestyle may seem daunting at first, but starting with small steps makes these goals more attainable.