The 5 Key Skills of Healthy Eaters
Imagine if, after doing an activity over 18,000 times, you tried to change how you did it.
It might feel very hard.
Now imagine that activity you did over 18,000 times was tied up with feelings of comfort, being loved, feeling at home, having a good time or even your identity. Not to mention mouth-watering cravings.
It might feel impossible.
A child eats approximately 18,564 meals from the age of 1 to 18. Over thousands of meals, he or she will develop eating habits. It would be hard not to develop habits in an activity that is repeated so frequently!
Maybe this explains why it’s so hard for adults to change the way they eat and why we often require outside pressure (like the diagnosis of a disease, obesity, high blood pressure or high cholesterol) to even consider making a change in our eating habits. Habits can be hard to change. Ever try to stop biting your nails? Or try to stop checking Facebook during work hours?
So when I recently asked the women in my business group what their grandest wish is when it comes to feeding their family and helping them develop healthy eating habits, they were remarkably consistent in their answers – and very smart.
Most of them answered with some variation of this:
"My grandest wish is that my children will make healthy
eating choices on their own, at least most of the time."
The good news:
I think having this wish come true is VERY possible.
Not just for kids, but FOR EVERYONE.
If you’re raising kids, 18,564 meals provide a lot of chances to develop and encourage good eating habits. So you shouldn’t get upset if you don’t hit it out of the park every time. No one can do that. Perfection, in any type of diet, doesn’t actually exist. It’s the overall balance of ingredients that are important.
If you’re looking to improve YOUR own eating habits, think about this: in the coming year you have 1,092 chances (plus snacks!) to give a new way of eating a try and start creating NEW habits.
Going from wherever you are with your eating habits to eating healthy most of the time over a lifetime, however, is only possible with the development of these 5 key skills.
1. The knowledge of what healthy foods are.
This doesn’t necessarily mean why each food is healthy (depending on the person’s age and interest), but exposure to a wide variety of healthy foods is required. For me, this includes everything from apples to zucchini, amaranth to quinoa, Brazil nuts to walnuts, chia to hemp. You get the idea… soup to nuts.
2. An appreciation for how healthy foods taste.
We can’t expect people to make healthy foods their primary choice at 19 or even 59 if they aren’t familiar with them or don’t like the way they taste. This goal presents a challenge because it often requires multiple exposures to a food, possibly in different preparations, for a person to find a way to enjoy them. This can be true for kids AND adults. Persistence is your friend here. (And so are great, easy recipes!)
3. The ability to prepare healthy foods.
Nearly everyone has baked cookies at some point, but time spent in the kitchen shouldn’t end, or necessarily begin, there. The ability to prepare simple, healthy dishes is super valuable. Not only will it keep you healthier, it’ll also save you lots of money in the long run.
4. The ability to select healthy options out of the house.
Homemade is just not realistic every day. Out in the world, there are so many choices, so many foods engineered to taste delicious that provide absolutely no nutrition whatsoever. Worse, others with ingredients that can actually be harmful! It can seem like a virtual food mind field out there, but a healthy meal can be found most everywhere, once you know what to look for.
5. Knowledge of which foods are best kept “once in a while” foods.
It may be tempting for you to label foods as “good” or “bad”, but I find that sometimes people want to give up on healthy eating if they happen to eat a food they label as “bad”. And eventually, this always happens! I think a better way is to think of certain foods which don’t necessarily provide great nutrition as “once in a while” foods”. What these are may be different from person to person, but the point is, this frees you from feeling “bad”, which is not helpful – or healthy!
As a health coach and natural food chef, helping women and families develop these five skills, necessary to sustain a healthy diet, is what I love to do most. In the coming months I'll be addressing different aspects and issues involved in developing these skills here on this blog.
YOUR TURN: Which healthy eating skill do you think you or your family would benefit from focusing on right now? Which one do you find the most challenging?