By Cheryl Maguire | Contributor
Most of my life I have been a healthy weight, yet never a healthy eater. When I gave it a try, it was an eye-opening experience. For one month I cut out all sugar and only ate a limited amount of carbohydrates. I drank only water, protein shakes, and almond milk. Here are a few things I learned:
1. My Kids Eat What I Eat
One of the most surprising aspects of changing my eating was how my kids wanted to eat all the healthy food I was eating. I assumed they wouldn’t want to try these meals. Yet when they saw me trying new foods they asked if they could try it as well. I didn’t know they liked some of the food yet they were excited to eat it. Normally I would give them store-bought chicken nuggets, but I learned they love plain boneless grilled chicken breast and they didn’t even ask for ketchup or anything else to put on it.
2. I Do Like Healthy Foods and So Do My Kids
I am a picky eater which means I rarely try new foods, especially healthy ones. Without realizing it, I was passing on the same poor habits to my children. I would only offer limited options of food which I knew they liked. I was surprised by how many healthy foods my children and I liked, but never tried. Since I don’t like turkey deli meat I assumed I wouldn’t like ground turkey, but I loved it. I even liked turkey burgers better than a hamburger. My daughter and I liked almond milk better than milk. Changing my eating habits forced me to go outside of my comfort zone and in the process, the whole family benefited from it.
3. Mindless Eating
By changing my eating habits, I paid attention to everything I ate. I never knew how many times I ate a slice of cheese while making my child’s lunch or finished their meal just because it was there and not because I was hungry. During the time frame of a month, I attended two different parties and found myself instinctively grabbing for food because it looked good to eat. I became aware of the mindless eating me and my family did.
4. Eating Healthy Can Be Cost-Effective
Before I started my new eating plan I went grocery shopping to prepare for it and my bill was $300. I almost passed out since I never spent that much money due to the fact I use coupons and shop sales. At this point, I was wondering if eating healthy would be “worth it”. Part of my problem during the first shopping trip is that I bought everything on the list and didn’t plan properly. I also couldn’t stock up on sale items (healthy food does go on sale too). I learned that I can purchase chicken on-sale and freeze it. Or stock up on oatmeal when it is on sale and use a coupon.
For one month I did not eat at a restaurant or fast food which saved me tons of money. By planning ahead for each meal I never felt the need to get fast-food.
Another savings I found was purchasing chicken or turkey instead of ground beef (which is also healthier). Where I live, ground beef is around $3.99 per pound and chicken breasts are $2.49 per pound which is a savings of $1.50 per pound.
5. Too Many Carbohydrates and Dairy
Before this program I ate whole wheat pasta, but a lot of it. I also ate a large portion of cheese and other dairy products. I didn’t realize my portion sizes were too large. I was surprised to learn that I didn’t miss the cheese I used to put on my sandwich/burger or sprinkle on my pasta. The food tasted just as good without the cheese.
6. Hunger Should Not Be Your Guide
I always thought if you are hungry you should eat. I also would feed my children the minute they felt hungry. The first 2 days of this program I was starving. I did some research and learned that it is normal to feel hungry when you change your diet, so I learned to accept this hungry feeling. After I adjusted to my new meal plan, I did feel hunger sometimes, but I learned to feel comfortable with this feeling instead of instantly eating and to also have my children wait until the next meal instead of mindlessly snacking.
7. Correct Portions Are Small
I was surprised to learn most of the portions I ate were too large. Over time I felt full from the smaller portions. I learned by adding vegetables to a sandwich or a meal that it will help you to feel more full.
8. Measuring Makes It Tastier
Before this program when I made oatmeal or other meals, I would guess how much water or oatmeal to put in and it usually never tasted good. By taking the time to measure everything food tasted better.
9. Planning Is Necessary for Successes
I don’t like to cook or plan my meals so this was difficult for me, but I found it necessary to be successful on this program. I would plan the meals and bring a grocery list of all items with me. By planning ahead I didn’t feel the need to order fast food or grab a quick snack.
10. Sugar Is In Everything
While I was on this program, I read the labels of everything (something I never did before) and I was shocked at how much sugar is in almost everything from ketchup to milk.
What I learned
For me this was challenging, but I completed it because I made a commitment to myself. This experience changed the way I view food and eating in general. I still, eat healthy foods, but l sometimes eat sugar and other “non-clean” items in limited amounts.
The best benefit of changing my eating habits was realizing my kids were willing to eat healthy too. I think often we as parents don’t appreciate how much our actions impact our kids.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Cheryl Maguire holds a Master of Counseling Psychology degree. She is married and is the mother of twins and a daughter. Her writing has been published in The New York Times, Parents Magazine, AARP, Healthline, Your Teen Magazine, Good Life Family Magazine, and many other publications.