6 Tips to Create a Happy Healthy Eating Environment

how to create a healthy eating environment

I have a great guest post today from Kerryn, a food loving dietitian and blogger, who just wants to help people cook, eat and enjoy real food. She specialises in diabetes management and sports nutrition (and is available for skype and face-to-face consultations) and loves to get her hands dirty in the kitchen. She believes this is the best way to teach people about food and help them connect the dots between nutrition messages and real food examples. You can read more about Kerryn’s approach to food and nutrition here

Today she is talking about how to create a happy healthy eating environment, which is a key aspect of eating for health and wellness. Enjoy!

You are probably well aware that your own health and happiness plays a central role in creating a happy, healthy home, but you may not know that your eating environment and the relationship that you have with food has a big impact on this. With the co-existence of the diet industry promoting every fad under the sun, and an obesogenic (weight gain encouraging) environment placing convenient foods at your arms reach, our relationship with food is turning sour, and the meaning of eating for health has become blurred. So how do you create a healthy environment where your family can confidently eat for nourishment and with enjoyment? Well I believe it comes down to being organised, being mindful at eating times and breaking down the rules and restrictions that extreme dietary trends have bought into our homes.

Here are my 6 tips to create a happy, healthy eating environment

  1. Say no to rules and restrictions

Have you ever had feelings of guilt or deprivation when you have tried to enforce a rule around eating? I understand that some people may have special dietary needs to help them manage an intolerance, allergy or medical condition. For these people it may be important to eat gluten free, lower their carb intake or cut out dairy. But for most of us, there is no need to.

The issue that has come with social media and recent dietary trends such as paleo and quitting sugar, is that they unnecessarily demonise specific foods and nutrients without considering all of the the evidence and the context of your eating pattern – remember, there is no one size fits all approach to eating. They can also make you bring strict rules and regulations to the dinner table, which can create social isolation and make you feel guilty and unhealthy if you ‘sway’ from the rules. This can have devastating physical and emotional impacts on your whole families physical and emotional health.

Instead of enforcing strict rules and restrictions or labelling food as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ I challenge you to focus on your own healthy balance. This (unlabeled) eating pattern should include foods that you enjoy and that help you eat for your own physical and emotional health and wellbeing.
healthy food ideas

  1. Eat with joy – one of life’s greatest pleasures

Once the rules and restrictions are gone it will be much easier for you and your family to eat with joy- without the guilt. Remember, we don’t just eat for nourishment but for enjoyment, religious reasons, culture and to celebrate. This means that all foods have a place in a healthy balance. Allowing yourself to listen to your body and take time to enjoy all foods, including your favourite indulgences when you really feel like them, will help you find satisfaction and balance between enjoying fresh, unprocessed foods most of the time and more indulgent foods just some of the time. When you allow yourself your favourite indulgence food or cake during a celebration, don’t just gobble it up like your going to get sprung! Eat it slowly, eat with your senses and enjoy every moment. I challenge you to give yourself permission to listen to your body.

  1. Eat at the dinner table

Taking time to eat at the table and away from distraction has many physical and social benefits. Having distractions such as TV or working in front of the computer while you eat, can make you eat eat quicker, chew less and eat more than your body needs. Taking time to smell, chew, experience the taste and texture and listen to your body can help you enjoy your food and not over eat. If your house holds more than you, sitting at the dinner table together and talking about your day can also help reconnect your family (or friendship) and create a positive eating environment. If you have children, it’s important to know that they can connect their environment with their food. Eating within a positive environment will generally help them enjoy these foods in the future. Eating together also creates a sense of community. Those readers of my blog know how much I love the Mediterranean way of eating. Yes for the vibrant fresh foods and drippings of olive oil, but also for the sense of community and celebration of family and love through food. I challenge you to eat at the dinner table whenever possible.

  1. Eat mostly plants

I truly love Michale Pollan’s food philosophy – eat food, not too much, mostly plants. All eating patterns shown to improve our health have one thing in common, they encourage us to eat more plant based foods. Instead of focusing on what to avoid or cut out of your eating pattern, try and focus on adding more plant foods to your meals and snacks. You will find that when you do this you naturally reduce your intake of energy dense processed foods, have smaller portion sizes of meat and feel like the more indulgent foods just some of the time.  Plant foods of course include all vegetables (aim to bulk up all main meals with veggies), fruit, legumes, nuts and grain foods (such as oats, brown rice, quinoa and quality grain bread).

I challenge you to look at every evening meal this week and find opportunities to add more plants. This may mean adding extra vegetables to your risotto, grated vegetables through your mince (have you ever blended mushrooms to add to mince) or adding extra vegetables to your curry or stir-fry.

  1. Get organised

Sorry for the blunt title, but organisation really does underpin a healthy home and a healthy you. When it comes to your family’s meals, planning what you will eat for the week ahead and doing the grocery shopping in bulk (you can try online if you are really time poor) will save you time and money. When doing this, consider when the whole household will be home, what nights you may be working late and when you may have to rush from school, to cricket practice. After you write this down, work out the best meals to prepare for this week. Some of my favourite meal prep tips include:

  • Cook a meal once in bulk on Sunday night and use the leftovers in a different way on another night (think about a curry served with rice one night and used for stuffed spuds another).
  • Batch cook some meals for the freezer – think soups, bolognese sauce, chilli con carne, sang chow bow mix and curries.
  • Pre-chop a bunch of vegetables when you have a free afternoon to help make a really quick stir-fry through the week.
  • Make extra roasted vegetables on a quiet night to reheat and serve with a BBQ chicken from the supermarket on another night.
  • Use leftover vegetables to make omelettes on those nights that you are home late.

I challenge you to plan your meals this week.

  1. Don’t let social media make you feel bad

I have to admit, I am a lover of sharing a good food pic on Instagram. But have you ever felt immense pressure and expectation from scrolling through your Instagram or Facebook feed? I know I have! Yes this can be a wonderful way to be inspired and learn new ways to build a healthy meal, but comparing your meals to these pictures can make you feel added pressure and make you loose perspective of your own healthy balance. I challenge you to focus on YOU and your own healthy balance.
I hope that you have taken away some useful tips from this post. Thinking about your environment and your relationship with food is a different take on eating for health. Different, but probably the most important part. I really do hope that you have a great day and take time to sit and enjoy a beautiful meal with a loved one.
Kerryn x

You can sign-up to receive Kerryn’s recipes and foodie blog posts here
You can also connect with her on Instagram: @the_wholesome_collective and Facebook: The wholesome Collective

Do you relate to any of these tips?

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