We’ve all been there: at a party, at a co-worker’s birthday celebration in the break room, at restaurants, and even up and down the grocery aisles. Tempting treats can not only sabotage weight loss/maintenance goals, they can wreak havoc on moods, hormone balance, blood sugar balance, and your immune system. It’s really not a matter of willpower or strength vs. weakness on your part, it is a biochemical response to highly addictive (therefore, seductive!) ingredients in many sweet, salty, and overly processed but always tasty and tempting treats. Most name-brand-mass food manufacturers use the least expensive ingredients in packaged food. They also hide sugar, fat, and additives in various forms, which may make our taste buds happy temporarily, but ultimately affect our “bottom” line and tummies in an undesirable way. These tempting treats drastically affect our blood sugar balance and body’s ability to regulate hormones, which affect our brain’s ability to function optimally, resulting in fatigue, irritability, inability to make clear decisions, and memory problems.
Here are 5 tips to consider to keep control and balance when tempting treats come your way:
1. Do not attend a social function, or grocery shop on an empty stomach. Drink an 8 oz. glass of water, and eat a small serving of healthy protein (i.e., hard-boiled egg, 1/4 cup raw nuts, a protein shake) at least 30 minutes before you go to an event or the store. If protein isn’t handy, eat an apple or orange, or some raw veggies. Fiber and protein stave cravings, and are filling and nutrient-dense to the body, so you won’t biochemically be as crazed for sugar/salt.
2. Stay hydrated. Many times our “hunger pains” are actually our body’s way of telling us we are thirsty, and possibly dehydrated. Water is by far the best way to hydrate. It also naturally energizes the body, and it fills us, while helping absorb good nutrients from our food and eliminate toxins from the body. If you’re at a social function, and you know that alcohol may sway you to the tempting treats, stay away from alcohol or make sure you have one full glass of water between cocktails. Club soda or sparkling water with a “splash” of fresh juice or squeezed lemon/lime can really provide satiety and a means of “clean control” at a social gathering, staving the munchies and over-drinking. Although green tea is not hydrating, this is also a nice energizing and anti-oxidant-filled beverage to have instead of munching on unnecessary treats.
3. Have shopping boundaries. When going to the grocery store, shop the outer perimeters (produce, meat) vs. the inner aisles and bakery section. If you have a special occasion or company to buy for that you think warrants the extra “treats”, i.e., chips/dip, cakes, cookies, etc., then have a plan before you get to the store. Budget a small amount of money and quantities of those things you’ll buy “especially for them” and then leave the aisle. Put it in a special part of your pantry that you’ll access only when providing those items for them, so they are not out in the open on a counter or platter. Make a grocery list with only one-two maximum “treats”, and stick strictly to that list. Eventually make a list with no treats so those foods are not even in the home to tempt you.
4. Fresh vs. Fad. We eat what is available and convenient. So make fresh available! Food that is fresh, from the earth, and prepared at home, will always win over the chain restaurant dishes, fast food, and food in wrappers/cans/packages. Challenge yourself to surround your workspace and home with easy-access fresh food. Raw carrots, avocado, fruit, sliced zucchini/cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, nuts, cold chicken leftover from the night before… all in place of the 100-calorie pack pretzels, chex mix, popcorn, cookies, etc. If you eat a cup of veggies dipped in hummus or guacamole or salsa, you’ll be more satisfied than eating a cup of corn chips, cheese puffs, or candy. The more fresh you eat vs. fad/fat, you’ll start to want that and shift your habits to healthier ones. Experiment and have fun with being creative with fresher foods–you’ll be surprised how easy and quick they can be.
5. Slow down and “think before you eat”. Our culture is all about faster, better, and more…. Slow down when it comes to food. What this means is, don’t make your meals or snacks an after-thought—something you do “on the go”, “whatever you can grab”. If you can make a conscious (not complicated) gameplan each day or week about the kinds of foods you will eat, and stick to the plan, you will be armed and in control. Have nuts or an apple in your purse or car, so when you’re commuting to/from activities, the drive-thru window doesn’t have to be your only option. Pack your lunch, and then set aside one day a week to eat out if that’s what you like to do, but know what you’re ordering before you get there. Think to yourself before just sub-consciously ordering a sandwich, fries, or something from the vending machine: “am I hungry, do I want this, is it going to serve me?” Stop and consider “why” you’re grabbing something. Lastly, once you are sticking to your plan and slowing down enough to “think before you eat”, chew your food slowly and deliberately. Savor every bite. When you eat slower, you won’t “need” as much food to be satisfied.