You’re so rushed every morning that you skip breakfast, or maybe just grab a donut in the break room before work. Because you didn’t have a solid breakfast, you’re starved at noon, so you scramble off to the nearest fast food dive for a quick and unsatisfying fix. In the evening, you’re dining out with friends. At the restaurant you indulge in a T-bone steak, twice baked potato, and you share a couple of big gulps of cheesecake for desert. Congratulations, you’ve just consumed about 200 grams of fat, over 4 times the healthy amount allotted for a 170 lb. male.

Why do we resort to this kind of eating when we know that it’s wrong?  First, we live in a fast-paced world where everything must be accomplished speedily and conveniently. Instead of taking time to make sound nutritional choices, we turn eating into just one more task to scratch off our “to-do” list. Second, once we form these sorry eating habits, it’s hard to break them.

There are wide- reaching psychological components behind our eating patterns. Most of us develop our taste for food when we’re little children. That’s when kids are introduced to the typical American diet of fast-food and super-sized portions. It’s tough to change behaviors that are formed when we’re still in diapers. Parents, at an early stage, can take no better step than to introduce their children to sound nutritional practices from the beginning.

There is another psychological component involved in overeating bad foods. I call it the “comfort element”. Ever wonder why holidays are such trying times for weight gain? That’s because high fat and sugar foods like cookies, cakes, pies and other refined carbs make people initially feel happy, festive and comforted. These rich, fattening goodies become associated with celebrations and good times. People forget about the harmful after- effects and eat recklessly.

What can you do to change bad eating habits and develop healthier taste buds? Here are some simple suggestions:

  1. Cleanse your palate. Try replacing fatty foods with choices that are healthy and nutritious. Substitute a banana instead of a candy bar for that mid-morning snack. Keep nuts and fresh fruit in your desk at work instead of raiding vending machines.
  2. Try eating at home where you can control portion size and how your food is prepared.
  3. Read labels when you shop and be conscious of calories: 1 gram of carbs = 4 calories; 1 gram of protein =4 calories; 1 gram of fat = 9 calories; 1 gram of alcohol = 7 calories.
  4. Eat less fat. You need some fat in your diet, so try to get it from whole grains, and lean chicken, fish and beef. Avoid processed foods. High protein foods are more filling.
  5. Think of food as energy. The cleaner you eat, the better your body will run, and this will make you feel better and live longer!