Why do We Choose Unhealthy Foods?

What leads us to choose unhealthy food? Is it just the taste of them? Well, there are many factors that may cue us to choose the unhealthy option.

You might already be aware of many of these cues that lead us to make unhealthy choices in food: Having a kitchen or pantry filled with snacks, seeing someone eat your favourite brand of fried chicken, and even the sound of your colleague munching on potato chips at the office!

The good news is: we can make these cues work for us! With this article, you’ll learn how cues can be motivators in our daily lives & they don’t have to be the reasons why we make unhealthy food choices.

Breaking the Unhealthy Habit

To break a habit, you have to first identify the cues that make you want to snack unhealthily. An unhealthy habit is formed when we see such cues and react to them in the same way again and again. Unhealthy food choices are commonly associated with these cues: emotions, social situations, accessibility and activities.

Which cues lead to eating unhealthy foods? In your mind, note down the ones that resonate with you:

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Dealing with Food Cues at Home

How do we deal with these food cues at home? Here are 3 tips:

1. Out of sight = Out of mind

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Remember the various shoes and clothes you bought, which you might have completely forgotten about because you kept them away in boxes or cupboards? It’s the same for food!

If we hide certain foods away, we might “forget” about them – in a good way!

If you have some of them at home, keep them where you do not see them (e.g. cupboard, drawer). Or better yet – do not buy unhealthy foods!

2. In sight = In mind

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Similarly, when you see certain foods often, it’s more likely that you’ll consume them! To make this WORK in your favour, keep healthy foods in easy reach!

3. One Place – Means One Place Only!

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Eat only at one place – the dining table! It’s called a dining table for a reason after all. 🙂 This reduces the chances of you snacking when sitting at the sofa, or in your bedroom.

Dealing with Food Cues in Social Settings

Dealing with food cues in social situations are a little trickier.

The solution is BANS. Keep BUSY, stay AWAY from problem cues, be kind and say “NO”, and SHARE the calories!

B = Keep BUSY

Keep your hands busy with a glass of water, tea or diet drink. Eat your meal slowly.

A = Stay AWAY from problem cues

When someone is eating something tempting, move to a different location. If it’s a buffet style gathering, take the portion you need and stand further away from that area. Try not to take a second portion.

N = Be kind and say “NO”

Be kind to your health and be kind to others when saying “no”.

When being offered a birthday cake or sugary tidbits, try this gently and firmly, with a smile:

No, I’ll have to pass this time, thank you so much.

If they ask “Are you sure?”

Yes thank you. I am sure I don’t want it.

If they ask “Why?”

I’m not up for it today, thank you.

I’ve reached my quota for sugary stuff.

I need to watch my diet.

S = SHARE the calories of unhealthy food

Take a small portion if you have been craving it or if it’s a once-in-awhile indulgence, like during a festive season. For instance, share the mooncake! 1 full mooncake can be 1000 calories – it is best shared!

I hope the tips above about the cues at home and in social situations will help you make better food choices!  We make food cues work to our advantage and create the kind of food habits we want to keep. Your awareness of unhealthy food cues can help you take action to make better snack choices, and reap the health rewards when you succeed.