“If you’re not intentionally inclusive, you’re unintentionally exclusive.”
I think we’re officially past the point of talking about New Year’s Resolutions, although, if you made one, I hope it’s still going strong.
Along those same lines, a good resolutions conversation to have this time of year may be about refocusing. Most resolutions fail and it’s not because people are bad and can’t achieve their goals, it’s because of a multitude of reasons.
When it comes to eating, one of the downfalls of resolutions is often that they’re too restrictive. You can’t eat that, only eat this, no sugar, the list goes on.
In time with my next installment of my series about opportunities to build healthy habits, I’d like to make the case for inclusive eating – that means, eating a variety of foods and eating anything and everything you want. That’s right.
There are so many reasons to eat inclusively. Check out my previous blog on the benefits of eating a variety of foods to learn more.
A few reasons to eat inclusively: nutrition, avoiding bingeing, and a happier relationship with food. And, like any good habit, eating more inclusively takes intention. It’s not enough to just want to do it, there has to be a goal, a plan, and specific ways to achive it.
If you could benefit from expanding your food choices, whether to give yourself a break from being so restrictive, to find something new you love, or to add more nutrition, please read on to learn a few tips for healthy eating.
How to Create Healthy Habits
But first, let’s go back to the foundation of this healthy habits series. Like any habit, the desire and a goal along with it are important. Please don’t go into this with anything less than both.
First ask yourself, why do I want to build this healthy habit? Do I really want to or do I feel like I should? Find that purpose, that desire.
If you really want to, the second step is to set your goal. It’s not enough to say, “I want to build a habit of eating a greater variety of foods.” What does that mean? Does it mean daily or would starting with a new food once a week be enough to get going? A goal gives you something to measure, something to gauge success, and see where adjustments or improvements could be made.
Okay, now that the two basic foundations of healthy habits are there, let’s get on with the eating.
Opportunity #1 – Treat Yo Self
Let’s kick off this eating discussion with one of the keys to any healthy, balanced diet – treats. That’s right, treats.
If this is the one lesson I can hammer into everyone’s heads it’s that no food is bad and it’s okay to indulge in something that’s a “treat” every once in awhile. That could mean once a day, that could mean once a week.
To one person, a brownie might be a treat. To another, bread might be a treat. Everyone’s goals and metabolism and genetics are different so it’s up to you to figure out what foods best fuel your body and which should be enjoyed with the most moderation.
One more time for those in the back – food is not bad. You’re not bad for eating a treat. Use it as fuel and move onto something better next time.
Opportunity #2 – Fruits and Veggies
It’s nearly impossible to deny that fruits and veggies are good for us. They’re full of nutrients and lower in calories than most other foods.
If you’re not currently an avid fruit and veggie eater, take the opportunity to enjoy at least one of each every day. If you’re already a fruit and veggie aficionado, take the opportunity to try one new one a week.
Now there are some eating plans out there that don’t believe in eating fruits or some veggies. Fruit has too much sugar and some veggies are too starchy so they’re basically carbs. Unless you’re on one of these super-restrictive diets for a reason, there’s no reason to avoid fruits or veggies. Pile ‘em on!
Opportunity #3 – Dress Up the Veggies
Okay, the fruits and veggie thing is easier said than done. Especially when it comes to veggies, it can be a struggle to eat them – and, as importantly, enjoy them. Because, while food is fuel, it should also be enjoyed. That’s why you’ll rarely see me eating kale, regardless of how “super” it is (#teamspinach all the way).
In addition to choosing veggies that taste best, there’s another way to enjoy them, rather than suffering through eating something you don’t like but feel like you should eat: dress up veggies with cheese, hummus, ranch dip, something to make them tastier to you.
Opportunity #4 – Hide It
Not limited to just veggies, there are other foods that are healthy but we may not like. Rather than write them off as something that doesn’t make the cut into a regular diet, find a way to hide them in tastier foods.
There are prepackaged foods that incorporate veggies, for example, I buy a brand of pasta that includes a serving of zucchini and lentils. Cauliflower pizza crusts are super-popular now and zucchini bread has been a tasty treat for quite some time. Just a few ideas to get you thinking.
One of my favorite ways to disguise food is tough to recreate but it has worked for me – fish tacos. I don’t like meat, fish included, but fish is so good, it’s one of those foods I’m trying to incorporate into my diet. A really good fish taco is a great way to eat fish without tasting it or even realizing it’s in there. Figure out what could be your fish tacos then go for it.
Opportunity #5 – Try Something New
And finally, the whole point of eating inclusively is to try new things, expand beyond the usual.
The last opportunity in this month’s healthy habit focus is to try a new food every week. And new doesn’t have to mean brand-new, it could mean something you haven’t eaten in awhile.
Those following along with the monthly wellness challenges, please share feedback on this one. Additional tips? Opportunities that didn’t work so well? The comments are your space to share thoughts or ask questions so please do so.
In case you missed it, check out January’s healthy habit opportunity: tips to create a gratitude habit.