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Use Your Brain to Cultivate Healthier Eating Habits

We all know the person that brings the same lunch to work or school every day. Many people do this, after all. Maybe this person happens to be you. Humans are creatures of habit and what we eat each day is no different than any other habit that overcomes our brains.

Do you grab a banana for breakfast every day because you love bananas and they are quick and easy to consume on the run? Or how about that same cereal you purchase week after week at the grocery store because you believe it to be your favorite cereal? The reality is that most of us consume the same foods on a regular basis not only out of convenience, but also because humans are suckers for routine.

Brain Power
Science corroborates this intuitive hunch that we are apt to form habits without deliberate thought that we are doing so. Researchers have even located an area of the brain responsible for habit formation. Our tendencies to eat the same foods all the time occurs when a region of our brains called the basal ganglia lights up and says, “Hey dude (or dudette), I see that you are eating this food all the time. I’m going to make this behavior automatic so that the decision-making part of your brain can go to sleep.” Our basal ganglias want to make our lives more convenient. How nice of them!

Well, this can work against us if we get addicted to, say, vegan cookie dough, but it can also work in our favor and get us to make healthier eating choices. Living a healthy lifestyle and eating more fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and seeds becomes that much easier when we give ourselves a chance to make eating them a habit.

I recently had a discussion with a friend of mine (who is as obsessed with eating green vegetables as much as I am), that we automatically eat the green vegetables off our plates first without thinking about it. We crave greens and a meal without a good salad or kale dish just doesn’t sit well with us. We have successfully programmed our brains to desire healthy foods, and we chose these foods almost effortlessly when we venture to restaurants or prepare meals in our homes.

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