Making healthful food choices today is hard. We’re bombarded with less than optimal options at every turn, even in the unlikeliest of places – Snickers Bars at the supermarket check-out, a coworker’s leftover homemade cinnamon rolls in the staff kitchen, Doritos at FedEx Copy Centers (this last one really irks me – do they think we’ll waste away while xeroxing a couple sheets of paper?). It’s no surprise then that researchers estimate that we’re faced with more than 200 food decisions a day. And because willpower is a muscle of sorts, this type of repeated “use” wears us down. By the end of the day, choosing a Starbucks tea as opposed to a venti, extra-whip mocha can feel nearly impossible.
While we can’t control every environment, most of us can rule our own roosts. If you are charged with grocery shopping, you control what you bring into your home and how it’s stored. Also the cook? Then you control what is offered at the table and how it’s prepared. This means you can minimize the use of your willpower muscle at home so that it has plenty of strength left for the world outside your front door.
The benefits of this aren’t limited to you. If you buy and prepare food for your significant other, children or roommates, you’re what researchers have termed a “Nutritional Gatekeeper.” According to a 2006 report in the Journal of the American Dietetics Association, Gatekeepers influence more than 70% of the foods their housemates eat. To put it simply:
Now, maybe some of you are thinking, Well obviously! But do you take advantage of this fact? Is there an abundant supply of temptation foods in your kitchen that tax your or your housemates’ willpower muscles? If the answer is “yes,” why do you purchase them? How are they stored?
Below is a short list of suggestions for making your home environment more conducive to healthy eating so you can let your willpower muscle relax. These are strategies that every dietitian and nutritionist I know enlist in their own lives (e.g. when I find myself going through a jar every week or two, I know its time to banish peanut butter from my kitchen).
If you have other strategies, I’d love to hear about them and I bet other readers would too. Please, please, please leave them in the comments section!