You are what you eat: Why changing your eating habits is not as hard as you think.

Many times I wanted to change my eating habits out of several reasons: more energy, weight loss, health, ethical motives… and as many times I failed and fell back into old patterns. I think the reason why I wasn’t able change my eating habits was because I always chose too drastic diets. In the end it felt more like a punishment then something that will benefit my body and soul. Moreover, most diets are almost impossible if you don’t have a private chef cooking for you but rather a busy fulltime job.
It’s time to stop drastic diets and start integrating healthy food in my daily routine without too much effort and “pain”. The good thing is, that in a city like Berlin, you have a great variety of vegetarian (even vegan) restaurants and organic grocery shops.
Things I should drop (or reduce) from my diet are refined sugar and artificial sweetener, wheat and other gluten-containing grains, processed foods and animal and dairy products. Instead, I should add more fibre and nutrients whenever possible.

1) Refined sugar and artificial sweetener

Fortunately, I don’t have a sweet tooth, so it’s not very difficult for me to abstain from chocolate and sweets. However, once in a while I will allow myself to enjoy a delicious, little praline. But the challenge is when I am with other people or at the office, as there’s always someone who brings ice cream, chocolate, cookies, croissants, cakes, …
When it comes to artificial sweetener, it gets also harder. I am addicted to mint drops, especially Fisherman’s Friends, and haven’t found a good alternative, yet.

2) Wheat and other gluten-containing grains

First of all, I don’t have a gluten intolerance and a couple of years ago, barley anyone knew what gluten was, let alone gave any thought to avoiding it. Now, gluten-free diets are everywhere, especially since stars like Gwyneth Paltrow, Victory Beckham or Rachel Weisz promote a gluten free lifestyle.
In my opinion, it doesn’t make sense to totally abandon these grains from your diet when you don’t have a gluten sensibility. However, I know that I benefit from reducing especially wheat products and so called “empty carbs” like pasta or rice. And that’s the problem…
I love pasta (and pizza). Especially, I like the texture. Therefore, I need a healthy replacement that gives me the same kind of satisfaction when I put it in my mouth.
I tried Quinoa and Millet and both is a good alternative, as is pasta made of zucchinis, and I don’t eat pasta and pizza in the evening. However, completely avoiding pasta wouldn’t make me happy, that’s why I still include it in my diet from time to time.

3) Processed Foods

Usually, I tend to eat on the run. During the day, when I’m hungry, I go outside and grab something from the next bakery or take away. As there’s a good variety of restaurants and take aways in my neighborhood, it’s up to me to make healthy choices.
When I get home late, I don’t have time or am not in the mood to prepare a fresh and healthy meal. Usually, I would take a convenience product from the fridge or freezer and put it in the microwave. Again, it’s up to me to get more organized here. As I really like to cook and prepare meals, I should plan ahead and have some “left overs” later in the week.

4)Dairy products

I’m vegetarian. How I became vegetarian was not even planned. I was never a big meat eater anyway but – probably because of my Bavarian heritage – I enjoyed a good Schnitzel every now and then. However, in preparation for a yoga retreat, I stopped eating meat completely and somehow it felt that good that I decided to stay with it until today. Looking back, it seems almost absurd to eat meat. Even if my mind tricks me and thinks I would crave for some Bratwurst the real me knows that I don’t want and don’t need it at all.

Dairy Products, however, are a different story. While I don’t drink milk or eat dairy yoghurts anymore, my big weakness is cheese. I love cheese. I love the tast of it in almost every variation. Sliced cheese, parmesan, feta cheese in a salad or a soft camembert… you name it. I’ve tried vegan cheese before and it can be an alternative in some meals but I could never deny myself a good piece of cheese. What I need to change is to be careful when buying cheese. I should rather choose wisely and be mindful of the quality.

I found this graphic by Ariel Richards, which gives you a great overview of how to make healthier food choices without drastic changes:

healthy eating

Overall, I think that I will need to be more patient and tolerant when it comes to healthy eating. When I keep the above points in mind, put a little more effort in it and organize myself better, I’ll be on a good way.

Picture: I used the creative commons apple picture of Rasbak to create the title picture.

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