Healthy Eating: Non-Diet Hacks and Tips

By Leo Cardez

From PHN Issue 41, Winter 2020

At Prison Health News, we try to avoid talking about diets, in part to be accepting of all body types, and also because changing eating patterns is more healthy than dieting. I’m going to focus on healthy eating tips you can use in almost any prison. Some might work for you, and others might work for other readers, so don’t feel like you need to try them all.

  1. Water is your friend. Drink a cup of water before you walk to chow, another during your meal, and another after. Doing this can fill you up, help with digestion, and help clean your teeth.
  2. Slow down. Eat mindfully. Focus and enjoy the meal. Chew your food at least five times before swallowing. Try eating vegetables and protein first off your tray.
  3. It may help to keep a food journal and write down everything you eat, as long as this doesn’t increase your stress. The idea is that being more aware of everything you’re eating will help you get more control over what you are eating.
  4. Here’s another tip that may work well for some of us but not for others: Create a daily meal and snack schedule to plan what you will eat. Stick to it.
  5. Find a healthy eating buddy to hold each other accountable and for support and encouragement.
  6. Try to eat the opposite of traditional meal portions throughout the day. Have a large breakfast, reasonable lunch, and smaller dinner.
  7. Prepare your cell-made snacks and meals in advance. For example, if you plan to have a snack or meal later that day, set them aside in the morning.
  8. Some people find it helpful to eat all their meals in an 8-to-10-hour window, not eating the other 14 to 16 hours each day. This is often referred to as intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting, or limiting your eating to certain windows, draws on 20 years of medical research and literature, encompassing a large number of studies, and has been proven to be safe, effective, and highly beneficial. It’s been associated with longer life span, weight loss, maintaining a healthy weight, and may help prevent cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s.
  9. Create small daily goals, and start the day with personal affirmations. For example, “Today, just today, I won’t eat any bread or processed sugar.” Review this every morning and mix it up.
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