Hebrews 12:11 says, No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
I don’t know if you've ever felt this way with regards to your eating habits, but I think we can all identify with how training our minds and bodies to be stronger (literally and figuratively) can be tedious, in the least! However, God works everything for His children’s good and has a perfect plan to prosper us and not harm us (Romans 8:28 and Jeremiah 29:11, respectively). Notice the benefits of training listed in Hebrews 12:11 – righteousness and peace. How many of us are searching for just a little peace with regards to our eating habits? Wouldn't we all love to finally see righteousness flow out from this area of our lives? Becoming more like Christ in everything requires consistent effort – training – on our part. He will meet us wherever we are, but we have to show up ready to labor if we want to see fruit produced in us.
When it comes to training yourself in the area of eating and nutrition, I think there are a few questions you should answer first. By taking an inventory of where you are, so to speak, you can better plan for where you want to go. This month, work on training yourself in the areas of food selection, food preparation, and mindful eating.
What is in Your Kitchen?
Start by taking an honest look at your pantry and refrigerator. What’s in there? How would you rate it on a nutrition quality scale? If you don’t make healthy foods readily available to you, chances are you won’t be eating them very often! Your goal is moderation not perfection, but do yourself a favor and make whole grains, yummy fruits, crisp vegetables, low-fat dairy, lean meats, legumes, nuts and seeds, and healthy oils within your reach at home. Here are some tips:
- Replace white flour with whole wheat flour – it works just fine!
- Make fruit more accessible by cutting up a bowl-full on Sunday and snacking on it throughout the beginning of the week.
- Keep fresh veggies on the main shelves of your fridge if you find yourself forgetting them in the drawers and noticing them only once they've wilted or gone soggy.
- If you would rather drink dishwater than skim milk, switch to 1% for now. Your taste buds will adjust eventually, and 1% milk is a much better choice over 2% or whole milk. You’ll save at least 6 pounds a year and that’s if you’re only drinking 2 cups a day!
- As cold weather nears, try a vegetarian chili instead of one with animal protein. You’ll get more fiber, less fat, and finally use those cans of beans collecting dust on your pantry shelves!
Who is Preparing Your Food and How are They Preparing It?
Most Americans spend half of their food budget outside the home – we really love to eat out! Eating out is definitely one of my favorite pastimes as I love ethnic cuisine and gathering around a table with friends without having to worry about something burning in the oven! However, I know full well that when I eat out, I am putting some of my nutrition decisions in someone else’s hands. Even if I choose a seemingly healthy entree, I don’t know everything happening to my food behind the scenes during preparation in the restaurant’s kitchen. In order to better guarantee that what I’m ordering is truly what I want, I've trained myself to ask questions and make requests if necessary. I always ask for salad dressing on the side – that’ s easy enough! I also try to answer questions for myself by looking up a restaurant’s nutrition facts online or asking for a copy at the restaurant. A colleague recently told me about how a popular Italian chain’s lunch portion of spaghetti and meatballs with tomato sauce (for one) provides a whopping 1080 calories and 63 grams fat (34 grams of which are saturated)! Who would have thought one lunch entree would provide around 65 percent of most people’s calorie needs for the entire day! It pays to ask questions and do your homework. You can still eat out and you can still enjoy the spaghetti and meatballs, but you can enjoy them better when you plan ahead and bring a few friends to share them!
On the way to our national conference in New York last week, I picked up the latest copy of Cooking Light in the airport. I love this magazine. It provides delicious and healthy recipes for every culinary aptitude. I am always inspired to go wild in my kitchen after thumbing through the vivid pictures and mouth-watering descriptions. Allrecipes.com is another one of my favorites. Whenever I have a bunch of something left over (squash, ground turkey, sweet potatoes, etc.), I can always find a new recipe that takes care of it without any getting thrown away a week later. Train yourself to try new recipes and get a little adventurous in the kitchen. That way you have control of what’s going into your food, and chances are you’ll save a bunch of money (and produce), too!
When are You Eating and Why?
Eating throughout the day really helps to curb your appetite and cravings. I suggest you ea breakfast, a mid-morning snack, lunch, a midafternoon snack, and dinner. Simply, spread your calories around. I am, without a doubt, a breakfast-eater. If I skip breakfast, I spend most of the morning staring blankly at my computer screen and in a bad mood. I might not eat right after I get going in the morning, but I usually always have a balanced meal of around 300 calories by 9:00 a.m. – and I am much better for it! For those breakfast-skippers out there, please consider giving your metabolism a long overdue gift of at least a piece of whole grain toast, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter, and an 8 ounce glass of skim or 1% milk. Not only will your metabolism thank you by burning 6-8 percent more calories, your brain will appreciate the fuel (in the form of carbohydrate) to get going a little earlier! When it comes to snacks, I am a big supporter of them! They don’ t have to be large – maybe just 100-200 calories (a glass of milk and/or an apple with string cheese). This will help you from eating the entire lunch portion of spaghetti and meatballs I mentioned above. Also, remember to consider why you are eating. Are you truly hungry or are you frustrated? Are you stressed or nervous? I know by now that when I’m stressed, I should go on a walk before I attack the bag of chocolate chips in my pantry – there is no peace and righteousness in doing that! Usually, after the walk I may still have some chocolate (10-15 chips), but not half the bag! Train yourself to sense when you’re truly hungry and when you’re just bored, and practice doing things that prevent you from eating mindlessly (going on a walk, etc.)
After you know the answers to what, who, how, when and why, you will have an idea of which areas you need to spend some time in training. Reality checks rarely are pleasant, but working through them and training yourself to dodge the common nutritional bullets mentioned above really will bring you peace in this area of your journey and spill over as an example of righteousness to others!
To good health,
Erin Dubroc, MPH, RD, LD