Foods are more than just foods. Foods do not just provide nutrients to support our lives. Foods build culture. It can be seen from the ways foods are prepared in different parts of the world. Foods build relationships. We spend time with loved ones, family and friends, over breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Foods build economies. The food industry creates millions of jobs. It also generates trillions of dollars of revenue that drive the economy of many countries. Food builds the environment as well. How farming impacts the environment is not a concern that can be taken lightly due to global warming. Therefore, building a healthy relationship with foods is essential not only to our own health but also essential to our culture, our society, our economy, and our environment. Of course, in this context, we are putting our health at the forefront. By improving our health through building a good relationship with foods, we can also improve the effect of foods on the world as a whole. How do you build a good relationship with foods? Here are the 7 ways to do that.
Ditch The “Good” Foods & “Bad” Foods Mindset
Modern diet cultures often put foods into two categories, the “Good” foods, and the “Bad” foods. This oversimplified concept of foods can have harmful effects on your perception of food because the concept of “good foods and bad foods” encourages you to avoid the so-called “Bad” foods while promotes the consumption of “Good” foods.
Avoiding the “Bad” foods can have many negative side effects on your overall health including nutrient deficiency due to the avoidance of the “Bad” foods and possibly some form of eating disorders that involve the “Bad” foods due to over-restriction of the “Bad” foods. On the other hand, promoting the “Good” foods can lead to the overconsumption of the “Good” foods. Overconsumption of the “Good” foods will also have undesirable effects on your health. The most common one is gaining body fat due to the excess calories from the overconsumption of “good” foods. Therefore, it is best for you to ditch the “good foods and bad foods” mindset.
Instead of focusing on “good foods and bad foods”, it is better to eat more nutrient-dense fresh produce in your diet (~80% of your diet) while leaving a small room (~20% of your diet) for you to enjoy other foods in your diet. In this way, you are not cutting out any food group or over-restricting yourself from any foods, especially foods that allow you to have a good time either by yourself or with others. Besides, the small rooms also give you the option to eat out if other life priority such as work gets in the way of your normal daily routine to prepare foods.
Enjoy Foods With Loved Ones
Foods bring people together. You can have brunch with friends on a nice sunny day over the weekend. You can cook up a storm for special occasions such as your birthday party. You can book a romantic dinner for two to celebrate your anniversary with your partner. You can enjoy mum’s cooking over a family reunion dinner.
Apart from all of the above, foods also define cultures. The sheer number of different cuisines is proof of it. There is no denying that foods are reasons to spend time with loved ones to build strong relationships. Occasionally enjoying foods with loved ones can help you see foods as something valuable to form strong bonds with others. As a result of that, enjoying with loved ones can be a strong foundation to build a good relationship with foods.
Don’t Associate Foods With Stress
Dealing with stress is not easy. Everyone has their own way to deal with stress. Some will resort to foods to seek pleasure to combat the unpleasantness of dealing with stress. Although this strategy can provide temporary relief of stress, it is an easy way to overconsume hyper-palatable and calorie-dense junk foods. Weight gain is inevitable if you consistently consume junk foods to deal with stress.
This can become worse when you start to feel guilty about using junk foods to deal with stress because of your weight gain. As a result, you will become more stressed, which will then, lead you to look for more foods to reduce your stress level. Therefore, using foods to deal with stress can trap you in a vicious cycle that may give rise to more negative side effects on your health and wellbeing. In order to avoid such a vicious cycle, you should stop associate foods with stress. This does not mean that you should not enjoy good foods to have good times because enjoying good foods is certainly one of the great ways to live life to the fullest.
Instead of associate foods with stress, associate foods with positive activities. These activities include managing your health and wellbeing, building better relationships with friends and family, staying true to your culture and your identity, and expanding your boundaries to new experiences in life. All of these positive activities can help you manage your stress without directly associating foods with stress.
Have Fixed Meal Times
Having fixed mealtimes is a good habit you can adopt to build a better relationship with foods. By having fixed mealtimes, you are more likely to set yourself up to follow a routine that can help you manage your hunger easily. This is because your body is only going to expect you to consume foods at fixed mealtimes so you are less likely to consume foods outside mealtimes. As a result of that, you are more likely to maintain a healthy weight. Maintaining a healthy weight reduces your risk of premature death due to weight-related diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, fatty liver, kidney disease, certain types of cancer, etc.
Of course, this does not mean that you cannot have foods outside your fixed mealtimes. There will be occasions when you have to eat outside your normal fixed meal times such as work lunch, celebration, dinner party, etc. When that happens, you should not stress too much about it as long as you can get back to your regular mealtime when the next meal comes.
Control Your Food Portion
Controlling your food portion is a way to build a good relationship with foods because it gives you the power to have control over your diet. This can stop you from relying on impulses to make food decisions, which may cause frequent overconsuming of foods. In order to control your food portion, you must first find out what is the right amount of foods you should consume to allow you to maintain a healthy weight without unnecessary over-restriction of foods.
There are many ways you can measure the amount of your daily food intake, including using calorie counters to track calories, using your hands to measure portion size, using plates or food containers to measure your foods, and etc. You can pick one that works best for you. Although it can take some time for you to figure out what is the right amount of foods that work for you, what you learn through measuring your foods can help you to figure out how to control your food portion depends on your goal, whether it is to lose weight, gain weight or maintain your current weight.
Knowing how to control your food portion will help you to gain a deeper understanding of the roles foods can play in your life. This understanding will not only help you to acquire enough nutrients and fuels to maintain optimal health through a healthy balanced diet but also enrich your life with many wonderful foods experiences. Because of that, your relationship with foods is going to have a strong foundation (knowing your food portion) to remain good.
Prioritize Nutrient-Dense Foods
A good relationship with foods cannot be built without good health. In order to build good health, you will have to take care of your diet by prioritizing nutrient-dense foods in your diet. This will ensure that you are acquiring enough nutrients to keep your body function optimally and support your health.
Prioritizing nutrient-dense foods is, by no means, cutting out the less nutritious junk foods and processed foods from your diet entirely. It is eating more nutrient-dense fresh produce such as vegetables and fruits, meat or plant-based lean protein, nuts and seeds in your diet while keeping a small room for less nutritious foods for you to enjoy. With good health built from a healthy balanced diet, you are going to be able to live longer and have more energy to enjoy your life to the fullest.
Eating slowly can help you to build a good relationship with foods in many ways. First of all, eating slowly (not too slow) is a good table manner across many cultures. It is being seen as a polite gesture on the table. Therefore, it helps you to build better relationships with others on the dining table.
Eating slowly can also enhance nutrient absorption for better health because it allows you to chew food properly. The action of chewing breaks foods down properly so that the foods can be easily digested in the guts. When you chew your foods, your mouth also releases digestive enzymes that help to break down starches in your food into sugar molecules for absorption in the guts.
Besides, eating slowly prevents you from overeating because it gives your brain the time it requires to receive the signal of fullness from your stomach, which is often delayed. This will then help you to recognize the fullness cue properly. On top of that, eating slowly allows you to taste the foods and enjoy the foods to a much greater extent. What is a better way to build a good relationship with foods than having a good time to taste the foods?
Building a good relationship with foods is more than just adopting a healthy balanced diet and make better food choices to improve your physical health. It is also understanding how all foods play a positive role in your life to define your identity, preserve your culture, enrich life experience, and improve general wellbeing. In addition to that, you can build good habits to improve your life, form stronger bonds with friends and family as well as live a life that truly makes you happy in the process of building a good relationship with foods.