When it comes to any aspect of life, most people don’t enjoy repetition, low quality, or blandness. Repetitive music or even listening to the same music over and over causes it to lose its special quality, causing it to become bland. Wearing the same type of clothes (or the same clothes) all the time takes the joy and surprise out of fashion (along with compromising hygiene). Doing the same activities day after day gets boring, even if they’re the most fun activities in the world.
The same is true of your diet. Low quality might not only taste bland, it’s bad for you: negatively impacting how your body runs. Repeating the same meal over and over again is boring, may become not as tasty over time (even if its your favorite meal) and may cause nutritional deficiencies if you don’t include enough variety in fruits, vegetables and proteins.
Behind Your Plate
The way you eat is impacted by a lot of different factors: upbringing, culture, level of education, affordability, athletic level, overall surroundings and environment, etc. As an athlete, I train and eat well, so that I have more of a fighting chance in high-level competitions. However, a "one size fits all" approach does not work when it comes to diet. What works for me, nutritionally, might not work for you but there is an optimal diet out there for everyone.
From Dollar to Diet-Menu
Growing up all my family could afford was food off the dollar-menu. In my childhood, I didn’t realize how bad this type of food and lifestyle was for my body. It was only after I got into exercising and dancing that I needed to take better care of my body if I wanted it to continue working for me. Nowadays, eating healthy is easy and more affordable than ever - especially in big cities like New York. There is a stigma attached to healthy eating and that is that its expensive. There are many healthy options now when it comes to eating out but if you cook you own food (which is always the best option for a health-conscious eater since you have control over ever ingredient) you'll be able to have healthy meals for only a few dollars. A huge part of eating healthy is experimenting and changing your habits. You will need to dedicate more time to shopping, preparing, and cooking your food but it will definitely pay off.
Reflection in Diet
Your body can handle a lot more when you’re young in terms of bad dieting but this doesn’t mean that eating well isn’t important as a kid - because it is, especially if you or your child are an athlete. When I was a kid, and I'm sure we have all experienced this, I could eat fries and burgers without them having any effects on me but as I got older they started to affect the way I looked, moved, and felt. Because of this, I started evaluating the choices I was making when it came to my nutrition, and found that a lot of them were wrong. For example, I noticed that eating meat right before training always made me feel heavier - this is because tough meats take longer to digest than vegetables. So taking this into account I would only eat meat 4 or more hours before training, or after training. This is the kind of diet-reflecting mind set you'll have to adapt if you want to optimize your training.
Churros vs. Carrots
To start, when given the option to buy or make my own food, I usually picked buying my food because it seemed easier. While it was easier in terms of time, it wasn’t easier on my body. I also couldn’t afford to buy high quality pre-made food, so I was eating a lot of the same low quality, fast food. When I realized how this was affecting my energy levels, I started to make changes. At 7-Eleven, instead of snacking on the pizza, chicken wings, churros, or sodas, I’ll walk towards the healthy-snack section, choosing things like celery and carrot packs, bananas, etc. If I do pick up something that isn’t a fruit or vegetable, I’ll read the ingredients closely: choosing packaged foods with less ingredients, and ingredients that I can actually pronounce, over some long, confusing chemical ingredient that’s bad for me. There are a lot of unhealthy traps here you should, and easily can avoid. Just because something says it’s ‘All Natural’ doesn’t mean it’s good for you. It takes a some time (and a lot of Googling) to learn how to correctly read a nutrition label.
More About the Process
For me, learning to eat better was a process. You can’t expect yourself to make a complete 180 overnight when it comes to your diet. If you do, it helps to really hold your self accountable - make it a goal to be healthy, not only a choice. To help yourself stick to eating healthy you have to start off step-by-step, cutting out specific things from your diet so you can get used to it.
One of the most important parts of good nutrition isn’t about what you eat, but what you drink. Drinking water, and enough of it, is key to your health. You should start every day with a glass of water, drinking another glass at every meal, in-between every meal, every time you snack, during exercise, and any time you feel thirsty (or hungry- because usually you’re not hungry, you’re thirsty). Also anytime you drink a non-water drink, you should drink and equal portion of water. This means, fill up the container that your drink came with water after you drink it!
Spice it Up
A lot of people think that choosing to eat healthy is boring. It’s not. There are so many different vegetable, fruits, grains, and proteins you can eat. A huge way to mix up your meals is by using spices to vary the way your meals taste, even if you’re using the same ingredients from meal to meal a small collection of spices can go a long way. If you get bored of the plain old ‘eating healthy’ thing, you can source meals from different diets for inspiration: vegetarian, vegan, paleo, Mediterranean, etc. However, you should always be sure you’re eating enough calories, especially if you’re someone who’s active. As a dancer, I know that I need more calories than someone who lives a more inactive life, and I take this into account when I plan my meals out.
What and how you eat is a fun way to change up your lifestyle, but it shouldn’t be the defining factor in one’s life. At at the end of the day food is just the fuel your body runs on so it very important to put the right things into your body - but that doesn't mean it has to taste bad or break you bank!