There’s psychology behind your approach to nutrition


Developing healthy food habits isn’t always as simple as it sounds. Even during summer, a season with fresh fruits and vegetables in abundance, many people still grab a bag of potato chips before choosing that crunchy red apple as a snack.

Recently, the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index issued a health report revealing that well over half of Americans —as many as 63.1 percent of U.S. adults—are overweight or obese. The study suggests this trend of Americans’ expanding waistline is still rising.

With a wide array of healthy food choices at our fingertips, how is it that the majority of Americans still choose less healthy alternatives when it comes to feeding themselves and their families?

“Consciousness is key to making better food choices,” said Karen Nelson, a health psychologist and assistant professor of Behavioral Sciences at South University in Savannah, Ga.

“Many overweight Ameri­cans simply overindulge,” she said. “Whether they are eating something considered ‘healthy’ or ‘unhealthy,’ the problem for some people is not the quality of their food, it is the quantity of the portions they consume.”

Also, Americans tend to be chronically dehydrated and may misinterpret dehydration for hunger. So instead of drinking a glass of water, people snack and consume more calories than they need.

“Part of this increase in dehydration is due to the American love affair with junk food, specifically carbonated and caffeinated beverages,” said Chef Fred Lucardie from The International Culinary School at The Art Institute of Tampa, Fla.

Americans consume an average of 13 pounds of watermelons per person annually. It is the fruit most commonly associated with summer. Watermelons are high in Vitamin C, low in sodium and contain few calories. They are 92 percent water, which makes them one of the best fruit sources of natural hydration.

“Water fulfills very important roles in the body, from regulating body temperature to transporting oxygen to removing waste to protecting joints and organs,” Lucardie said.

Our bodies lose water every day through regular activities, and even more during the summer. While drinking water is important, most people get 20 to 30 percent of their water intake from food items.

By making healthy choices, such as fruit, people can address hunger and dehydration at the same time.

Consider the cantaloupe. Cantaloupes are members of the squash family and are high in water content and low in calories. Cantaloupes are also packed with high levels of beta-carotene, Vitamin C, potassium, and have no cholesterol and fat.

“Considering the steady rise of obesity in American society, it’s reasonable to question the source and direction of human behavior as it relates to good nutrition,” Nelson said. “The earlier children are conditioned to eating healthy foods, the better.”

According to some researchers, whether adults adopt good or bad nutritional eating habits, the reason people eat what they eat is all in their heads. The psychological roots of poor nutrition traditionally begin at a young age.

Nelson points out that from the moment of birth, eating becomes one of the first symbols for expressing human love, one to another. The mother-to-child relationship is established by the provision of food, and this expression of caring for one another develops according to other psycho-social factors.

This is one reason that preparing an elaborate meal becomes intrinsic to sharing birthdays, picnics, and many other occasions for social gatherings.

Summer is the perfect time to improve eating habits because a wider variety of fruits and vegetables are available that serve the multiple purposes of good nutrition, hydration and tasty and portable treats.

So if you are planning a get-together this summer, or going to the beach, Lucardie suggests making fruit a significant part of the menu. Instead of serving juice or soda that can be high in sugar, blend in these fruits with water and honey for a fruit smoothie.

Thinner people, according to Nelson, are often individuals who have developed a more acute sensibility to listen and respond accordingly when their bodies cue them, “I’m full, time to stop eating” or “I’m thirsty, not hungry.”

Listening to the psychological triggers of when to eat and when to stop is core to the psychology of good nutrition. Learn to listen and take advantage of the healthy food options available this summer.

You might find that improving your nutrition is easier than you thought. Please consult a physician before beginning any diet or exercise program.

—Courtesy of ARAcontent

 


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