I have a vague set of somewhat interrelated food principles for eating in grad school. They’re principles, not rules, so I never expect to follow them inerrantly or incessantly. That’s a very important part of why they work for me.
- No Pop, No Potato Chips, No fruit juices, No cheap desserts. These are my family’s junk food of choice, so I take special care to avoid them. It easier because I don’t particularly like them, but I tend to avoid them even so.
- Make healthy foods the easiest ones to eat. (i.e. Don’t buy unhealthy food from the grocery store.) Once it’s in my apartment, I’ll have to eat it eventually. It’s a lot easier to regulate consumption of sweets if I have to buy them individually from coffeeshops, restaurants, etc.. Which brings me to…
- Make sure foods you want to eat sometimes, but not all the time, are available but not too available. I like having a chai latte every so often. Ditto for cheesecake, baklava, mango lassi, donuts, and pastries. But I don’t want to have one every week. Maybe once a month or once a quarter. I make this a lot easier by making sure that the desserts I love are things that take a special trip to get and cost money.
- Set (vague) calorie per meal targets. Unless I’m eating out, I vaguely shoot for 400 calories for breakfast, 500 for lunch, and 500 or so for dinner. Plus a piece a fruit for each meal and some snacking throughout the day. Those targets are low, but I routinely break them by little bits that add up. And they’re not-too-far from realistic for someone of my size and build.
- DO NOT eat foods with no redeeming health value. If it’s all sugar or all saturated fat, just don’t eat it. Make sure that it has some protein or some combination of non-sugar carbs and healthy fat, or something similar. If it has no redeeming health value, that’s a really, really good sign you shouldn’t eat it.
- Avoid keeping many snack foods near. Keep some, in case you misgage how hungry you were. But don’t make it easy to over-snack.
- Breakfast cereals are evil. Breakfast cereals are, in general, a damn lot of sugar with a bit of bread-type substance. This gives a sugar-high, followed by a sugar-crash, and then an all-too-soon feeling of an empty stomach. For breakfast I prefer english muffins, oatmeal, or grape nuts with yogurt. I use grape nuts instead of granola because granola is almost always less healthy than one hopes. Usually much less healthy than one imagines. This is related to sugar, butter, and oil not being one’s friends.
There are some things that go along with the above but that aren’t explicit rules, per se. I’ve found that healthy eating is really more about quantity than quality. You can gorge yourself on fried vegan food and it’s just as unhealthy as the juiciest fried pork fat you ever eat. Just as importantly, I get off easy because I walk, bicycle, and exercise a fair amount. I’m not in the best physical condition of my life, but I’m not nearly in the worst either.
My biggest issue currently, diet-wise, is feeling full. I get plenty to eat. But sometimes my meals are a little low on fat, so I don’t feel full in proportion to how much I’ve eaten. I’m in the process of figuring out what adjustments to make to deal with that.