Everyone has food rules. This includes babies, toddlers (especially toddlers!), kids, and adults. You may not know them consciously, but we all have guidelines that drive our food decision-making. Think of your food rules as a group of statements that form your core food values. From how many times you eat, when you eat, your basic pantry, your comfort foods, foods you eat or don’t eat due to flavor (or texture), due to allergies, due to ethical/moral/religious issues, due to your paradigm of what you eat for health… it all adds up to your personal food rules.
For people who are working on eating consciously, having your food rules worked out can make day-to-day food decisions easier. Otherwise, those daily decisions can be downright debilitating, as you struggle with “what do I eat?” every time you are hungry or someone offers you something to eat.
Can you take 20 minutes or so sometime over the next few days to brainstorm your food rules? If you are contemplating making some changes in what you eat, this is a good place to solidify what you hope your eating will become. In a matter of time your changes become a part of your routine and daily habits, but at first it takes some higher brain function!
5 QUICK STEPS TO GETTING DOWN YOUR FOOD RULES
- Brainstorm for five minutes a list of the guidelines that currently drive your eating decisions. Be sure to include allergies, preferences, religious/moral/ethical choices you make.
- Brainstorm for five minutes a list of guidelines you are interested in adding into your eating. Anything goes, write it all down.
- Edit the list. Put together ideas that are similar. Clarify statements so you can understand them later.
- Select the 10-20 rules that most clearly define what you are striving for over the next six months. If something isn’t reasonable for that timeframe, don’t select it for your list right now.
- Make a clean copy of your list. Show it to a few people close to you and get their feedback. Does it represent the decisions you make or plan to make? Keep the list somewhere that you can see it every day for the next few weeks. Utilize it when meal planning and making food decisions. Become aware of what you are eating.
To get you started, here are mine. Personalized for me and freeing me from obsessing (well mostly) over what to eat each day.
My Food Rules:
- I strive to not eat processed foods in my house. *Future work: clean up condiments.
- I strive to not eat refined sugars and to keep unrefined sugars (honey and maple syrup) to under 50g a day. *Note: once a week I enjoy a refined sugar treat guilt free.
- I strive to begin each morning with a tall glass of water with squeezed lemon juice and a real breakfast.
- I strive to eat at least one serving of a leafy green each day.
- I strive to always drink water and herbal or decaf unsweetened tea except for truly special occasions.
- I strive to eat a serving of organic kefir or greek yogurt each day. Future work: finding additional palatable fermented foods that I can enjoy.
- I strive to eat large quantities of fruits and vegetables (in season, local and organic whenever feasible). Future work: eat more veggies with breakfast and lunch.
- I strive to eat small amounts of high quality, ethically raised meats, local free range eggs, and sustainable fish/seafood throughout the week.
- I strive to eat very small amounts of high quality full fat organic dairy throughout the week.
- I strive to eat as little refined white foods as possible, choosing the whole grain version whenever possible.
- I strive to eat quality fats including nuts, avocados, olive oil, coconut oil and butter from grass-fed cows.
- I strive to incorporate chia seeds and flax seed into my daily diet.
- I strive to make most of my food at home to provide my body with a strong base of nutritional excellence, allowing me to enjoy food consumed in other places without nutritional monitoring.
- I strive to maintain friendships with those who eat differently than I – some more stringent and others less consciously. I strive to be open, accepting and easy-going regarding their choices. I can enjoy meals and experiences without being militant regarding my “rules.”
- I strive to discuss eating (real) food whenever someone wants to talk with me about it. I do not discuss it when it is not welcome. Sales pitches, guilt trips and unwanted food debates are not in my nature. Future work: connect further with clean-eating community to find positive ways to bring awareness/education to others in a safe and friendly manner.
Food rules are always changing (just ask a toddler!) I work on mine several times a year as I learn new things and experiment with new foods and health concepts. I find that having them written down is very helpful, especially after holidays and birthday months when I may need to get back on track!
Do you see any value in having your food rules written down?