Our increasingly busy lifestyle makes us increasingly dependent on low-nutrient foods (junk food) as a daily diet. Just stop at a restaurant, convenience store, vending machine, or cafe, and buy a box of ready-to-eat food. However, research shows that a diet containing such processed or nutritionally-packed foods can increase the risk of weight gain, diabetes, or high blood pressure. In addition, such a diet is also associated with other health risks. With a little planning and preparation, you can reduce your consumption of low-nutrient foods and start eating more nutritious foods.
Part 1 of 2: Fighting the Craving of Eating Low Nutrients
Step 1. Record your daily meals
By keeping track of your food intake for several days, you can find out why you are eating low-nutrient foods instead of more nutritious foods. Record when you eat, what you eat, and why you eat. Ask a few questions below:
- Do you go to a fast food restaurant because it's easy and convenient?
- Do you buy food from a vending machine because it doesn't make healthy lunches?
- Are you so busy and tired at the office that you are lazy to cook at home and only heat up packaged foods?
Step 2. Make a list of your favorite low-nutrient foods
Find out what low-nutrient foods you like best. Thus, you can reduce these foods. If you know what low-nutrient foods you prefer, you will be able to resist your cravings and start eating other, healthier foods.
- Remove these foods from your kitchen. You will find it more difficult to get such food if it is not available in your home. Instead of stocking up on such foods, buy healthy foods and snacks.
- Also reduce low-nutrient foods in the office.
Step 3. Manage your stress and emotions
Oftentimes, cravings for low-nutrient foods arise when you are feeling bad, your body is tired, or when you are angry or stressed. Deal with these emotions and stress without food. The body will be healthier, and you will also reduce the consumption of low-food foods.
- By keeping track of the foods you eat, you can also find out what emotions or feelings trigger you to eat certain foods. To find out, ask yourself these questions: Are you bored? Was there a particular emotional event that caused you to seek out low-nutrient foods? Are you under a lot of stress today, unlike usual? Or do you eat low-nutrient foods because you are used to it or for social reasons?
- If you feel you can control this urge, take a portion of your favorite low-nutrient food. However, write down why you want the food, so you know what's behind your desire.
- Look for other activities that can help you rest or that are relaxing for you. For example, reading a good book or magazine, taking a walk outside, listening to your favorite song, or playing a game.
Step 4. Change your routine
There are many people who buy low-nutrient foods just because they are used to it. When taking a break from work, for example, someone just goes to the mini market and buys fast food from the refrigerator. Or when working overtime and stopping at a fast food restaurant to eat.
Think about when you usually buy low-nutrient foods. Are there other activities you can do? For example, if you are taking a break from work during the day, instead of buying food at the convenience store, go for a short walk
Step 5. Swap your meals for healthier ones
For example, if your favorite low-nutrient food isn't a healthy one, swap it out for something else that will still satisfy your cravings.
- For example, if you're craving something sweet, buy fruit with vanilla yogurt, 1 ounce dark chocolate, or unsweetened pudding.
- If you want to eat salty food, try raw vegetable salad, hard-boiled eggs or balado, or nuts.
Part 2 of 2: Planning and Preparing Healthier Meals
Step 1. Make a meal plan
If you want to completely change your diet while reducing your daily intake of low-nutrient foods, come up with an eating plan that can help you create your new, low-nutrient diet.
- Write down ideas and notes for the entire week's mealtimes, from breakfast, lunch, to dinner, as well as all snacks. Ideally, the food you prepare should be filling so you don't go looking for a snack; or, eat six meals a day in smaller portions, rather than three.
- Make a realistic meal plan. Maybe not every day you can cook at home. Of course it's okay if you include some foods that you buy outside or processed/canned foods.
- Also write down when you have to prepare or cook a meal first, before it's time to eat. For example, if you're usually busy at night, prepare your dinner before you leave for work so it's ready when you get home.
- Prepare food for a week, then freeze. Thus, the food only needs to be warmed up or put in a soup pot.
Step 2. Shop regularly
One of the best ways to reduce your intake of low-nutrient foods is to prepare lots of healthier foods. Your tendency to eat low-nutrient foods will be lower if there are no prepared low-nutrient foods at home.
- Head to the market to buy fresh vegetables that are in season.
- When shopping at the supermarket, stay close to the wall that surrounds the supermarket. Usually, food served near the wall surrounding the supermarket will be healthier and more raw, such as fruits, vegetables, seafood, meat, dairy, and eggs.
- Stay away from the middle shelves that provide fast food and snacks. Look for shelves of healthier processed foods, such as canned beans/vegetables, canned tuna, etc.
- Avoid shopping when hungry. When we are hungry, all food will look attractive to us. Foods that we would normally do well to avoid are becoming more attractive and difficult to stay away from.
- Make a grocery list and take it to the supermarket. Avoid shopping for items that are not on the list.
Step 3. Prepare and cook healthy meals
By cooking at home, you will be able to clearly control what is in your food. You can control the amount of fat, sugar, and salt in your diet.
- Make sure you include several types of food from each food group so that your diet is balanced. Every day, try to reach each of the food groups available: whole grains, protein, fruits, vegetables, and dairy. Thus, you will meet your daily nutritional needs.
- Read cookery books/websites so you can find new recipes that seem delicious and can make you cook and eat at home.
- If according to the meal plan that has been made it turns out that you need to prepare food supplies, cook meals for those lunches on weekends or when you have free time. If you want to eat these foods within a week, you can store them in the refrigerator. If you want to make a larger quantity of food or need the food to last longer than a week, store some of the food that has been separated into servings in a frost-resistant container and freeze until ready to eat.
Step 4. Prepare a healthy snack
You'll find it easier to avoid convenience stores and other low-nutrient foods if you have healthy snacks nearby. Bring healthy snacks from home to take to work. At home, don't forget to stock up on healthy snacks.
- To make the snacks you eat more filling, include meat protein, high-fiber foods, and healthy fats. For example, you can prepare plain yogurt with fruits and nuts; peanut butter and apple slices; the "protein pack" contains nuts, cheese, and dried fruit; or salad, wheat crackers, and raw carrots.
- If possible, fill the refrigerator or desk in your office with healthy snacks. For example, at your desk you can prepare several packets of nuts, non-soggy and rotten fruit (such as apples), whole grain crackers, protein bars or peanut butter. If you have a refrigerator in your office, stock up on: cheese sticks, yogurt, or chicken porridge.
Step 5. At a restaurant or food stall, choose healthier foods
Quite often, we have to eat out or buy processed foods because we are busy. While it's okay to eat low-nutrient foods once in a while, choose better or healthier foods if you frequently need to buy fast food.
- Many restaurants provide nutritional information that can be read on the internet.
- Low-nutrient foods, or processed foods, are usually higher in calories, fat, and iodine. Avoid such foods, choose fruits, vegetables, and animal protein.
- If you're stopping at a fast food restaurant, order a salad (with a separate dressing), chicken sandwich or nuggets, soup or fruit, or yogurt.
- If you go to the convenience store, choose a low-fat cheese stick, a glass of fruit, a protein cracker, or a hard-boiled egg.
- In general, choose foods that are not fried, fried in batter, or added sugar.
Step 6. Eat your favorite foods in moderation
Normal eating patterns and eating behavior do eat favorite foods. Of course, it's unrealistic for you to delete all of your favorite foods. Keep providing your favorite foods in moderation.
- Determine how much "not too much". Maybe that means eating dessert twice a week, or going out to a fast food restaurant with your friends once a week. Determine what is healthy and makes sense to you.
- Be aware that the portion that is a little bit over time becomes a lot. If you eat your favorite food several times a week, it can make you gain weight.
- Avoid extreme eating behaviors. Of course cutting the intake of low-nutrient foods is a healthy step. However, you don't need to completely get rid of your favorite foods. This extreme eating behavior can later make you overeat.
- If it's a little difficult at first, plan a gradual change to your diet. Start with small changes. Eliminate one unhealthy choice, and replace it with a healthier option. Give it a week to get used to it, then add other foods. Continue this process until you get a food you like.
- Don't get frustrated and give up. If it turns out to be difficult, give yourself more time to change your diet to a healthier one. A slow start is better than no start at all. Continue your efforts.
- It's okay if you occasionally eat low-nutrient foods. However, make sure: don't overdo it.