Many people feel that the problem with healthy eating is simply that it is not interesting enough – while salads and vegetables are all well and good, there is little sparkle to them. And while this is a view that is easy to sympathise with, the honest truth is that there are plenty of interesting options if you know where to look. Sometimes all you need is something a little bit different.
Geography, weirdly, is something that has a bearing on typical diets. In many western countries, the climate is cold and rainy, and we are conditioned to eat heavier foods that are not so easily digested – we are expected to have a little more “meat on our bones”. And so conversely, trying cuisine from a hotter climate might be the key.
India, for example, is a country where the weather is invariably hot, and spice is a major ingredient in the cuisine of that country. Partly this is because it grows there and is easily affordable, and additionally spice in a diet makes it more readily digestible and doesn't add fat. Good Indian food is a very worthwhile option in a healthy diet.
Of course, any food if eaten to excess will cause you to gain weight. But mixing up your diet to give it an international flavour will keep things interesting, give you a range of nutrients which will be good to your body and will get you thinking about food in a different way – which will be beneficial in the long run.
Although it is generally accepted that the only truly reliable way to avoid weight gain is to eat healthily and exercise, the truth is that for many people, this seems like a hell of a grind. It takes a lot of effort, and it can be a while before you see substantial results from it – so taking a short cut becomes more attractive.
The most disturbing “alternative” to eating healthily is eating disorders. Most commonly, anorexia is chosen by people who feel that healthy eating still has too many calories involved. Although associated primarily with teenage girls and young women, anorexia is not limited to that section of society.
Bulimia, a disorder from the same family as anorexia, is becoming more and more common. Bulimia sufferers will eat where anorexics starve themselves, and will often binge to the point where they are uncomfortably full before inducing vomiting to ensure that food is not digested. While both anorexia and bulimia do allow sufferers to lose weight and keep it off, they carry very real dangers.
Although being slim is considered to be the glittering prize by many, it is at a price. If you are not eating the right nutrients, or are purging them through vomiting, it is impossible to keep clear, healthy skin and hair, and your energy levels will go through the floor. It is also unlikely that anorexics or bulimia sufferers will get to a point where they feel thin enough, and many can go to the point of killing themselves through malnutrition.
Fast food is, and will no doubt continue to be, one of the most secure industries in the world. The simple truth of the matter is that sometimes, we look for the quickest option when we are on the move. So it does not appear that fast food will disappear from the high street any time soon. From a healthy eating point of view, the question has to be whether we turn a blind eye to it or find healthy fast food. Does healthy fast food even exist, though?
Well, if fast food is a secure industry, then healthy eating is one that compares with it. While many of us need to eat on the move, there are certainly enough people around who don't want to compromise on their healthy eating plan. There are options for healthy fast food, even if we tend not to define it as such.
The best fast and healthy option for many of us is a sandwich. Certainly, the number of sandwich chains around the country is testament to how much people enjoy a good sandwich, and the advantage is that sandwiches are readily customizable. Admittedly, not all sandwiches are healthy, but it is up to you how you have them. A chicken salad sandwich on wholemeal with no mayo is certainly healthier than a burger and fries – and the level of variation compared to burgers means that it is a choice that need not get boring. Most sandwich shops also do wraps, pasta salads and other variations too.
The old cliché that if something is delicious it must be fattening has a lot to answer for. Take any list of favorite foods, and there is little doubt that the majority will be things that are bad for us. We instinctively crave foods that, on balance, are not the best option for us – they are unhealthy, lack nutrition and often they don't really fill our stomachs very well – but we keep going back, for whatever reason. Why DO we crave foods that are bad for us?
There is no doubt that there is a certain charm to food that is not particularly healthy. That charm is not always in the way the food tastes. Sometimes it is a convenience thing – if you're at a football game the chances are that the options for a snack do not include a healthy casserole, but will include burgers, hot dogs and various other foods that won't do your waistline a lot of good. Sometimes it can be something as simple as the way a food smells – find someone who doesn't enjoy the smell of fried onions and you may just have found alien life.
As often as not, we just crave the unhealthy food because it is simple. We're used to it, we don't need to sit down to eat it or pair it with just the right side dish. It's easy and it tastes good. What we need to do is to get to the point where we find a healthy option to be just as hassle-free. For many people, the best option in this case is a sandwich – just as long as there is not too much butter on it, anyway!
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