Eating Like Children

Babies are the perfect eaters. They eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full. Small children are perfect eaters too unless adults unknowingly alter their relationship with food by using it for bribes, threats or treats.  Eating like children could be our solution to overeating and the way to enjoy food more.

Parents often complain that their children are fussy, don’t want to eat at mealtime or don’t eat enough. If parents offered them nutritious food throughout the day, they would eat enough and choose adequate variety of vitamins and minerals.

In our zeal to be good parents, we worry about them not getting adequate nourishment. That would only be a concern if we also offer them processed snack foods regularly. The allure of the sugar, fat and salt is tough to refuse.

But if children are freely given small portions of varied whole foods, they will pick and choose their favorites (what we should do), eat with enjoyment (yes, us too) stop as soon as their bellies are full (perfect weight management) and not differentiate between a juicy orange or an ice cream cone (imagine us doing that).

Remember, they are not born knowing that veggies and fruits are “good” food and sweets are not. We place that value on them and teach them our biases. So emulate small children eating… whether slurping an ice cream cone on a hot day or delighting in a plate of spaghetti and meatballs.

Pretty little girls eating ice cream in the summer

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Reacting To Stress With Food

Some people seem to respond to much of life in a laid back way. Others become anxious and stressed more easily. If you have developed good coping skills, then you’re most likely the laid back, relaxed type. But when you react to stress with food, you may become frustrated even more with the unpleasant side effect of consuming that extra food.

If you happen to be the one who easily stresses and worries, here are a few tips to use instead of always reaching for food:

  1. Turn to good friends or close family members who are willing to let you discuss upsetting or frustrating situations without judgement.
  2. Make a list of the issues that are in your control and the ones that are not. Don’t spend time on the ones out of your control like other people’s behavior. Spend your energy focusing on problem solving the ones you have some control over like your relationship with your spouse.
  3. Anytime you’re anxious or worried about a particular upcoming event, focus your energy on preparing for it as much as possible. Knowing that you’ve done all that you can do to get ready is calming and reassuring.
  4. Make sleep a priority. Everything seems catastrophic when we are sleep-deprived.
  5. Add some exercise that you enjoy. Exercise is a great stress reliever, but if you don’t enjoy the process, it will be tough to begin. Whether you choose walking your dog, gardening, bike riding or swimming, pick something(s) that will keep you engaged.
  6. Decide on another outlet that you can channel your frustrations and worries. Journaling, music, meditation, art (even coloring), working out and socializing with friends are just a few.

Because eating when stressed does make you feel better temporarily, it provides a positive feedback. But unfortunately, it can also cause weight gain and feelings of shame and guilt. As with every new behavior, begin slowly and add a little each day. And know that some days you will eat in response to stress and that is okay. You are human, so strive for progress, not perfection. Family gardening

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Don't Eat After Dinner: Myth?

If you have ever been concerned about your weight, you have certainly heard this rule, “Don’t eat after dinner.” The rationale used was that we are less active in the evening and everything we eat would turn to fat. Really?

Well, here’s some good news for you, if you ever went to bed hungry, with a gnawing feeling in your tummy because it was 11:30 and you ate an early dinner at 5:00. Eating in the evening does not cause weight gain. What does cause weight gain is the type of food you eat.

Being tired is a trigger for many to eat comfort foods. So you may be more likely to grab sugary snacks or salty chips. They are typically empty calories, meaning they are not giving your body what it’s asking for… fuel. If your are getting hunger signals, your body wants food- whole food that nourishes it.

So, the next time you are really, truly hungry in the evening, reach for a small snack that will give your body just what it needs. Also, make sure your evening meal has protein, veggies and no or minimal processed foods. We metabolize processed foods very quickly.

Here are some suggestions for an evening snack:

  1. graham crackers and nut butter (peanut, almond or sunflower)
  2. plain or vanilla yogurt with berries or sliced bananas
  3. cantaloupe half filled with cottage cheese
  4. whole grain cracker and couple of slices of cheese
  5. small handful of almonds and orange

Do you see a pattern here? A protein and fiber food in a small but satisfying amount. It takes a while to metabolize food, so don’t eat and hop right into bed because the digestion process can disrupt your sleep. Have your snack at least an hour before bed.

And if you’ve been active during the day, having a small nutritious snack (if you’re really hungry) will not add on pounds. Eating 2 bowls of ice cream a half hour after dinner will! Remember, eating only when hungry and stopping as soon as you are mildly full prevents weight gain… not the time on the clock. If you’d like to get more tips like this, sign up to the right to get them delivered to you email inbox about once a month. Cheese And Cracker Collection Studio

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