Automate Your Healthy Eating Choices
Last updated: September 2023
You know how you set the best of intentions on a Sunday night, or the first of the month, or on New Year’s Day? Intentions like “I’ll eat healthy this whole week” or “I’ll order the salad instead of the deep fried steak ball at lunch tomorrow.” And then those healthy intentions go down the drain as you realize you’re out of time, haven’t made lunch, and both of the kids need to be deloused before school?
Well, one possible solution is to automate your healthy choices.
Did you know that willpower is a resource that gets used up as the day goes on? The more decisions you have to make, the less willpower you have by the end of the day. If you automate your healthy choices, you get to make fewer decisions over the course of the day, which both makes it easier to make healthy choices later in the day (a prime time for overdoing it), and you’re already ahead of the game because you can choose something automatically instead of trying to use willpower (like when you’re faced with cheese fries or steamed asparagus after a long day at work).
Here’s how to do it:
- Eat the same breakfast and lunch every day. Okay, you can have a rotating menu of a couple of breakfasts and a few lunches, but pick things that fit in with your health goals, that you enjoy, and that you’ll actually prepare. Then, every day, eat choice A or B for breakfast (say, a veggie omelet with whole grain toast one day and an oatmeal yogurt fruit parfait the next), then bring choice A or B for lunch. You can mix things up at dinner, when you’ll have more willpower than usual since your other food choices were picked ahead of time. You can do this with snacks, too!
- Make meal planning and grocery shopping a given. Pick a block of time for planning out your meals and buying the supplies for them and put it on your calendar. Make it non-negotiable, and do it the same day and time every week. Maybe every Friday evening you and your partner (or whomever does most of the cooking and shopping!) can look for recipes online, peruse cookbooks, and list out what you’ll eat for the week. Then, write down your grocery list, get up first thing Saturday morning, and buy everything you need. Then do it again next weekend. And the weekend after that.
- Prep foods ahead of time. Another item to add to your calendar! You can do a Sunday afternoon prep session so that everything you need for those automated breakfasts and lunches are ready and waiting in your fridge. If you really dislike cooking or prepping ahead of time, consider purchasing prepared foods that fit the bill.
- Freezer meals. If you’re up to the challenge, a great way to make healthy choices automatic and available is to spend one day every month cooking up a ton of healthy stuff to stick in your freezer. Think bean burgers, whole grain pizza crusts, veggie soups and stews, even burritos or casseroles. That way instead of reaching for the takeout menu you can reach into the freezer for a quick, healthy choice.
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