Whether it’s the foods on your kitchen counters, eye-level in the fridge or in bowls on a cocktail table, we know that tempting food cues in your environment can lead to overeating.
Too often, patients tell me they have no willpower and don’t understand why they can’t say no to all the tempting foods around them.
I tell them that good intentions are no match for the foods around you that look good, smell good and bring you pleasure.
It’s an unfair battle as we are biologically engineered to seek and enjoy good-tasting food.
Rather than having to rely on willpower to make tough food choices throughout the day, I recommend changing up the food cues around you to minimize the number of tough choices you have to make.
Here are some tips to guide you:
1-Identify the Tempting Foods that Keep Calling Your Name
Calorie-dense sweet, savory and salty snack foods, like chips, cookies, candies and ice cream, are often the culprit.
Food companies have engineered these foods to make it difficult for any of us to stop eating them.
It’s not that you can’t enjoy these foods anymore, but you can make some simple changes at home to make the healthiest options the easiest choices and leave the less healthful options for special occasions, not daily indulgences.
Make a plan to clear your home of these less healthful, tempting foods and commit to not bringing them into your home, except for special occasions.
If other members of the family insist on having certain treats at home, see the ‘at home tips’ in # 3 below.
2-Purchase Healthier Substitutes so You Don’t Feel Deprived
My most successful patients are the one who identify healthier substitutes for the foods they enjoy so they don’t feel deprived; it’s important to drop the diet deprivation mindset.
This requires label reading and comparing nutrition facts of similar products to find ones that are most healthful.
In my latest book, Six Factors to Fit: Weight Loss that Works for You!, we have tables of grab-and-go healthy snack options, along with examples of ways to satisfy sweet, salty and savory cravings in healthier ways.
- For sweet cravings, try frozen grapes, sweet cheeries, kettlecorn-style popcorn, a 1-ounce square of dark chocolate or a calorie-controlled fruit and nut bar.
- For salty cravings, try a portion-controlled trail mix, kale chips, celery sticks with nut butter or roasted garbanzo beans.
- For savory or creamy cravings, try mashed avocado on a high fiber cracker, hard-boiled egg with spicy mustard or Laughing Cow cheese on pear slices.
3-Make Healthy Options the Easiest Choices at Home
Since family members may insist on keeping tempting treats at home, I recommend that you keep them out of sight or on a high shelf in opaque containers or even in another less accessible room, like the laundry room.
It’s also helpful to clear counters of snack foods and replace with a bowl of fresh fruit as well as remove candy and nut bowls from your living areas.
Know that if cookies and fruit are both on the counter, no matter how much you tell yourself you should eat the fruit, it will be hard not to reach for the cookies.
In the refrigerator, move produce from the crisper drawer to the eye-level shelf and move less-healthy foods to the crisper drawers.
Together, taking these steps will help you take control of your food environment at home, so it works for you, not against you.
Robert Kushner, MD