Making a lifestyle change means setting boundaries for yourself that are reasonable with clear objectives. Advanced planning will increase the likelihood of sticking within these boundaries and achieving these objectives. Whether you’re looking to lose weight or just be more aware of what you’re eating, a food budget will help. You can use this tool as you track calories in a food log or even if you’re just planning a meal.
Your Food Budget
Think of your food allocation for a day as you would a financial budget. Each day you have a certain number of calories to spend. How do you want to spend them? To get the most for your allowance, think about what’s ‘expensive’ and what’s ‘cheap’ to ‘buy’ on your budget. Do you want to save them up to indulge in something expensive or more evenly spread them throughout the day? If you looked at how you eat now, what would your expenses look like?
I was conditioned to rarely buy junk food and desserts, yet I weighed a ton. I had two problems. One was that even though I made more healthful food choices, I ate way too much, putting me way over budget. The other was that since I already so down on myself about being so overweight, I felt like I shouldn’t have treats, which just set me up to overindulge when I broke down and bought them. This is why setting up a plan that cuts out certain foods or food groups leads to feelings of resentment, and thus failure.
Part of being successful is identifying where you’re willing to compromise. I loved brownies and made sure I was able to have them every night if I wanted to, otherwise I would have felt deprived. (I was also meticulous about portioning them out and limiting myself to one serving.) I preferred vegetables with some oil on them, but learned to go without it and instead just spritz on some Pam to cook them. The key is to figure out how to have what you really like and reserve some calories for those foods.
Expensive Foods v. Cheap Foods
I have always been envious of people who can eat whatever they want without any (apparent, at least) consequence or be around food and not cave to the temptation of over-indulging. I needed to learn this behavior. Approaching food through a budget helped me to not only lose weight, but adopt healthful behaviors–like eating leftover cauliflower instead of pretzels if I’m hungry–that keep off unwanted pounds.
Some foods are expensive but necessary, like nuts and plant-based oils. Others are expensive but indulgent and would require you to blow your budget. Let’s face it: A piece of cheesecake at a restaurant is like three times bigger than what any one person should eat in one sitting. But I often fell into the mindset that since I was so overweight anyway, what difference would it really make if I had a piece of cheesecake, a doughnut, or brownie? In order to make a lifestyle change, it’s important to recognize that it really does matter.
Work toward making most of what you eat the cheap foods, which tend to be more filling anyway. A recent report found that when people increased the amount of vegetables and fruits in their diets, they were happier. What great news! Now you have a really good reason to eat more veggies! Most of your plate should be taken up by lots and lots of non-starchy vegetables like salad greens and cauliflower which will help you to fill up and feel more satisfied, even if you are eating significantly less of the ‘expensive’ stuff.
If veggies aren’t your best friend, strategize to change your relationship with them. Maybe it’s because they weren’t a regular part of meals you had growing up. Maybe you did, but had bad experiences with poorly-prepared vegetables. Maybe you just don’t know what to do with them besides follow the cooking instructions and dump some butter or cheese sauce on them. I’m here to help! I am passionate about veggies! There are very few of them I don’t like (radishes come to mind), so I’ll be posting lots of recipes to turn you onto vegetables. If you’ve perused my recipe posts, you’ll find that one of the most basic ways to really bring out the flavor of just about any vegetable is by roasting it. So check out the cabbage, Brussels sprouts, zucchini, and jalapeno recipes I posted and see what you can do.
Stop by tomorrow for a Baked Ziti recipe where I’ll show you how to make an expensive dish much more affordable.