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Last Updated on December 16, 2020

Three Scientific Hacks to Healthy Eating with Little Effort

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Three Scientific Hacks to Healthy Eating with Little Effort

The first most common new year resolution everyone set is usually about his or her career. Everyone hopes and wants to do better in a new year compared to the previous – to get promoted, to close bigger clients, to grow your brand further, and to double or triple your income.

And I bet the second most common goal of many is to improve their health or to lose weight. In fact, these are simple goals to describe but difficult feats to pull off for many.

We all know in order to lose weight, we should take a closer look and better control of our diet- eat more greens, less processed foods, more fruits, fewer desserts – alright, you don’t need me to repeat these. It’s clear that we all know what to do, but…

How to do it? Making it simpler? Making it easier? And making it more effective?

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Make Good Use of the Optical Illusion

The Delboeuf illusion has long been known to cause us to misjudge the size of identical circles when they are surrounded by larger circles of varying sizes. The more “white space” around the circle, the smaller it appears.

Research[1] done by Professors Brian Wansink and Koert van Ittersum explored how a well-established optical illusion leads us to make inaccurate estimates of serving size, depending on what size plate they are presented on.

For example, research was conducted in a fitness camp where campers who were given a larger bowl tended to consume 16% more cereal than other campers who had a smaller bowl. However, campers with larger bowls perceived they consumed 7% less cereal than other campers, despite the fact that they were eating more.[2]

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use smaller plate

    What can we do to combat this powerful effect? Simply being aware of the effects of the Delboeuf illusion may not be enough to overcome it.

    The best solution to change our eating behavior is to design our environment by replacing the plates and bowls we’re using. We can take advantage of this visual “trick” by manipulating the plates we use to serve various foods. Healthy foods such as fresh vegetables and fruits should be served in larger plates to encourage consumption, while less healthy foods should be served on smaller plates to trick ourselves into feeling satisfied with less.

    By using a smaller plate, we trick ourselves that we have enough, which helps us to break the habit of overeating. At the same time, it will also help you to reduce a significant amount of food wastage since you will never make or serve more food than you can finish.

    Adjust the Triggers

    Habits form in a loop called the habit formation cycle. It starts with a trigger, then the routine – any good or bad habit – and finally the reward.

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    Most rewards for the unhealthy eating pattern such as overeating and poor food choice are heavily tied to the satisfaction of our taste buds. We love the taste and we crave it, and that’s why we keep repeating the habit loop of the bad eating pattern.

    get rid of the triggers

      But wait a minute?

      The best way to break a bad habit is by substituting a new routine to the habit loop. However, it’s hard for us to switch from eating chips and crackers to healthy salads and green juice. The alternative solution to break the habit loop is by reducing our exposure to the triggers. And the most common trigger of the bad eating pattern is the visual of the food. In other words, we usually only crave for unhealthy foods when we see them.

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      The best solution: make unhealthy invisible and healthy food obvious.

      • Never shop around or nearby the snack counters; spend more time around the vegetables and fruits areas.
      • Keep your snacks in a closed cabinet, or even better, don’t buy them.
      • Wrap processed foods, cakes, pizzas using the aluminum foil and wrap vegetables, fruits and lean meats using transparent wrapping sheet when keeping them in your refrigerator.

      Lifestyle Change Instead of Diet Change

      One of the core factors why most people fail to lose fat is they see it as a one-time event. When you search for fat loss tips online, most articles you see is about how much fat or weight someone loses in a certain period – usually short – of time. Then, everyone is fired up about what this person ate or what program he/she followed during that period of time to achieve that.

      However, losing weight is not a one-time event; it’s not a sprint race. There is no one magical program, solution, food, or supplement that turns everything around – poor eating habits, lack of movement, bad sleeping routine – and helps you lose weight instantly.

      Healthy eating habits (lifestyle change) > Fat-loss diet (temporary plan)

      When approaching our diet – maybe we should stop calling it diet, instead, our eating plan, we should all aim for a lifestyle change rather than the food choice constraints and diet rules. Define yourself as a healthy person; start adjusting your eating habits and behaviors to achieve optimal physical health for the long run.

      What is the best way to achieve this? Change your environment to change your behavior.

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      Dean Yeong

      Self-improvement writer and performance coach

      Three Scientific Hacks to Healthy Eating with Little Effort Not Making Progress? 3 Ways to Get Moving Again what to read next What to Read Next? 30 Inspiring Books That Will Expand Your Mind 7 Best Ways of Learning Effectively 6 Counter-intuitive Methods to Make Your Life Better that No One Talks About

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      Published on August 24, 2021

      What Is a Whole Food Diet And Does It Really Work?

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      What Is a Whole Food Diet And Does It Really Work?

      I’ve been a dietitian now for a long time (more years than I care to mention), and if there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that fad diets are best avoided. This is why I’m so pleased that whole food diets are being talked about more and more.

      Rather than a “diet,” I prefer to think of a whole food diet as a way of life. Eating this way is balanced, and it is a great way to support your all-around body health and longevity. Plus, it’s delicious and—in my opinion—not limiting either, which is a massive bonus.

      A well-balanced diet follows some fairly basic principles and, in essence, consists of plenty of the following:

      • Fruit
      • Vegetables
      • Whole grains
      • Lean protein
      • Nuts
      • Water

      This is essentially all a whole food diet is. Unfortunately, there isn’t an accepted definition of the whole food diet, which means that there are some highly restrictive versions around and some involve principles to frame your diet around rather than strict rules.

      Read on to learn more about the whole food diet as a framework for eating rather than a strict rule book of dos and don’ts that restricts your lifestyle.

      What Is a Whole Food Diet?

      By definition, a whole food diet consists of eating foods that are as close to their natural form as possible. It’s easy to get lost in a quagmire of organic, local, or pesticide-free, but a whole food diet is basically food in its most natural form. Obviously, spices can be ground and grains can be hulled, but you get the idea. You eat the whole food rather than what’s left after being refined or processed.

      In other words, it involves a lot of cooking because whole foods do not involve anything processed. That means no premade sauces, dips, or convenience foods like chocolate bars, sweets, or ready-meals. It also includes things like tinned vegetables and white bread.

      Why? Processed and convenience foods are often high in salt, saturated fat, and additives in comparison to anything homemade. Because of this, their toll on your overall health is higher.

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      Can Other Diets Also Be Whole Food Diets?

      Here’s where it gets confusing—yes, other diets can also be whole food diets. Eating a whole food diet is a lifestyle choice, but many other diets can exist within a whole foods construct. So, diets like the MIND Diet and Mediterranean Diet are also whole food diets.

      For example, here are the foods involved in the MIND Diet:[1]

      • Green, leafy vegetables five times a week
      • Five or more different colored fruits and vegetables every day.
      • Berries five times a week
      • Five or more servings of nuts a week
      • Olive oil five times a week
      • Whole grains five times a week
      • Oily fish twice a week or take an algae-based omega-3 supplement
      • Legumes and pulses five times a week
      • White meat/mix of plant-based proteins twice a week
      • Vitamin D supplement
      • Minimally processed foods
      • No more than one glass of wine a day
      • One or two coffee or tea a day max
      • Two liters of water a day

      That’s pretty much a whole food diet, right? As long as any meat or plant-based proteins are as unprocessed as possible, then it can be a whole food diet.

      Other diets, like a vegan diet, for instance, could be whole food diets or not. It really depends if processed foods are included. Some food substitutes are really heavily processed, so it’s important to read labels really carefully. But it’s only some, not all.

      And here’s where it gets woolly. If you don’t need to eliminate certain food groups for whatever reason—ethical, health, religion—then a whole food diet can be great. But if you do exclude certain foods, then it could be beneficial to include certain “processed” foods. This is to make sure that you don’t miss out on vital nutrients to keep you healthy.

      Processed Foods That Are Okay on a Whole Food Diet

      Many brands of cereals are fortified with B vitamins, which can be hard to come by on a plant-based diet.

      For example, vitamin B12 (needed for maintaining a healthy nervous system, energy, and mood-regulation), is largely found in animal sources. It is something that those on a plant-based diet need to keep an eye on, as studies show that around 20% of us are deficient. And we also know that 65% of vegans and vegetarians don’t take a B vitamin supplement.[2]

      So in that case, choosing a cereal fortified with B vitamins would be a good option, if done wisely. By that I mean use your discretion and check the labels, as many brands of cereals are packed with sugar and additives. But you can strategically choose minimally processed foods using a whole foods mentality.

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      As a rule of thumb, if there are any ingredients that you can’t pronounce, don’t understand, or sound artificial, they probably are best avoided.

      Benefits of a Whole Food Diet

      In a 2014 analysis by Yale University, they concluded that “a diet of minimally processed foods close to nature, predominantly plants, is decisively associated with health promotion and disease prevention.”[3]

      A diet rich in fruit and vegetables or other high-fiber foods like whole grains and nuts is really important in maintaining good long-term health and preventing health problems like diabetes and cancers. These kinds of foods also help our bodies to cope and control the effects of inflammation.

      In fact, one review from 2019 stated that “diets high in plant foods could potentially prevent several million premature deaths each year if adopted globally.”[4] This is a big endorsement for a whole food diet.

      Whole Foods and the Gut

      Whole foods are loaded with fibers that are sometimes lost during processing or refinement. Fiber is essential for a healthy gut because aside from its traditional “roughage” reputation, it also feeds the healthy bacteria in your gut, providing a whole host of other benefits.

      They also provide a lot of variety, which the gut loves. The more variety, the better. So, even though you might fall in love with certain recipes, it’s important to mix up the kinds of whole foods you eat to maintain a healthy gut. Aim for 30 different whole foods each week. It’s easier than you think!

      Whole Foods and the Brain

      The brain is a really hungry organ, and it uses 25% of the total energy you consume from your food. Everything it needs to function at its best is—you guessed it—a whole, unprocessed food.

      In fact, the best diet recommended for brain health is the MIND Diet. In one study, it was shown that people who follow the MIND diet closely had a 53% reduced rate of developing Alzheimer’s.[5]

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      Some of the best whole foods for the brain are:[6]

      • Oily fish
      • Nuts
      • Eggs
      • Berries
      • Broccoli
      • Whole grains

      Is It Easy to Follow a Whole Food Diet?

      Once you’ve got your head around having “ingredients” rather than “ready-to-eat” things in your kitchen cupboards, it’s actually very easy. The only issue is the lifestyle and habit changes that come along with it.

      It is very likely that for many people, following a totally, religiously whole food diet may be unattainable at least some of the time. For example, there are days where you don’t get time to make your lunch or if you want to enjoy social eating. Similarly, people who have young children or who are working more than one job are unlikely to be able to follow a whole food diet all of the time.

      Sometimes, we put ourselves under pressure to be as perfect as we can with diets like this, which can lead to an eating disorder called Orthorexia, which is a preoccupation with healthy eating.

      This means that following a whole food diet, in principle, can be healthy and accessible for some people but not for everyone. It also means that those with previous disordered eating, as always, need to avoid any form of dietary restriction or rules around their diet.

      Is a Whole Food Diet Boring?

      Absolutely not! The beauty of this way of eating is that there are barely any recipes that are off-limits. If you can make it yourself using natural ingredients, then it counts. So, dig out your recipe books and get familiar with your spice cupboard.

      Here’s my advice if you’re just starting: stock up on coconut milk and canned tomatoes. You’ll use them all the time in sauces.

      Best Hacks for Sticking With a Whole Food Diet

      Here are some tips to help you stick with a whole food diet and develop this lifestyle.

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      1. Practice Batch Cooking

      Especially in the beginning, if you’ve been used to eating more convenience-based or packaged foods, you’re likely to feel like you spend the majority of your life in the kitchen. So, I’d suggest getting your cookbooks out and planning around five things to make per week. If you make double, or even triple portions depending on your household, you’ll have enough quantity to last several meals.

      For example, his could be homemade granola. Make it once, and that’s breakfast sorted for a week. Whole food diet ingredients like oats, quinoa, buckwheat, nuts, and seeds are all delicious, and great nutritional resources to keep you feeling full until lunchtime.

      I also love to make big stews, sauces, and curries that can happily be reheated and added throughout the course of a few days.

      2. Make Your Own Convenience Foods

      Sticking to a new way of eating can be really difficult, especially for your willpower. So, it’s very important to make it as easy as possible for yourself.

      Pre-chop. Pre-chop. Pre-chop.

      If you’ve got a container of carrot sticks on hand or can happily munch on a few pieces of melon from the fridge, use those—it’s almost easier than grabbing something from a package. This can extend to your other vegetables, too. If you get your veg delivered or buy it from a market, choose a few things to slice after you wash them. That way, if you need a speedy lunch or a lazy dinner, it’ll be ready in minutes.

      Ready to Try a Whole Food Diet?

      If you’re looking to maximize your overall health, well-being, and vitality, I’d absolutely suggest a whole food diet. But, as with everything, it’s important to do what works for you and your own lifestyle.

      Featured photo credit: Louis Hansel – Restaurant Photographer via unsplash.com

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      Reference

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