At the end of a long day, it may be tempting to reach for our favorite foods without giving it a second thought. From chocolate-covered cookies to a chilled glass of wine, we all have our ‘go-to’ faves. For me, if I’m feeling extra wiped, I’ll dive into whatever frozen treat is waiting for me in the freezer. This state of ‘mindless munching’ is something that many of us may be familiar with. But sometimes turning to these treats leads us down a path that doesn’t serve us or our health goals. According to the American Psychological Association, studies suggest that willpower erodes across the day. So when we’re feeling depleted and running on empty, what can we do? Enter our environment.
- Make healthy easy
After getting home from the grocery store, wash, cut and store produce in clear containers. Make them ‘snackable’ by placing them at eye level next to a dip of your choice. Cucumber rounds with hummus or apple slices with almond butter are simple, filling and nutrient-dense. Since it can be easy to polish off an entire bag/container/box of whatever we’re eating or drinking, consider buying single-serve, individually wrapped snacks to help keep intake in check.
- “Kondo” your counter
If you’ve ever emptied your closets, reorganized your pantry or otherwise ‘tidied up’ as Japanese organization guru Marie Kondo would say, you may notice feeling less stressed. According to one recent study, “clutter had a negative impact on self-reported well-being” among the study’s participants. Keep your counters clean and clear of junk food. Store fresh fruit in attractive bowls and containers on top of your counter, making choosing filling and fiber-rich foods easy to get to.
- Create home hydration stations
Many of us struggle to drink enough water throughout the day. According to the Institute of Medicine, women need about 11 cups of fluid per day while men need closer to 13 cups. Stash several water bottles or glasses in ‘hot spots’ in your home as a visual reminder to fill up on fluid. Sparkling water and caffeine-free drinks will count toward this number so maybe store an herbal tea bag or two in your favorite space.
- Bespoke with beans
Like water, many of us don’t meet our recommended daily intake of dietary fiber each day. For women, we need 25 grams per day while men need 38 grams per day. Not only does fiber promote positive digestive health, it helps with satiety, that feeling of fullness we get after eating. Staying fuller for longer may help keep cravings in check, making reaching for a treat less likely after a fiber-rich meal. From roasted chickpeas to lentil pasta, store different bean-based foods in your home to up your fiber game.
- Greenify your surroundings
When we’re feeling stretched thin, spending time around greenery may lift our spirits and our mood. A 2010 study found that those who spent time in a room with a plant reported feeling more confident and energized compared to those who were in a room sans plant. Create your own indoor garden by adding a low-maintenance plant or terrarium to spaces where you spend the most time. Or, if you’re like me and don’t have a green-thumb, treat yourself to a few fresh flowers now and again.
Bottom line: Starting something new and working toward a personal health goal can be challenging. Building healthy habits takes time. Scan your current surroundings and focus on changing one thing at a time to help prevent that “I’m doing everything yet nothing is getting done” feeling. Above all, be kind to yourself and take it one day at a time.