Originally published on Whole Food Market's Whole Story blog
We know it. You know it. Eating healthfully is a state of mind as much as it is a journey. Each day, you make good-for-you decisions and take small steps toward your goals. Little by little, you create healthy habits that stick.
But temptation is everywhere: in your coworker’s candy bowl, on that restaurant menu and in your grocery store aisles (yes, even ours!). Unfortunately, those delicious enticements aren’t going anywhere, so how can you fortify yourself against them and keep on track? Glad you asked.
We polled our resident experts, the in-store Healthy Eating Specialists, for their best tips for resisting temptation and sticking to your goals. Their whole job is helping customers choose the best foods, recipes and meal plans for their particular diet and health objectives. (Many of our stores feature Healthy Eating Specialists. Check your store’s webpage to see if there’s one near you.) Here’s their pro advice:
Nearly all of our Healthy Eating Specialists agree: It’s so much harder to make good decisions when you’re hungry, so make sure you’re not famished before you head to the store, and yes, even a restaurant. Ward off hunger with a healthy snack, like few pieces of fresh fruit or vegetables and an ounce of nuts.
“Eat before you go,” says Curtis Whitwam of the Tampa, Florida, store, “Letting yourself get to the point of being “hangry” (hungry + angry), which we all know too well, can set you up for a trip to donut land. Stay full on the good stuff to stay on track.” In addition, he says, “Eat regular, consistently healthy meals that you love, so that restaurant food doesn't impress you anymore. Learn to cook and you'll know that you can make better food at home where you control the quality.”
Make like a Boy Scout and always be prepared. Start your week by making a healthy meal plan, write down what you need on a list and stick to it. This way, says Jordan Richardson of theSouthGlenn store in Centennial, Colorado, “you will be more likely to stick to your list, decrease the number of times you go to the store and reduce the amount of impulsive purchases.”
You can plan ahead for dining out, too. Most restaurants post their menus (and, sometimes, nutritional information for each dish) on their websites. Knowing what your options are, says Belize LaBoy of the Plantation store in Florida, will make it easier on you.
And Angela Dennison of the Naperville store in Illinois shares this handy tip: “Be the first to order. That way, the rest of the group will not sway your healthy decision.”
Trick Your Triggers
Everyone has their version of kryptonite, those usually bad-for-you foods that render you helpless (cookies, ahem). It makes sense to avoid those temptations and keep them out of the house, but Lindsey Kane from the South Street store in Philadelphia suggests you do one better: Learn how to make healthier alternatives of what you love to counteract your triggers.
For example, she says, “if ice cream is your downfall, learn how to make the equally pleasingBanana Nice Cream. If cookies are the culprit, become substitute-savvy, replacing plant-based whole food ingredients in place of butter, eggs and refined sugar (like these Carrot-Walnut Cookies or these Pumpkin Pecan Cookies). If nighttime snacking is your flaw, paint your nails or drink tea instead to distract yourself.”
Investigate Your Cravings
When you’re madly craving something unhealthy, ask yourself where that yen is coming from. Is it true hunger, or something else? According to Mary Russ from the Tallahassee store, “Take a step back and think about what it is that you are really craving. We often redirect emotional cravings with food cravings, and no food will ever fill that void.”
“If you notice yourself consistently falling into temptation, take a moment and consider your emotion, mood, and energy when you give in,” suggests Joy Chen from the Fremont store. “Many times people will notice that they are most prone to eating unhealthy foods when they’re stressed, anxious, tired, or basically anytime they’re using food to cope with a certain situation. Instead of using food as a coping mechanism, take a moment to evaluate your emotional status and see ways to resolve any negative feelings without using food. For example, when you’re stressed and tired, consider taking a brisk walk or talk with a friend instead of gorging on sweets.”
And Lisa Turk from the Belmar store in Lakewood, Colorado, recommends reading Nourishing Wisdom by Marc David. “It is a book about understanding your personal relationship with food and helps you look into the ‘whys’ of your eating habits,” she says.
Create a Framework for Success
Claire Smith from the Kitsilano store in Vancouver, British Columbia, suggests keeping a food journal. “Write down how certain foods make you feel. Sometimes the act of writing down a poor food choice can help you to make better choices in the future.”
Or, try a mantra, suggests Maria Clementi from the Coddingtown store in Santa Rosa, California: “Make up a mantra that you can always use to motivate yourself for exercise and making good food choices, like ‘I’m stronger than that’, ‘I’m worth it’, ‘I’m aiming for ultimate health’, or ‘I’m in control of my choices’.”
Give In – In Moderation
It’s okay to give in every once in a while, so long as you’re smart about it. “I know it sounds cliché,” says Kristina Voutas from the Coral Springs store in Florida, “but everything in moderation. For six days a week I adhere to a fairly disciplined food regimen but during that time if cravings come up I write down what I’m craving. On the seventh day I allow myself to have a couple of treats.”
And Lois Dorotiak from the Winter Park store follows “the 90/10 rule: Ninety percent of the time, eat for fuel and ten percent is strictly for fun!”
Keep It Up!
Finally, as Audrey Porter from the Cobb Harry’s store in Marietta, Georgia, advises, “Don’t let one slip up throw your whole day off! If you end up eating food that’s not very healthy, don’t get caught up in thoughts that the day is ruined and then eat whatever you want. You can totally turn it around!”
What are your favorite ways to make healthy decisions in the face of temptation?