Most people look at food as a source of enjoyment or entertainment. While this can be the case sometimes, looking at it this way all the time is not healthy. Food is actually fuel. Whether you work out or not, using food to fuel your body will make your day go so much better. When you see food as fuel, you’ll make smarter choices, become healthier, and likely feel happier during your everyday life. This comprehensive guide will help you to make food your fuel!
Start Asking Yourself Why You’re Eating
Whenever you go to grab some food or a snack, stop and ask yourself why you’re eating. This isn’t as silly as you’d think; many people don't just eat because they’re hungry. They eat because they’re bored. They eat because they want a distraction. They eat for entertainment. If you can become more mindful of the times you most reach for foods to comfort you, you can stop yourself and find something else to do instead. Eating for the sake of eating is not healthy, and you’ll enjoy food so much more when you eat when you’re hungry instead.
Choose The Right Foods For Fuel
Choosing the right foods to fuel your body is important. You shouldn’t look at any food as off limits, as this can create an unhealthy mindset towards food. However, most of the time, you should make healthy choices. We all know that veg and fruit are super healthy, and yet people don’t get enough of them. Try to incorporate a portion of vegetables with every meal at least.
Making sure your meals are a good mix of protein, fats, and carbs is important too. More on this later!
Make smart choices wherever possible, and be aware of the foods to avoid with sites like www.unsafefoods.com. Better yet, learn to read nutritional labels. Cooking things from scratch with healthy ingredients is best, but you can’t always stop buying things without packaging. If you ever wonder whether something is good for you, read the label. Check out the sugar, sodium, and things like that to figure out if you should have it. Some things just aren’t worth how unhealthy they can make you! In general, the more ingredients on the packaging, the worse the item is for you. The body likes natural things most!
Take Things Step By Step
Don’t try to completely overhaul your diet right away. This can work for the odd person, but it won’t work for most people. Trying to change too many things at once will no doubt become overwhelming. Instead, make one change at a time. Make small swaps. Monitor your progress and you’ll be on your way to a much healthier lifestyle! For example, swap your usual soft drink for water with fruit pieces in it instead. Or simply cut down from 3 cans a day to 1 can a day. Make teeny tiny steps in the right direction and you’ll get to where you want to be eventually!
Eat At The Right Times
Eating at the right times is a little vague, and can vary from person to person. Some people like to ‘intermittent fast’, but this is usually best for people who already have some knowledge of food and nutrition and have been living a healthy lifestyle for a while. The idea is that you have an ‘eating window’ of anywhere from 6-10 hours. For instance, 12pm-8pm. The rest of the time (including sleep) you fast. You just have water, coffee, and green tea. Anything with calories or sugars in breaks the fast. This can give some people so much more energy. If you find that food weighs you down or you’re not hungry some of the time, this could be a great way to start energizing your body and really listening to your body’s cues.
Many people say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. This is also up for debate. While it’s important to eat something if you know you’re not going to be able to have anything for a long while, you don’t necessarily need to eat as soon as you get up in the morning. Some say that you shouldn’t eat late at night, but if you’re hungry, having a protein rich snack before bed can help you to sleep better!
It’s all about testing out what works for you.
Eat To Support Your Goals
If you have goals, whether work related or fitness related, eating to support those goals is important. Let’s say you want to build some muscle, man or woman. You need to be eating in a slight surplus of calories so that the body has what it needs to build muscle, alongside your training. You can use an app to track what you’re eating. Bear in mind that just because you're in a surplus, doesn’t mean you can make lots of unhealthy choices. Some fitness professionals like to do something called ‘tracking macros’, which pays close attention to the protein, carbs, and fats in the diet. Doing this allows freedom because you can fit in the odd treat without feeling guilty, but you shouldn’t just fill up your diet with rubbish because ‘it fits’. You’ll likely feel rubbish, and you may even be hungry more of the time as junk will never fill you up as much as natural foods.
Eating to cut fat means you need to be in a deficit, but not a huge one. This is why many people fail; they starve themselves and can’t keep it up. Then they binge and end up with more weight than they held at the beginning. Taking it slow is crucial, as you have more room to play with your macros and calories this way. Cutting too drastically to begin with is just asking for trouble, and your metabolism won’t like you for it!
Know Why We Need Certain Food Groups
Now, more about protein, fats, and carbs. Some people try to get ‘healthy’ by cutting something out, usually carbs or fats. However, this is an unsustainable lifestyle, and the moment you eat them again you’ll likely rebound and pile any weight you’ve lost back on. It isn’t healthy, plain and simple! Instead, making sure you have a healthy mix of protein, fats, and carbs is important. Here’s a little about why we need each one:
- Protein helps to keep us full for longer. It also helps to build muscle and supports muscle repair. This is why it’s very popular amongst those who want to recomposition their bodies!
- Fats - fats are essential if you’re a woman, as they support normal hormone regulation. Eating too few fats will leave you feeling sluggish. They store energy, insulate the body, and protect our vital organs. They also help protein to do its job. Some say that healthy fats even support better skin, hair, and nails!
- Carbs - people think that carbs are the enemy, but this isn't the case at all. Carbs are used by the body as energy. Without carbs, you’ll feel weak and tired all the time. You might lose weight quickly, but as soon as you eat them, you’ll put weight back on.
Making sure you choose the healthiest protein, fats, and carbs is important. Here are some examples:
- Protein - tofu, nuts, kidney beans, lean cuts of white meat, fish, greek yoghurt.
- Fats - avocado, olives, nuts, nut butter, olive oil, coconut oil.
- Carbs - sweet potato, brown rice, fruit, veg.
Bear in mind that each one usually has more than one macronutrient in it. For example, tofu is high in both protein and fat. Kidney beans are high in protein and carbs. This is why learning to read your nutritional labels is important, and using an app will be highly beneficial.
Focus On Fluids Too
Make sure you drink plenty of water. You can also include green tea and herbal tea, as well as black coffee. If you choose soda, juice, and things with sugars and calories in, make sure you keep it under control and track them!
Although food should be your fuel, it’s about balance too. Don’t turn down cake at a birthday party if you really want a slice! Find a balance that works for you so you’re both healthy and happy.
For example, find time to make new and exciting foods with the kids and the entire family. Look at this guide for choosing the best waffle maker and go ahead and make the purchase so you can have some fun in the kitchen. There is nothing like a good Belgian waffle on a bright Saturday morning!
Making food your fuel is one of the most healthy things you’ll do that could change your life for the better. Of course it could help you to lose excess weight and look better, but that’s not the only reason you should do it. You should do it for the plethora of health benefits; feeling full of energy, strengthening your immune system, and fighting off disease. You’ll look and feel amazing right into old age too!
If tracking your food as this guide suggests sounds like too much for you, don’t worry. Doing it for a short while should give you a good idea of what you’re putting into your body. When you feel you’ve learned a lot, you can move to intuitive eating. It’s all about listening to the body and what it naturally craves!