I have a lot of nutrition training, but when I think about what guides my daily eating choices, it’s usually the very basic tips I learned from my parents. Although not nutrition experts, my parents wanted my brother and I to eat healthy, have a healthy relationship with food, and listen to our bodies. With just a few simple family rules, they gave me a set of useful tools that have guided me through a lifetime of eating. Here are a few of the tips I couldn’t live without:
The 20-Minute Rule. It can take up to 20 minutes after eating for your brain to recognize that you’re full – especially if you started out really hungry. When I was little, I would sometimes ask for seconds right after eating a plate full of food. My dad would say, “I’ll set the timer for 20 minutes, and when it goes off you can come back and have seconds of whatever you want.” My brother and I would run off and play, and when 20 minutes was up we were no longer hungry. Even waiting just 5 minutes before you refill your plate may be enough to have a better sense of how hungry you are, if at all.
You can either have a soda or dessert. When we’d eat out, we could order either a sweetened beverage (juice, lemonade, soda, etc) OR have dessert, but ever both. When we would complain and ask why, we’d hear this: “because sweet beverages ARE dessert.” That couldn’t be more true.
No need to finish everything on your plate. The idea that you have to eat beyond your hunger so you don’t “waste” food is very old-fashioned. Finishing the food on your plate when you’re already full isn’t helping anyone who suffers from hunger, and it gets you in the habit of ignoring body signals. So teach your kids – and yourself – to eat when you’re hungry & stop when you’re full.
One Treat a Day. We were allowed only one sweet treat everyday, so we had to pick our indulgence. This trained me to save up my calories for the things I really love (ice cream), not waste them on things I just feel so-so about (muffins).
Pick out a cereal with less than 6gm sugar. When we’d beg for all the sugary cereals, my mom taught us how to read a Nutrition Facts Label and said we could pick out any cereal that had 6 grams of sugar or less. We’d spend forever in the cereal aisle inspecting the boxes…and end up with only the healthier options. Here’s a guide for picking out healthy cereal.
Healthy people eat “brown bread.” White refined carbohydrates pack tons of calories and almost no nutrients. “Brown” products on the other hand are generally whole-grain, and their fiber is heart-healthy and keeps you feeling satisfied. Here’s how to tell if a product is truly whole grain.