How you eat affects you, body and mind. It also reflects how you’re feeling. Here are three powerful reasons to eat smart – and what that really means.
Your body will be stronger
Who doesn’t want to be stronger? When you eat better, your body is in better shape. If you’re trying to figure this one out, read the previous sentence again – it tells you everything you need to know.
You’ll feel better
You’ll feel good, and in more ways than one. First, your bod will feel good (see preceding reason). When your physical container feels good, you’re less sluggish, which means you’ll feel better emotionally and mentally. Think about how you feel after a bad-for-you meal: weighed down, physically. You also probably feel … bad, like you don’t know why you ate what you ate, except that it made you feel good while you ate it. Instead, pick a good-for-you meal, one that you like. You’ll feel good while you eat it – and long after.
You’ll more clearly navigate your emotions
Okay, so most of us don’t eat bad-for-us foods because we’re dumb. Same goes for overeating, eating when we’re not hungry and not eating when we are hungry. The truth is most of us generally know what’s good for us (animal fat: bad; vegetables: good), and our bodies are fantastic about telling us when it’s time to eat or stop eating.
Instead, we eat irrationally because of emotional reasons. Emotional eating is sensitive, personal and complex. It might take a therapist to get to the bottom of it. But sometimes emotional eating happens on a lighter and more manageable scale.
There’s a straightforward way to know if you’re eating for a reason other than sustenance: Are you hungry? If the answer is no, emotions are likely driving you. Pause and try to identify what you’re feeling. Now consider what you wanted to eat. Was it something healthful or not? This exercise isn’t to say you should eat only for practical reasons and only foods that get a nutritional gold star. It’s to illuminate how your eating patterns reflect your inner life.
An excellent way to make sure your diet is good for you – and satisfying – is to work in foods with fiber. The list is long, so you have lots of choices. It includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds. You can find those in everything from main dishes to sweets to snacks.
“Foods high in fiber increase gut-transit time,” says Laurie Mitchell, RDN, a registered dietitian and nutritionist, who oversees Unum’s corporate wellness programs. “You’ll also feel full sooner and eat fewer calories overall when you regularly include these foods in your diet.”
Here’s a new-year boost to help you out.
Banana-Cranberry Oat Muffins with Pecan Flour
These nutritious muffins are mildly sweet and filling – but instead of dragging you down, they give you energy: Pecans offer protein, oats and cranberries add fiber, moist banana reduces fat content, and coconut sugar has a lower glycemic index than regular sugar.
makes 6 small muffins
1/4 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup pecans*
1/2 cup whole wheat or all-purpose flour
1 tbsp coconut sugar
1 tbsp regular sugar**
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 very ripe large banana (or 2 very ripe small bananas)
1 tbsp melted butter, and a little extra to grease tin
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup raw whole cranberries
Preheat oven or toaster oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 6-muffin tin with butter. Lightly toast oats in a pan at low-medium heat for 2-4 minutes (until they barely turn golden), and set aside. Grind pecans in a food processor or blender to create a texture that’s slightly chunkier than flour. Mix oats, ground pecans, flour, sugars, salt and baking soda in a bowl. Mash banana in a larger bowl. Add butter, egg and vanilla to banana, then mix. Add flour mixture to banana mixture in a few stages, stirring after each addition just enough to blend. Fold in cranberries. Immediately spoon batter into tin. Bake about 20 minutes (muffins are ready when a toothpick inserted in one comes out clean).
* can replace with almonds or walnuts
** if you prefer sweeter muffins, add another 1 to 3 tsp regular sugar