Making good – but not perfect – food choices

17 12 2010
Amy Blackshire

Amy Blackshire

Do you ever tell yourself after making an unhealthy food choice, “I can’t believe I just ate that, my diet is shot. I might as well pick back up tomorrow, or next Monday, or maybe I should just wait until after the holidays. January first is the perfect time for a fresh start, right?” This way of thinking is extreme, and implies that if we don’t do everything perfectly, then we might as well quit for now and wait for a “better time” to start back up again. Thinking this way enables us to continuously delay the healthy changes we know we need to make, and will keep us feeling discouraged and guilty when we don’t make perfect choices. I propose that we put extreme thinking to rest, and start thinking about how we can counter bad choices to stay on track and continue working toward meeting our goals of being healthy.

To give an example, if you slip up when you are running late one morning and grab a sausage, egg, and cheese biscuit from the McDonalds drive through, it isn’t the end for your nutrition plan that day. Yes, this greasy, tasty breakfast sandwich does have 560 calories (, which takes up a big chunk of those 1200 calories allotted to you by the dietician, but just because you ate it does not mean you should just quit for today! Instead, what if you simply subtracted those calories from your overall daily goal, and then identified low-calorie foods to eat for the rest of the day such as a grilled chicken spinach salad from subway for lunch that contains only 140 total calories, with a large ice water; and for dinner have some salmon (121 calories), broccoli (35 calories), and a baked potato (145 calories) ( Or maybe you can really use that sausage biscuit as a motivator for getting in an extra workout that evening to ensure you stay on track. Stopping by the gym on your way home from work and getting in a 60-minute strength training + cardio workout can result in burning off anywhere from a few hundred to 1,000 calories, depending on how hard you work. Now, that bad breakfast decision doesn’t seem so terrible, does it?

So, the next time you find yourself not making the healthiest of choices, remind yourself that there are always things you can do to counter those choices and allow you to stay on track; and you certainly don’t have to wait until tomorrow! You will need to educate yourself on the concept of calories in/calories out, research how many calories are in various foods (this can be as simple as typing in “name of the food + calories” on an internet search engine), be able to identify several options that will enable you to remain on track (e.g. more exercise, or having lower-calorie foods for the rest of the day, or even better—both!), and most importantly, you must be willing to do a little bit of extra work for the sake of your health/happiness. Having a strategy to help you deal with these common situations will help you stay confident as you work toward your ultimate goals.

Amy Blackshire, Health Behavior Counselor




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