Your Food Environment is like your Nutritional Subconscious
Managing your food environment has the potential to make healthy eating easier and take willpower out of the equation. With some proper planning and minimal upkeep, you can manipulate your environment in such a way to cause you to think about food a little less, reduce the number of extraneous temptations you face, and make it easier for you to make better choices.
Food Environment Guidelines For Success
- If it’s not immediately in your environment, you’re probably not going to eat it: So keep it out. In some cases, the best decision might be to not purchase something in the first place.
- Keep the calorie-dense, low-satiety food (chips, cakes, lollies, etc.) in less visible and less convenient locations.
- If you want a nutrient-dense food to be prevalent in your diet, make it prevalent in your environment. For example, keep a fruit bowl in plain sight in your kitchen so you can easily see AND access it. Keep refrigerated vegetables on the front and middle shelves of your refrigerator, and keep more calorie-dense refrigerated items near the back and on top or bottom shelves
- Generally speaking, food variety may increase food consumption. Consequently, keep a wide variety of foods you want to eat more of (like fruits, vegetables, and lean protein sources), and keep a narrow variety of junk foods.
- Try to eat meals in a non-distracted setting like at a table without a television.
- If you are serving food out of large bowls/containers, do not keep the serving bowls at the dining table. Leave them on a counter or in the kitchen so you have to portion your food on to your plate and bring the plate to the table. This makes it less likely that you’ll keep adding more food to your plate. This same strategy applies to snack foods.
- If you tend to graze, stop hanging out in the kitchen! Likewise, if you’re at a social event, creating physical distance from certain foods can be quite helpful.
What This All Comes Down To:
Foods that you should be eating MORE of need to be more visible, more convenient, more prevalent, and of greater variety in your environment.
Foods that you need to eat LESS of should be less visible, less convenient, less prevalent, and of lower variety (in some cases nonexistent!) in your environment
Practice intelligent and regular grocery shopping
This is one of the most important and effective habits my clients can adopt. What you purchase determines what ends up in your food environment. Make sure you purchase a variety of the foods you want to eat more of, and make sure you limit the foods you want to eat less of. When you bring those foods home, take the time to display or position them accordingly in your food environment.
Food environment impacts us in so many ways. It’s not discussed enough in the fitness realm, and it’s not utilised enough by people trying to form better habits.
Take some time to use some of the above strategies. I’m sure you’ll find yourself making fewer choices about food, making better choices about food, and not having to test your willpower as frequently.