Eating healthy can feel like a never-ending struggle. It can feel like you can’t stick with any healthy habits and nothing you do is going to work (if you even can know if you’re doing the right thing). At home, you can find control. You can keep the chips and cookies out of your pantry to avoid a binge. You can cook your own meals and pay attention to your portion sizes. Things become more complicated when you go outside of that comfort zone and into unhealthy food environments.

My husband, Zach, and I spent the beginning of this month on vacation to an all-inclusive resort – food at your fingertips 24/7. If there wasn’t a restaurant open, there was a café to get a snack from. You had your pick of whatever you wanted on the menu. In fact, at dinner everyone was encouraged to order an appetizer, entrée, and dessert. Basically, the only thing we had to do on this trip was relax and EAT.

Our first night there, we decided to just split a slice of cheesecake at dinner. Zach wanted a cup of decaf coffee from the café after before calling it a night after a long day of travel. We entered the café to find a case full of desserts. I walked over to peak at what was inside…chocolate cake, vanilla cupcakes, apple tarts, snickerdoodle cookies, and more…I realized I didn’t want anything.

I struggled with my sweet tooth and feeling like I had no control for so long, that it was still a big moment for me. In that moment the old me would have gotten not 1, but 2 desserts…to feel completely stuffed after. The trend would have continued for the next 3 days we were there, for me to return home and be telling myself no sugar for a while.

Instead, I got to enjoy my fair share of food and treats on this vacation, but I was in control. I’ve ditched the guilt that food used to cause me. I get to choose what I want to eat, instead of feeling like I have to have it if I see it.

It begs the question…how do you eat healthy in unhealthy food environments?

I define healthy eating as a balance. You figure out what balance means to you. There’s no such thing as a perfect way of eating because we are all different.

Here’s 3 steps to find your balance:

1) Focus on protein.

Protein should be the center of every meal. It’s going to be the most filling part of your plate. It doesn’t matter if you’re cooking, ordering out, or eating at a friend’s house – pick your protein first.

2) Add fat and carbs.

Fat and carbs both provide energy to keep you going. They’ll help to keep you satisfied until time to eat again.

3) Save the sweets for dessert.

Eat your meals before having something sweet. If you reach for a sweet to satisfy your hunger, you’re likely to keep eating. Sweets may be tasty, but they will not fill you up.

Using these 3 steps, on vacation I enjoyed foods like:

  • Steak, egg, and potatoes for breakfast
  • Pesto chicken pizza for lunch
  • Pork chop, mashed potatoes, and mixed vegetables for dinner
  • Rum raisin ice cream, guava cheesecake, or crepes for dessert

Focusing on the above steps creates healthy habits that you can maintain, so you no longer feel like you lose control. When you enter an unhealthy food environment, it’s not such a big deal anymore. You get to enjoy eating again.

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