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Monday, February 18, 2013

Learned behavior

I was talking to my husband the other day about how we can ruin a healthy food by loading it with unhealthy toppings or additives (example we used was a loaded baked potato) only because that was how we were taught to eat the food. That conversation inspired this post.

I like to eat a baked potato with nothing on it. I REALLY like to load it with sour cream, but I have taught myself to enjoy it plain. When I was a kid, I preferred to eat my cake without the frosting. Now I think the frosting is the best part. I don't care for butter on my bread. I enjoy salsa as a salad dressing. These are all examples of behavior we have been taught to do a certain way, and if you are a parent, you're probably teaching your children what you have learned. And if they are like me at all, and prefer their cake without icing, or their fries without salt, you most likely give them a hard time about eating food the wrong way and are trying to change their ways. Sooner or later you will change them, but you need to NOT!

Can you even imagine being able to enjoy a big baked potato, baked breads, cake, etc on a more regular basis just by changing the way that you "top" them? Why do we have to take a perfectly healthy salad and add tons of calories and fat to it buy topping it with ranch dressing instead of a healthier option? Because that's what we have learned.

We can change the way we serve foods and feel a lot less guilty about enjoying them. We can change the way we teach our kids to eat foods and set their habits for them at an early age. Or even leave their healthy preferences alone. We can retrain our brains and palates to learn to like a plain baked potato with no toppings.

If you are like a lot of people that feel like a certain food isn't edible unless served the way you were taught to eat it, you are probably thinking I'm off my rocker. I admit that having a natural preference for unbuttered bread, peanut butter on my pancakes, or black coffee is a huge advantage and makes it easier for me. But I know these are habits that can be changed, and that you can learn to enjoy the same foods you love in a lot healthier manner in exchange for not eating them at all. It's a pretty good trade in my opinion.

I'm going to list some examples of possible learned behaviors that you could change that would CAUSE a change in your healthy living. Tell me when I've struck a nerve.....
How big is your cereal bowl?
Do you keep ice cream or frozen yogurt in the house?
Is your popcorn plain, buttered lightly, or movie style?
Do you prepare meals for twice as many people than are in your family, and have little to no leftovers?
Do you cook with vegetable oil instead of canola or olive oil?
Do you use condiments on EVERYTHING?
Do you drink soda more than water? Or even with every meal?
Do you drink sugary sweet tea?
Is your coffee black?
How many meals do you eat that consist of fried food?
How many meals do you eat that include healthy servings of vegetables?
Do you eat breakfast?
What do you eat for breakfast?
Do you skip meals?
Is your idea of dieting, not eating?
Is your idea of successful weight loss, excessive weight loss?
Do you add unneeded calories to your foods by topping or dipping them?
Could you change your toppings to a healthy alternative, or even omit it altogether?
Do you know how many calories you are consuming, what the fat content is, what the sugar content is, and how many calories you SHOULD be consuming?
How often you snack?
What do you snack on?
How often do you hit a drive through for meals?

I could keep going, but I think this is a good start. Use this to help you notice things you could easily retrain yourself to do differently. Ask yourself what some of the little things are that you could learn to do differently. Be the oddball at the dinner table that breaks all the rules. Be a good example. Pay attention to your learned behaviors!

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