Written by Nadine Dumas
There is increasing evidence that what we put into our bodies plays as big a role in the presence or absence of disease than just about anything else. Those who eat healthy simply have a longer life and a better quality of life when compared to those who do not choose to eat healthy.
One of the more common and harmful dysfunctional eating habits is emotional eating, or emotional overeating. This is something that many people have done in their lives on occasion, and for some it is commonplace and can lead to serious health consequences.
Emotional eaters typically lack the coping skills necessary to deal with stress, pain, fear, and loneliness and so they use food as a drug to deal with them. Typically, their diet is far from healthy and depending on how often they use food to cope with life, it can be downright harmful. Many times, emotional eaters do not know what a healthy diet looks like because they are stuck in the vicious cycle of binging when life’s problems becoming too overwhelming.
What makes a healthy eater?
It is often a matter of good habits. Here are ten habits of healthy eaters you can adopt as your own:
- Healthy eaters watch portion sizes. In other words, they know that a portion of steak is just three ounces and a half cup of fruit really means you eat half a cup rather than as much as you want. Monitoring portion sizes helps keep bodyweight within normal limits.
- Healthy eaters have colorful plates. They recognize the value of colorful fruits and vegetables, especially orange, green, yellow, and blue fruits and vegetables. Each offers unique health opportunities and many colorful foods contain helpful antioxidants which scavenge for unhealthy oxygen free radicals in the body.
- Healthy eaters take their time eating meals. There is about a 20-minute lag time between the time you fill your stomach and brain signals that the body has had enough food. If you eat slowly and mindfully, you can avoid the trap of overeating, indigestion, and weight gain.
- Healthy eaters recognize the value of small snacks. Our energy level over the course of a given day can be impacted by the highs and lows of our blood sugar. When we incorporate healthy snacks into our diet, we avoid having too many highs and lows in our daily diet and have energy throughout the day.
- Healthy eaters don’t eat large evening meals. It is far better to have your bigger meal as the noon meal of the day than it is to eat a large meal at 7 pm just before retiring. This allows the body a chance to metabolize a large meal and avoids the trap of eating too much before sleeping—something that can lead to insomnia.
- Healthy eaters eat with others. Food should be part of a social experience with an exchange of conversation happening while eating. It forces you to eat slower and it puts the meal in perspective as part of a social experience.
- Healthy eaters focus on unsaturated rather than saturated fats. In other words, they tend to lean toward plant oils when cooking and away from fats and oils that come from animals, including butter and cream. Saturated fats tend to raise cholesterol levels and are not particularly heart healthy.
- Healthy eaters have dessert sparingly. While topping off a good meal with a dessert sounds like the right thing to do, it only adds empty calories to your diet and should instead be a rare treat on special occasions. Regular meals should be meals in and of themselves rather than a part of a whole dinner/dessert package. Similarly, those who follow a healthy diet rarely go to fast food restaurants or consume high calorie nutrient poor junk food, like potato chips, donuts, candy, and soda.
- Healthy eaters eat more fruits and vegetables than they do meat. Meals should contain more fruits, vegetables and whole grains than they do meat products. This means using meat more sparingly as part of a larger vegetable dish rather than grilling up a big slab of meat as the focus of the meal.
- Healthy eaters choose whole grains. Rather than subsist on white bread and processed rice or pasta, the healthy eater chooses the whole grain variety. Whole grains are especially high in fiber, which helps the bowels move more easily. Foods high in soluble fiber like oats can also reduce cholesterol levels and help with healthy weight management.