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3 Surprising Ways To Eat Healthier
Eating healthy can be hard. But whether you’re stressed out and craving comfort food or too tired to think about cooking, here are a few expert-backed ideas to help you make the healthier call.
Clean up your feed. Maybe you follow people on social media because they make you laugh, inspire you to work out, or give you home-decorating ideas. One recent study published in the journal Appetite found that your virtual network could also influence what you put in your mouth. When participants believed their Facebook peers approved of junk food, they were more likely to eat unhealthy snacks. And when they thought their peers ate more fruits and veggies, they opted to do the same. “While we don’t know for sure, one reason why could be that we use our perceptions of what others are doing to help us fit in and behave in a way we think they’d approve of,” says lead study author Lily Hawkins, a PhD research student at Aston University in England.
Knowing this, you could unfollow everyone who posts pics of burgers and baked goods, or hide their posts. But you can also seek out people whose habits you want to emulate. And you can set a good example for others. “Be mindful of what you’re posting,” says Hawkins, “knowing that you could help nudge behaviors within your friendship groups to make healthier choices too.”
Give thanks. One recent study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology found that showing a little gratitude can motivate young adults to eat healthier. At the start of the study, participants reported their baseline eating habits. Then, once a week for two weeks, each study participant wrote a letter—expressing gratitude for themselves or someone else, or simply listing their daily activities—then answered a series of questions, including one about how grateful they felt at that moment. They were then instructed to try to eat healthier over the coming weeks. The people who experienced the highest levels of gratitude after the writing activity reported the most change in their eating habits.
“Gratitude can inspire us to improve ourselves in a number of ways, including our health,” says Megan M. Fritz, PhD, who led the study at the University of California, Riverside. “When you practice gratitude, you feel inspired by the people close to you, and you realize how important your well-being is to them.” The key to using gratitude to help fuel healthier eating, Fritz notes, is finding authentic ways to express gratitude for the people and things that truly make you feel grateful.
See the green. Gazing out your kitchen window may help you choose a grain bowl over pizza. Seeing greenery outdoors—particularly gardens, grass, shrubs, trees, or other vegetation—could help improve your mood and lower your cravings for unhealthy food, alcohol, and even cigarettes, according to a study led by researchers at the University of Plymouth in England. “Our findings suggest that visual exposure to green spaces can help boost your mood, which is associated with less frequent and less intense cravings,” says lead author Leanne Martin, a PhD researcher at the university.
And while further research is needed, you may be able to double down on the benefits by bringing some greenery inside. “Indoor plants or window boxes could also potentially help those attempting to withstand problematic cravings,” says Martin.