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Tips | 6 min. read

Hack your hunger: How to plan, prepare and eat healthy food

We don’t have complete control over our weight. But making small changes to how we interact with our immediate environment can still make an impact. From planning healthy meals to staying on our feet, we’ve put together a list of life tricks that you may find helpful.

Food is everywhere. Tasty treats stare at you through shop windows. Soda adverts fill advertising billboards. And the local takeaway pumps air from the kitchen out onto the street – the smell of instant satisfaction.

We try to eat healthy food and we try to eat in moderation. But these triggers in our environment activate our desire to eat energy-rich food. So even though we’re not hungry, we get into the habit of picking up that extra soda or bagel.

We can’t always avoid these triggers in our wider environment. Instead, take a look at your immediate environment, such as your home or office. Research shows that even small changes can make a big difference and make weight management easier for you.

Below, we’ve put together a list with some great tips and tricks:

Plan and shop for healthy meals that fill you up

  • Try not to go shopping for food when you’re hungry.
  • Try to buy more food that’s low in calories but high in protein and fibre. For example, try fresh fruit and vegetables, eggs, yoghurt, fresh meat, whole grains, beans, or lentils.
  • Keep your belly and wallet happy by buying vegetables that are in season – they are cheaper and also taste great.
  • If it’s not at home, you can’t eat it. So be mindful of what you put in your shopping trolley.

Make it harder to find, prepare and eat tempting food at home

  • Try to keep food out of eyesight at home. And if you do buy high-calorie foods, put them at the back of the fridge or buried away at the back of the pantry.
  • Buy food that makes you work to eat it. For example, oranges that you first have to peel, or nuts that have to be cracked open one at a time.
  • The strictest approach is to only keep food at home that has to be cooked or heated before it can be eaten. This reduces the chance of snacking between meals.
  • Are there foods that you find especially rewarding to eat? Make a habit of only eating them occasionally, but not every day.
  • It can be hard to find the energy to cook at the end of a long day. So how about using some hours over the weekend to cook some meals you love and store them in your fridge or freezer?
Two Overweight Women On Diet Eating Healthy Meal In Kitchen

How to feel comfortable eating out or joining a social gathering

  • Call the restaurant or host ahead of time to get the menu, or look online. That way you can comfortably plan what you will eat.
  • If you’re heading to a social event, how about offering to bring a dish or food course? That way you can share your healthy dishes with others.
  • Try to drink still or mineral water instead of alcoholic drinks. If you drink alcohol to relax or celebrate, try to keep it to just one low-calorie drink a day, like a small glass of wine.
  • If anyone notices that you are avoiding certain foods and makes a comment, you can reply with something like: “I’m just trying to eat more healthily” or “I’m just watching what I eat”. You don’t have to explain any more than that.
  • Remember to be gentle on yourself. No matter what you eat when you are out, give yourself credit for trying, and see it as an opportunity for learning.
  • If you’re going out for dinner with friends and also want to enjoy eating and drinking, try and eat a little less during the day or do some extra physical activity. This can give you a buffer for these extra calories that we all tend to consume while we are in good company.

Find simple ways to stay active

  • Only a little extra physical activity can make a big difference. And the simplest way to be more active is to fit it into your existing routines. For example, instead of meeting in a café to catch up with friends, grab a coffee and go for a walk.
  • If possible, take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • If you have to sit at a desk all day, set a reminder to stretch and move a little every thirty minutes. It doesn’t have to be much, just fetch a glass of water or go to the toilet. And instead of emailing or calling a colleague, walk over and have a chat instead.
  • Exercise and physical activity don’t have to be a drag. Find something you enjoy and that fits your schedule.

A last point is to think about the people who are close to you, like friends, family, and colleagues. They could be a source of support and may also benefit from the changes that you make to your environment.

Remember that no single solution is right for everyone. Some people might find it easier to be more active, and others might get really excited about meal prepping on the weekend. Either way, taking control of your immediate environment is one of the key elements to a successful weight management.

  • Forman E & Butryn M. Effective Weight Loss: An Acceptance-Based Behavioral Approach - Treatments That Work (Workbook Ed.). New York: Oxford University Press 2016.
  • Hall K & Hammond RH. Dynamic Interplay Among Homeostatic, Hedonic, and Cognitive Feedback Circuits Regulating Body Weight. American Journal of Public Health 2014; 104:7.
  • Christensen B et al. Instrumentalization of Eating Improves Weight Loss Maintenance in Obesity. Obes Facts. 2017;10:633–647.
  • Hollywood LE et al. Healthful grocery shopping. Perceptions and barriers. Appetite 2013; 70:119-126.
  • PCNA News. The Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing 2015; 30:2:85-88.
  • Guyenet S. The hungry brain. Outsmarting the instincts that make us overeat. New York: Flatiron 2017.
  • Livelighter. The facts: Move often. https://livelighter.com.au/About-Physical-Activity/Move-Often [Accessed June 2019].
  • Wadden TA et al. An Overview of the Treatment of Obesity in Adults. In: Thomas A. Wadden & George A. Bray (eds.). Handbook of Obesity Treatment. New York: Guilford Press 2018; 284-308.

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