Good Decision Making: Turning Food Chaos into a Food Plan

March 2, 2015

foodHow many food decisions would you guess that you make during one day? Brian Wansink, author of Mindless Eating and an expert on consumer behavior and nutritional science, conducted a study that revealed people make over 200 food decisions per day. Should I eat? What should I eat? How much should I eat? Do I like this? Would I buy this again? You get the idea.

As your day progresses, the need to make food decisions often collides with a change in mood and an increase in emotional vulnerabilities – things such as tired, cranky, bored or frustrated. A lack of planning coupled with mood and emotional tides does not lend itself to making productive food decisions because your emotions or moods often impact your choices and result in you eating more with less discernment. For example, even though you started the day with intentions of no saturated fats, at the end after fighting with your boss and getting home late, a bowl of pork fried rice might seem like the perfect quick fix to your headache and fatigue. Ever wonder why liquid protein diets are so successful for people in the short run? Because they reduce the total number of decisions from over 200 per day to two – what time should I eat a 300- calorie shake and what flavor do I want? Done.

You don’t need to be on a liquid protein diet to be successful. You need a plan. No matter what your nutritional goal (i.e., losing weight, eating healthier, managing sugar intake, reducing caffeine), in the beginning it can help to reduce the number of decisions you have to make. Plan for a week and try to have some consistency from day to day. For example, don’t go from eating a salad for lunch, to a burger and fries, to skipping it all together. Try to keep your lunch options within a healthy, somewhat predictable range of options.

But what if I get bored? When the plan gets boring, tweak the plan instead of throwing your hands up in despair and calling it quits. Change one or two things, such as the condiment you put on your sandwich or the dressing you use on your salad.

While food spontaneity and making decisions on the fly can be fun, you want to consider this scenario to be the exception rather than the rule. Too many decisions on the fly often leads to food chaos and ordering take-out! Do yourself a favor. Invest in your nutritional 401K and create a plan you can live with that fosters your overall quality of life.

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