In our modern world, we encounter a deluge of contradictory messages regarding our dietary choices. The simple question, “what to eat?” quickly becomes overwhelming, confusing, and anxiety-ridden, creating an internal tug-of-war between our cravings and the latest nutritional advice.
Ironically, the criteria for categorizing foods as “good” or “bad” seem to shift every few years, leaving individuals bewildered and overwhelmed by the discordant and often arbitrary dietary mandates.
Yet, it is entirely possible to strike a harmonious balance between eating for nourishment and indulging in culinary pleasures. The challenge lies in silencing the cacophony of voices and finding that equilibrium when it comes to deciding what to eat.
Begin this transformative journey by asking yourself three straightforward questions when hunger beckons: “What do I want to eat?” “What do I need to eat?” and “What do I have to eat?”
Question 1: What Do I Want to Eat?
The first question to help you with what to eat is, “What do I want to eat?” might catch you off guard. Consider those moments when you’ve tried to resist a particular food, perhaps those tempting Girl Scout Cookies that arrived just as you embarked on a new low-carb regimen.
Initially, you may inspect the label, confirming that they fall outside your dietary boundaries. Consequently, you stow them in the freezer. But, lo and behold, two days later, their siren call emanates from their icy sanctuary, “Pssst. We’re in here!” You valiantly resist, opting for olives, cubes of cheese, leftover meatloaf, celery sticks, and a couple of pieces of low-carb toast. Yet, your hunger remains unsatisfied.
“Hey! We’re in here, and we taste divine when frozen!” You eventually succumb to your cravings, indulging in two cookies. “Well, I’ve already slipped up, might as well devour the entire sleeve and start anew tomorrow,” you concede. Does this sound familiar?
Acknowledging your true cravings without judgment can help you evade feelings of deprivation and regain control over your food choices. You might worry that if you constantly honor your cravings, you’ll always gravitate towards foods you “shouldn’t” eat. Initially, this may seem true as cravings tend to intensify when suppressed for prolonged periods. However, once you release the guilt surrounding certain foods, they gradually lose their hold on you.
Embrace the wisdom of your body, and you’ll discover an innate desire for a diverse range of foods that contribute to your health and contentment.
The second question to ask yourself to help you decide what to eat is…
Question 2: What Do I Need to Eat?
While it’s crucial to recognize that food choices are not inherently “good” or “bad,” it’s evident that some foods offer superior nutritional value compared to others. When contemplating your dietary selections, pause to inquire, “What does my body require?” Uphold the principles of diversity, balance, and moderation as your guiding principles. It’s ok to use your noggin’ too and factor in nutritional information, your individual health considerations, familial medical history, your planned daily meals and activities, and your body’s unique reactions to specific foods.
Remember, nutrition is a TOOL, not a weapon. Decide how and when you wish to use it, but it’s information, NOT the LAW.
Help yourself enjoy more healthy choices more effortlessly by focusing on fresh foods, appealing combinations, new flavors, and interesting recipes instead of just numbers and food rules.
And remember, one food or treat has zero power to cause instant weight gain or disease!
Question 3: What Do I Have to Eat?
The crux of the final question to help you with your decision making around what to eat is, “What do I have to eat?” all lies in preparation. When hunger strikes, and a vending machine stands as your sole option, you’re inclined to select a snack that may lack nutritional value, taste uninspiring, and not truly align with your hunger.
Instead, strive to maintain a repertoire of healthful foods readily available, ensuring they resonate with your palate when cravings arise. By doing so, you’ll prevent the scenario where tempting foods beckon you insistently, urging you to indulge. Google fast, easy meal ideas or scroll through platforms like Pinterest to get some fresh ideas that won’t take up too much time in the kitchen.
Now granted, you won’t always exert control over the food options accessible to you. You could know both what you WANT and NEED to eat, but what do you HAVE available? Sometimes, your options might be Panera, McDonald’S, or Wendy’s and you simply have to make the best of it versus seeing it as a failure and throwing in the towel. You still have choices!
So whether dining out at a restaurant, partaking in an office potluck, or visiting a friend’s home, take a moment to assess those available choices. Pose the question, “Is there a nutritious option that satisfies my WANTS and NEEDS without inducing feelings of deprivation?” Consider, for instance, whether frozen yogurt might suffice instead of ice cream on this occasion. Should your heart yearn for the latter, then indulge in that scoop of ice cream without remorse.
Finding the right balance of healthy eating is ALL about experimenting, so remind yourself that there’s no “right” or “wrong”. Stay curious, and keep exploring.
Having foods available is sometimes a matter of improving your logistics rather than your mindfulness. In today’s world, done-for-you meal kits and services are at your fingertips and are worth considering to help make your meal planning a bit easier for you!
As you begin to use these three questions to help you decide on WHAT to eat, know that your answers about what you want, need, and have available will differ at times- and that’s ok! You can’t always predict what you want, need, or have available. Asking yourself these questions and aligning your food choices with your authentic cravings and your body’s nutritional necessities WILL yield greater satisfaction and heightened enjoyment, making healthy eating a much more natural process!
Other Posts You Might Enjoy:
In our modern world, we encounter a deluge of contradictory messages regarding our dietary choices. The simple question, “what to eat?” quickly becomes overwhelming, confusing,
The weight loss industry is worth billions of dollars, filled with products, supplements, plans, and services all promising the elusive goal of the perfect body.
Am I worthy of success? Am I deserving of happiness? Am I deserving of the good measure that flows with success? I can’t see myself
Author Shelby McDaniel
Hi! I’m Shelby and I’m a food lovin’ nutritionist but…I’m not a regular nutritionist. I’m an intuitive eating specialist, eating psychology practitioner, and Certified Mind Body Nutrition Coach, here to free you from diet culture once and for all! Because you deserve peace with food, eating, and your body. (Yes, I'm talking to YOU!)