This is not going to be the normal food article on what is healthy and what is not. I think as a society we are getting beyond that. In large part, we know what is healthier for us and what is not, yet we still find ourselves eating more of the unhealthy foods and too much food in general, it is really more about motivation and how to change our engrained eating habits. The two main issues of quality and quantity are actually tied together. If you eat more of the healthier foods (high in fiber, vegetables, water, etc.) you will naturally feel fuller and eat less calories, so I want to work on how we get ourselves into the habit of eating healthier foods as a default and unhealthy foods as a special event (note that special events do not happen every week!). So my mission is to get you to open up to the idea that you can actually coach yourself to crave healthier foods that you currently don't naturally reach out for.
People's eating habits and habits in general are partly controlled by what their mind currently prefers. What we don't realize is that our repetitive actions also effect what we currently prefer. This is another manifestation of the mind/body connection. For example, think about the chores we hated as kids but tend to navigate towards as adults because it is what we are programmed to do. Or with food, Australians love their Vegemite spread on toast when it would make an American gag, it's because it is what they were fed growing up, not the innate nature of Vegemite. To a large extent we get conditioned to like what we are used to, making repetition the best coach. The third piece of this is that our preferences and habits change over time, such is the ever changing nature of existence. Simply look at how our music tastes change over time, particularly when we move to a new place with new people where different music is popular. Our preferences are not frozen in stone, they change. Our dislikes work in the same manner although as humans we have a stronger tendency towards grouping, generalizing and setting our mind in stone around our dislikes, i.e. we will often say, "I didn't like that song, I don't like country" only to be singing along to Garth Brooks twenty minutes later.
Now let's apply this knowledge to the foods we eat. If we truly want to change our eating habits we need to change the underlying preference or belief. Honestly, people think I eat buckwheat and turkey burgers all day, which is far from the truth, however I do eat much healthier than the typical American and at this point I find it easy as I have continually made the choice to eat healthier items that I enjoy, I've actively looked for new foods and have found that I now often crave them over the unhealthy options. Below is the method I have discovered in slowly moving myself over to so many healthier foods over time, such as soy milk (started only in cereal), whole grain pasta (it's all about the sauce anyway) and fish (didn't realize how much I actually liked it because I rarely ate it growing up).
For this mental exercise I want you to assume that you don't particularly care for vegetables or you at least hardly eat them since your parents stopped cooking for you. I chose this because I find the lack of vegetables to be the biggest problem in American diets today, it is an afterthought. The story you tell yourself and others is that you never really did or you think they are difficult to prepare well. To relate this to your story simply plug in whatever healthier foods you don't currently prefer but know would be a better choice, such as whole grain pasta/rice/breads, fish, fat free milk, etc.
First, BREAKDOWN down your mental barriers and find the Deal Breakers. I am sure there are certain types of vegetables you do like or at least do not totally dislike, or there are ways that they can be prepared that you do like very much. There is no great value in being closed off to an entire category of food or anything else for that matter, so acknowledge this, open your mind and list the vegetables or veggie dishes that you do like. These rogue preferences are the Deal Breakers, they prove that you are actually holding on to a negative, generalized preference that is not entirely true.
Second, CONSUME those vegetables/dishes regularly (weekly) to allow your body and mind adapt to them.
Even if it feels a bit forced at the beginning you need to continue to eat these veggies as reconditioning only works with repetition. Find ways of preparing them that you really like and include them as parts of other dishes, getting creative with spices, sauces, and mixing them with things you love. After a little while your aversion will lessen and you are on your way towards changing your habits. This is the same with fitness. At first you are out of shape and the exercise feels uncomfortable and mentally undesirable. However as your body adapts to it the mental aversion becomes less. Many people get this far and eventually fall back into their old poor eating and fitness habits because they never turn a forced action into a craving and habit.
Third, REMIND yourself of the inherent good qualities, both pleasurable and health wise, every time you eat vegetables. For example, if broccoli was one of the vegetables I am choosing to eat regularly, I would appreciate the great green color and the crunchy texture. Then I'd take note of the large amount of broccoli I can eat for so few calories and how good I felt physically and mentally after the broccoli meal compared with unhealthy options such as French fries and burgers. Lastly, knowing that broccoli has cancer fighting chemicals and other great health benefits makes me feel like I accomplished something for myself versus the low level stress of food guilt.
Your brain is logical, so when you give it all these benefits of eating broccoli, and you eat it regularly you will actually begin to crave it for all of those exact reasons. If you stop eating it or never think about why broccoli is good and so good for you, there is no prayer for a spontaneous change in eating preference. Whatever you want and think about you will manifest, so if you think you don't like a food, you won't, if you truly see value in that food and remind yourself of the good things, you will eat it.
Lastly, BE PATIENT and DISCOVER similar foods once you become comfortable. Remember that researchers say it takes at least 6 months to create a habit or long lasting lifestyle change so be patient with yourself. Once you see the reconditioning process work, see if you cannot add other similar healthier foods into your diet using your open mind and coaching skills.