5 Ways to Build a Healthy Food Environment

Dates stuffed with goat cheese, each with a different topping on the cheese: pomegranate seeds, hemp seeds, and pistachios.

Beauty Buzz/Blog Biz | Healthy Food Environment

The Power of Environmental Triggers

Have you ever sat down next to a bowl of chips at a party and noticed that 20 minutes later… you ate all of them, without even noticing? You might say, “Why did I eat that? I wasn’t even hungry!” 

There have been studies (such as this one) that prove just how powerful our environment is, on the choices we make, specifically, regarding the presence of food. And how empowering it is to modify our food environment to improve health. 

If food is right in front of you (particularly if it’s tasty!), you will most likely eat it! And if you know it’s still there, even if you think you only wanted 1 chip to begin with, you will most likely come back for more. 

So, what can we do about it? Here are some tips for fighting the power of environmental triggers.

#1 Don’t bring it in the house.

Seriously, this works! Snacks (chip & cookie bags, etc.) that are on the kitchen table are convenient and visible. It’s too tempting! Instead, keep all snacks tucked away in a cupboard or pantry, or better yet, don’t bring it in the house! The more difficult it is for you to access the snack, the less likely it is that you will eat it. 

#2 Talk to your co-workers about communal food at the office.

Snacks can be just as tempting at the office as they are at home. Bowls of m&m’s, snacks, baked goods, all sorts of treats tend to sit around in many shared office spaces. If these snacks are in your line of vision (or within arm’s reach) at work, talk to your co-workers about moving them into an opaque container, fridge or cupboard. 

Out of sight, out of mind!

#3 “Treat yourself”… intentionally! 

Instead of keeping a tub of ice cream in the freezer at home, consider going out for ice cream with friends. Make it into an experience you will enjoy and feel great about! 

#4 Eat “Balanced Snacks” instead.

Healthy Snack: Dates stuffed with goat cheese, each with a different topping on the cheese: pomegranate seeds, hemp seeds, and pistachios.

Now, I want to get something straight: there’s nothing wrong with snacking. As a dietitian, I advocate for eating balanced snacks every day. (Balanced snacks contain protein and carbohydrates with fiber and energy).

That’s right, I’m telling you to eat balanced snacks between meals if you’re hungry!

Eating balanced snacks helps to: 

  • Level your blood-sugar so you don’t have to reach the state of being ravenous! And can feel an even energy level throughout the day.
  • Make you the decision-maker, not your hungry self. When you’re in control of your food decisions, you’ll make better choices for your health!
  • If your goal is weight loss or weight maintenance, eating small, balanced snacks is essential to avoid feeling too-hungry or too-full.

Keep a list of your favorite balanced snacks on the door of the refrigerator, so that when you get hungry, you can go to this list first before grabbing a conventional snack.

Here are some of my favorite healthy snack ideas: 

  1. Celery filled with peanut butter & topped with pomegranate seeds.
  2. Apple slices dipped in almond butter.
  3. Dates stuffed with goat cheese.
  4. Crunchy veggies and quick yogurt dip, made with Greek yogurt, cumin and lemon juice.

#5 Have a plan.

But what if I had a really difficult week, and I just want cookies?! 

Listen, I feel you! When you have too much going on, you don’t have the mental space to make healthy food decisions. During a busy work week or family or friends come to visit, it’s even more important to have a plan for healthy eating. 

Here are some things you can do:

  • Anticipate that busy week, and order a healthy meal delivery service. Or, plan ahead to cook & freeze extra meals. 
  • In your “notes” app, keep a list of healthy, quick food in your area: a convenient alternative to fast food that’ll be there when you need it. 

And, always have a backup plan for spontaneously stressful times. I recommend keeping a protein bar on hand. (Make sure it has 7-14g protein, more than 2g fiber, and less than 9g added sugar.) No-sugar-added trail mix works well too. 

Let’s talk! Schedule a free one-on-one Nutrition for Wellness strategy session

Cheers to your health,

By  Alicia Connor, MA RDN & Chef

Author Bio:

Alicia Connor a pretty brunette with short-cropped hair wearing a denim jacket with a white tee.
Alicia Connor

Alicia Connor is a registered dietitian nutritionist and chef who lives in San Francisco. She is passionate about healthy cooking, with a focus on simplifying meal planning and making healthy eating easier. Alicia built a successful career as a chef, working at one of the top restaurants in San Francisco. But as her vision declined due to a hereditary condition, she decided to focus on a career with longevity and returned to school to become a dietitian.

In her current role as a registered dietitian nutritionist and chef, she is always passionately working towards peoples’ health. In February 2019, she founded Quick & Delish, a video cooking series on YouTube, where she presents easy recipes with minimal steps, for flavorful, balanced meals. She’s writing an e-cookbook and gives virtual meal planning workshops year-round. And she works with clients one-on-one to build good habits, simplify meal planning, and create an actionable plan to meet their health goals. You can read more about her passion for health in Today’s Dietitian. 

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  • Dates stuffed with goat cheese, each with a different topping on the cheese: pomegranate seeds, hemp seeds, and pistachios.
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