What does it mean to be a healthy eater? Is it about carbohydrates, protein and fat? Vitamins, minerals and fiber? The truth is that eating healthfully is about more than the food you put on your fork, it’s about your relationship with your food. How you think and feel about your eating habits can be as important as the food itself. When food or the act of eating goes hand-in-hand with stress or guilt, it’s not good for your body or your mind. Are you a healthy eater?
Healthy eaters neither eat to live nor live to eat
You eat when you are hungry, but before becoming ravenous. You stop eating when you are satisfied or gently full, and generally avoid eating to the point of feeling stuffed. You can easily leave food on your plate or say “no” to second helpings if you aren’t hungry anymore or the food just doesn’t taste very good. But if you are still hungry or the food is especially delicious, you will happily eat more without guilt. You may sometimes seek out comforting foods, but don’t rely on food for emotional soothing or stress relief.
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Healthy eaters are attuned eaters
You are tuned into what your body needs and wants, choosing foods that make you feel good while you are eating them and after. You don’t eat a lot of highly processed foods, and because of that don’t have a much of a taste for them. You cook at home frequently, even if it means preparing simple meals. You tend to use fresh, whole foods but don’t shy away from lightly processed convenience foods like canned beans and frozen vegetables to make life a little easier. When dining out, you intuitively stay close to your core healthy eating habits, making nutritious choices that still appeal to your taste buds, but aren’t afraid to splurge on special occasions.
Healthy eaters don’t give food power it doesn’t deserve
You generally eat healthfully because you like feeling good and want to stay healthy. You also know that no one food has the power to make or break your overall healthy eating habits. You don’t engage in all-or-nothing thinking (“I ate that cookie so I might as well eat a cheeseburger”) or make moral judgments about yourself in relation to food (“I was good today because I stuck to my diet” or “I was bad today because I had pizza and a cupcake”).
Healthy eaters don’t obsess about food
You enjoy eating and put some thought into meal planning and preparation, but thoughts of what you ate/didn’t eat earlier or what you will/won’t eat later don’t consume your thoughts. You know that food is an important and pleasurable part of life, but life has many other pleasures and priorities. You don’t skip social occasions because the food served might deviate from your usual eating habits.
Healthy eaters aren’t swayed by diet trends
You eat in a way that suits your lifestyle and supports your health, and don’t see any need to jump on each dietary bandwagon that passes by. You pay attention to nutrition news, but are fairly immune to sensational claims. Even if you don’t give it much conscious thought, you know that no particular way of eating is right for all people all of the time.
Carrie Dennett, MPH, RDN, CD is a registered dietitian nutritionist at Northwest Natural Health in Ballard. Her blog is nutritionbycarrie.com and her website is carriedennett.com. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org