Eating for Your Physical and Mental Health

Losing weight means sacrifice, but it doesn’t mean giving up all delicious things or eating from tiny plates. It can take some time to find the right balance of healthy, filling, and satisfying meals, but it is possible.

Foods for Physical Health: The First Half of Your Plate

Losing weight is a lot easier when you’re eating less calorie-dense foods. To meet my calorie goals, I do the following most days:

  1. Eat 1 lb. of non-starchy vegetables, usually cooked, divided between lunch and dinner.
  2. Aim for 1/2 lb. of fruit at breakfast.

I especially rely on the frozen, steamable bags of veggies and frozen fruits. They are ready to eat within minutes, no chopping or washing required. I also make sure to keep my favorites around, even if they are a little pricey sometimes. These delicious, healthy foods take up half of my (normal-sized) plate. I eat them without added fats (like butter or cheese) because I already include those in the other half of my plate. (I like to mix the veggies with whatever else I’m eating, so I don’t feel like they need additional sauce or seasoning.) When I eat salad, which is rare, I mix it with the cooked food on my plate so I can skip the dressing. I don’t like salad dressing enough to feel like it’s worth using.

If you really miss cheese or butter on your veggies, try Kernel Season’s popcorn seasonings, especially the nacho cheddar or white cheddar varieties. They are pretty low in calories but add some great flavor.

The Other Half

It’s no secret that non-starchy veggies and fruits aren’t filling on their own, even though they are super nutritious. Since they make up about 1/2 of my plate, what do I fill the rest with?

Whatever I want, pretty much. I am definitely not a fan of low-carb diets, so I eat plenty of rice, potatoes, and pasta with meat and dairy more sparingly. 90% of the meals I eat are already on this blog, and I most often eat dinner leftovers for lunch. Since my meals for weight loss should be around 500-550 calories each, I sometimes have to adjust the portion a little to make it work, but I still end up with a full plate of food.

Though I always use full-fat dairy products, I’m not against swapping beef or pork for turkey versions of things. I think ground turkey, turkey hot dogs, and turkey sausages are delicious, and they are often cheaper, too! I don’t like turkey bacon, but I do buy the precooked real bacon bits because they are reasonably priced, convenient, and only 30 calories per tablespoon. I can still enjoy those as part of breakfast without having to sacrifice bacon.

Another food I really enjoy using for breakfast is Krusteaz pancake mix. I hardly ever leave it plain; I’m always adding mashed bananas, grated apples, chocolate chips, blueberries, nuts, or a combination of these. The mix itself, though a convenience food, is fairly low in calories, even more so than pancakes or waffles from scratch. (I use the mix with only water, not eggs or oil as it calls for when making waffles.) I enjoy pancakes/waffles a couple times a week with peanut butter (no butter or syrup) and still meet my goals.

eating
I will happily eat ramen until I die.

Foods for Mental Health

What food would you feel most sad about if you had to give it up and never eat it again?

For me, it’s chocolate! For that reason, I made sure to incorporate chocolate into almost every day of my life, even while losing weight. That means chocolate chip waffles for breakfast (hold the syrup) or a couple of Lindor truffles when I can squeeze them in. Too much deprivation means giving up. I am not kidding when I say I can’t live without chocolate.

I focused on incorporating chocolate but didn’t worry as much about fitting in chips, crackers, baked goodies, or other snack-type foods. Chocolate is my favorite of all these things, so I saved the rest for later and didn’t think of them as “never again” foods. I didn’t get a lot of cravings, but when I did, I ate a little instead of trying to put it off. I learned from pregnancy that ignoring a craving usually meant a lot of unhappiness.

Foods to Avoid

There aren’t many foods that fall in this category, honestly. For me, I want foods to taste good and be good for me in some way, whether it’s physical, mental, or both. If they don’t fit this qualification, then I try not to eat them. No food is inherently bad unless it’s been poisoned by your archenemy.

Things That Don’t Matter

I know some will disagree with me on this, but there are some things about food that do not matter for weight loss, even though they are commonly emphasized in the media. A food does not have to be. . .

  1. Organic
  2. Natural
  3. “Clean”
  4. Raw
  5. From the perimeter of the grocery store
  6. Made from only a few ingredients
  7. A perfect balance of macros (whatever that means)
  8. Unprocessed
  9. Expensive

None of these things can guarantee that a food will taste good or be good for you.

Calorie Density and How to Reduce It

The easiest way to eat fewer calories and still get a full plate? Eat more fruits and veggies (especially nonstarchy ones). If you want to put a name to this way of eating, it best fits with calorie density. Looking at the other end of the spectrum, it makes sense to reduce your oil intake as well. Again, I’m not saying that any of these foods are bad. For weight loss, though, it just makes sense.

I reduced my intake of oils by getting rid of them for these things:

  1. Sauteing
  2. Caramelizing onions
  3. Topping vegetables
  4. Spreading on bread
  5. Searing meats
  6. Cooking scrambled eggs
  7. Using an air fryer instead of deep frying (only 1 T. oil per pound of food)
  8. Salad dressings

I still use oils/butter for the following:

  1. Baked goods, especially desserts (but eating a limited amount of them, and just my favorites)
  2. A tiny bit of sesame oil in some stir fry sauces
  3. In the sauce for cream soups/casseroles

There are many other ways to flavor your food that will also allow you a bigger serving. Focus on using flavorful meats and broths, herbs, spices, nut butters, or full-fat dairy products to get the flavor you want. Small changes can make a huge difference over time, and almost any form of fat tastes better than canola oil. 🙂

Conclusion

A meal should be nutritious, filling, and satisfying, meaning that you get what you need both physically and mentally from it. I don’t believe in eating things just because they’re “healthy” or avoiding things just because they’re not. Make choices based on what you really like, and you’ll be healthier and happier in the long run.

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