We all know eating healthy is essential – but sometimes that's easier said than done. Food fuels us and impacts our energy levels throughout the day. It can also control other aspects of our lives, like our attitude, mental health, and overall well-being.
Is this new information? Not really, but what's considered healthy? "Healthy eating includes not only what someone eats but how they feel about what they're eating or, in other words, their relationship with food," said Melissa Francik, Registered Dietitian, Wellness Coach & Weight Management Specialist at Pullman Regional Hospital. "If our thoughts about food take up too much time and space in our lives, this is something we should look at."
Here are five things that you may not know about your food and how it affects you on a daily basis.
- Healthy eating consists of eating enough, with enough variety, to meet our body's nutritional needs. Eating not only satisfies our hunger but gives us the energy we need to thrive daily, helps regulate menstruation, supports our digestive function, and impacts our mood, thinking, and sleeping.
- What we eat, when we eat, and how consistent we are with our eating impact energy levels, mood, digestion, hormone production, and cycles. "The food we eat breaks down into basic building blocks that cross the blood-brain barrier and interact with brain enzymes, influencing neurotransmitter activity," Francik says. "That is how our food consumption impacts our mood, energy, thinking, sleeping, and eating. There is still so much for us to learn about this!"
- So what about junk food? It can't be that bad... right? Francik doesn't use the phrase junk food. "The word 'junk' implies something bad, like trash, and implicitly something we shouldn't have. We could instead try on the word 'play' food or 'fun' food and see how this impacts our view and eating behaviors." It is completely normal to include play foods as part of a balanced diet; doing so takes away any perceived power and makes it less likely to overeat those foods.
- A good first step is to work toward eating nourishing meals and snacks with at least three food groups containing all of your macronutrients (carbohydrate, protein and fat) and consuming these every 3-5 hrs throughout the day. Typically, following this routine will reduce cravings, particularly for sugary foods, as the body and brain are better fueled.
- After establishing a healthy eating regimen, build in different play foods you enjoy. "Adding play foods to these meals or snacks normalizes and neutralizes the presence of those foods in your everyday diet, such as including the chocolate square with a snack of fruit and nuts or a piece of cheese," Francik says.
So there you have it, eating healthy doesn't mean cutting all "play food" out of your diet! It doesn't mean restricting the amount of food you're consuming. It means figuring out what works best for you while giving your body the nutrients and fuel it needs – and maybe more importantly: enjoying what you're eating.
If you have questions about your diet or what options are best for you, ask your primary care physician if you'd benefit from working with a nutritionist. The Pullman Regional Hospital Nutrition Therapy team provides personalized nutrition counseling in various areas, including weight management, eating disorders, food intolerances, sports nutrition & much more.
Explore services and connect with the team today by visiting the Pullman Regional Hospital Nutrition webpage.