LIMIT YOUR SPECIAL OCCASION FOODS
Photo by jronaldlee
When I sat down and planned out all of the challenges at the beginning of the year, I didn't really think about when I'd be writing them. Two weeks before Thanksgiving and the big launch into the season of gluttonous eating may be the worst possible time to suggest that you start limiting your special occasion foods. On the other hand, since eating healthy is something many of us struggle with year round, now may be as good a time as ever to start thinking about it.
"Special occasion foods" is the term I use to describe foods that provide little nutritional value - things like chocolate, coffee, sugar, alcohol, fast food, and soft drinks that are appropriate for special occasions but not so valuable for daily consumption. Many of these foods are also served with a side of health, social, and/or environmental issues, such as:
- Chocolate - heavy pesticide use, low wages for farmers, and child labor (sometimes even slave labor)
- Beer - heavy pesticide use, possible health side effects
- Coffee - deforestation, pesticide use, water use, low wages for farm workers, coffee cup waste
- Sugar - soil degradation, soil erosion, water use, low wages for farm workers
Choosing to limit your special occasion foods is valuable not only for your health and the health of the planet, but also because they're budget-suckers, leeching away money that you could be spending on healthier foods. If you're having trouble buying organic or locally-grown foods and staying in the budget, examine how often you're consuming special occasion foods and where you could cut back. Keep special occasion foods special by saving them for treats rather than consuming them every day. If there's a category or two that you're not that keen on anyway - why not just let it go from your life. And if you must buy it, look for local, organic, and fair trade options.
I have to admit that of all of the challenges so far, this may be the one that's most challenging for me. I have a major sweet tooth that gets really angry if I go too long without feeding it, so for me learning to moderate my special occasion foods has been all about finding balance. Two other pieces of advice that have been really helpful for me:
- Don't eat something if you don't really love it. I don't really like candy or cake, but in the past I always ate it if it was offered to me. Finally at some point, I realized what a waste of calories that was. Now, I decline cake and candy and stick to desserts I really enjoy, and if I take a bite of something and my first thought is "eh...," I put down my fork. (Okay, most of the time...none of us are perfect.)
- Remember that there will always be a next time. I have been in many many situations where a food tastes so good that I want more and more...and then I'm stuffed and feel sick and put on a few pounds. Now, when I feel like going back for seconds, I remind myself that there will be more opportunities to eat _____. This is a great mental reminder at Thanksgiving or other holidays that come around every year.