What Role Does Food Play In Your Life?

What Role Does Food Play In Your Life?

It’s human nature. Once or twice a year we take stock and think, “You know, I really should take better care of myself.” It might be inspired by a recent health scare. It could be a wedding, reunion or other special event that spurs us to slim down.

So, we get out our tennis shoes and put some miles on the pavement. We try to watch what we eat and say no to sugary, fatty foods. Yet, that’s where the seeds of disappointment are rooted. A temporary emergency fix usually doesn’t stick.

The key to eating well throughout the year is to understand the role food plays in life, health and happiness. When you do, it can motivate you to stick with it. Just as important, it serves as the inspiration to find ways to overcome obstacles and excuses that keep you from eating better quality foods.

You know the saying: Where there’s a will, there’s a way. It’s true. If you want to fuel your body with healthy foods, you can do it. Have questions about how? We’ve got answers.

Q: How can you eat healthy, even on a budget?

First, check the grocery store website to see what’s on sale for the week. Then plan the week’s meals based on those foods. Look online for healthy recipes that use the foods that are on sale. Combine those ingredients with whatever you have in your pantry. That way, you’ll use what you already have and you won’t overbuy.

It’s also important to shop for in-season vegetables. They are less expensive and fresher.

Set a budget for groceries. Once you know how much you have to spend, you can figure out what to buy. Budgeting is a big part of financial well-being.

Some of the things your mother and grandmother always said about ways to save money on food and eat healthier are really true. For example:

  • Don’t go to the grocery hungry. You’ll make too many impulse buys and chances are you won’t choose the healthy food.
  • Pack a healthy lunch and bring it to work. You’ll save money and be less tempted to buy that slice of pizza.

Q: What can you do if you don’t have time to cook?

It can be hard to cook dinner if you work all day and come home tired and hungry. The answer is to cook meals ahead if you can. Maybe you have time on Sunday. You can make meals for the upcoming week so you’re not stressed about what to have for dinner. Cooking ahead also removes the temptation to go through the drive-through on your way home.

Q: Is there a way to save on organic food?
Organic produce can cost more. If you can’t afford to buy all organic produce, at least try to buy organic versions of the fruits and vegetables on the “Dirty Dozen” list compiled by the Environmental Working Group. Non-organic varieties of these fruits and veggies are the ones most likely to have been sprayed with pesticides:

  • Apples
  • Peaches
  • Grapes
  • Celery
  • Nectarines
  • Strawberries
  • Cucumbers
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Spinach
  • Sweet bell peppers
  • Sugar snap peas (imported)
  • Potatoes

Q: What are some budget-friendly, healthy food choices?
Tofu, beans and lentils are much cheaper than the cost of meat. Most people look at meat as the center of the meal. It doesn’t have to be.

Q: If you start an exercise program, can you eat more calories or should you cut back to lose weight?

To lose one pound a week, you have to cut your total calorie intake by 3,500 calories. Your calorie intake is the number of calories you eat versus the number of calories you use. You can cut calories by burning more or by eating less. It’s best to download an app or check online charts that show how many calories you burn doing certain exercises. You also can add up the calories in the food you eat.

It’s important not to go overboard and cut your calorie intake by too much. Food is the fuel your body needs to function. It’s like giving your car gas. If the car doesn’t have gas, it isn’t going to move.

Q: What should you do if you hate to diet and always feel hungry?
This is a surprise for most people, but you don’t have to diet to lose weight. You actually can eat more! The key is to eat healthy food in small portions more often. If you eat mindfully you will be giving your body the nutrition it needs, reduce your calorie intake and not feel hungry.

Q: What does it mean to “eat mindfully?”

Simply put, it means listen to your body. Instead of looking at the clock and eating lunch because it’s noon, eat only when you’re hungry. Most people in America never actually feel hungry. So we need to learn what it feels like to be hungry so we can recognize it. Just as important, recognize when you are full and stop eating.

Healthy eating is one of the keys to a healthy life. When you don’t give your body the foods and nutrients it needs, you open the door to heart disease, stroke, obesity, cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis and a host of other diseases. You can also make the health issues you have worse.

Find the weaknesses in your diet. Take steps to change them. Yes, change can be hard, but your health is worth it. Start with small healthy changes. They will make a difference.

Sources: Eating Healthy on a Budget, leaving site icon My Plate, U.S. Department of Agriculture; Strategies for Eating Well on a Budget, leaving site icon Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, 2022; Mindful Eating 101: A Beginner’s Guide, leaving site icon Healthline, 2023; Nutrition: Tips for Improving Your Health, leaving site icon FamilyDoctor.org, 2023.

Originally published 3/1/2016; Revised 2021, 2023