New Research Offers 4 New Ways to Encourage Healthy Eating

Eating healthy is not easy for most people. I still struggle with choosing a healthy snack over a candy bar sometimes. I crave coke. I've been thinking about making an Angel Food cake that would last 2 days in this house.

When it comes to eating healthy most people know what to do (focus on fruits, vegetables and protein, and avoid added sugar.) In practice though it is so, so much more difficult.

A symposium titled, "Challenging Misconceptions About the Psychology of Food Choice" recently presented four new perspectives on how to encourage people to eat healthy.

4 Ways to Encourage Healthy Eating

1. Eat veggies first.

Children who were given vegetables to eat first ate more of them versus children who were given all food options at once. It makes sense. Don't fill up on the 'meat and potatoes' portion of your meal first. Eat as much vegetables as you can stand before moving on to the other food groups.

2. Educate yourself on how dishonest and corrupt the food industry is.

This approach focused on teenagers who are notorious for not caring about healthy eating (but could certainly apply to spouses and kids of all ages!) Instead of trying to convince yourself how great healthy foods are you why not spend an afternoon on the weekend researching how companies engineer food to make them as addictive as possible, and use dishonest labeling to make products appear healthier? If there's one thing guaranteed to piss me off into action it's learning I've been lied to or taken advantage of.

3. Stop counting calories.

Researchers found that when people who are counting calories are presented with an empty doughnut box (an image of something 'forbidden' and 'off limits' to them) they later performed worse on tests of attention and reasoning. Meaning, counting calories screws with your brain. Instead they suggest focusing on simpler strategies like avoiding added sugars or not eating past 7 p.m.

4. Stay away from fat stigmatizing media.

When overweight participants were exposed to media messages that stigmatized obesity it led to behavioral responses that can contribute to weight gain.

Self-perceived overweight women who read a weight-stigmatizing news article consumed more high-calorie snack foods compared to overweight women who read a neutral article.

“Simply reading about the potential for weight stigma was enough to impair self-regulation among overweight women,” said Hunger.

If you think you are overweight, and you read something saying overweight people suck for whatever reason, then of course you are going to feel bad about yourself. When you feel bad it's easy to reach for comfort foods. I'd lump this in with avoiding thinspiration. I stopped reading fashion magazines because I always felt like shit after.

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How do you encourage healthy eating in your family?

What triggers you to feel bad about the way you look? (Comparing yourself to friends, the media, magazines?)