Plant based eating is an amazing tool for leading a healthy life. I have been vegan for 3 years and in that time I have spent a good deal of energy working on recreating my previously unhealthy relationship with food. Today I’m going to share some of the key ideas that I believe a balanced relationship with food all come down to.
In my childhood and through my early college years, food was 100% my coping strategy. Sweets and snack foods were my go to munch after school, when I was bored, and at social occasions. I was no stranger to social overeating (which, as a trend, I am happy to see we are moving away from). Nurturing a healthy relationship with food is beneficial for everybody, whether you’re looking to lose weight, build muscle, or generally feel better and do better for your body. Remember the tips that are coming up and think about how you can apply them to your existing eating habits.
- 80/20 Eating
The first bit of advice I have is 80/20 eating. This means that 80% of the time you are choosing nutrient dense whole foods, and 20% of the time you can choose to eat foods that may be less nutritious, more indulgent, or more junky than your norm. We all have the foods we love to eat but that aren’t necessarily the best for us. The secret is – you can still live a healthy and balanced lifestyle without completely cutting out those foods forever! For example, I love chocolate covered almonds. And when I eat them I definitely don’t want to eat the 10 almonds that make up one serving, I want to eat about 30 of them! But as long as you’re aware that your indulgences need to make up just 20% of your diet, then it’s perfectly okay to reach for your treat food.
If you do the math, then 3 meals a day for 7 days a week makes 21 meals eaten per week. Twenty percent of those 21 meals is just over 4 eating opportunities that can be more indulgent, yet still allow you to achieve your health and fitness goals. For example this could be a glass of wine with family on Monday, a chocolate chip cookie as snack on Wednesday, 2 scoops of vegan ice cream on Friday, and pancakes for brunch on Sunday. Swap in your personal favorite indulgences and there you have it. Keep in mind though, all the rest of your eating for the week is nutrient dense and well proportioned.
2. Meal Prepping
To help you achieve 80% healthy eating, we have meal prepping. Meal prepping is the sponsor of 80/20 eating. If you are prepared for when you are hungry, then it is so much easier to make a healthy choice. If your lunch is already in the fridge then you literally have no need to stop for fries at lunch. Making food decisions on your planned meal prep day or time is so much easier than when you are already hungry and the nearest food is either not vegan or not healthy. I have 2 suggestions for how to meal prep, and they are:
- First, you can make all your meals at one time. When I do it this way, it only takes about 2-3 hours. But then, I have tons of food to eat on for the next 5-6 days!
- If you’re not a big fan of leftovers from long ago, then you can do daily meal prep. Depending on your schedule you can either have breakfast prepped or take a bit more time to make it every morning. Then you would eat your dinner leftovers for lunch, make a double or triple dinner in the evening, and then eat those leftovers the next day at lunch. This is a self sustaining cycle that keeps you from having to eat leftovers for too long if that’s not your thing.
3. Plan (and look forward to) your treats
Now that you are prepped for your 80% of the time, let’s talk about the fun part – the 20% treats! I like to know when and where my treats are coming from each week so I can drool over them. This also helps me make good choices all week long as I wait for the blessed moment that I walk into Sweet Ritual, my favorite vegan ice cream shop. When you know that your treat is coming, it helps you to say no to mediocre treats that you cross paths with, like the soggy grocery store cupcakes for your coworkers birthday. If something really special and worth it comes your way as a surprise, then by all means go for it. Just make your treats worth it, and consider how much value the tempting foods will add to your life at the moment.
This mentality of planning for your treats will keep you from feeling guilty about your necessary indulges, and allow you to move into feeling free to eat the foods you love. This is key for sustaining a healthy and balanced lifestyle for the rest of your life!
I hope these tips resonated with you and that they were some food for thought. If you would like more help, in depth coaching, and personalized attention to your relationship with food, you can get in touch with me here!