All or nothing
Ever "save up" your calories for a giant celebratory dinner? Or stay on a strict diet all week only to indulge all day long on a designated cheat day? Now think back to those times and imagine how you felt that night or the next day. Were you happy, energized, and perfectly satiated or did you feel sad, sluggish, and stuffed? High quantity + low quality options often lead to the latter. So, healthy + happy eating strategy number one is to ditch the "all or nothing" approach and aim for consistency.
The strategy for consistency is simple: Begin your day with water and a protein + fiber-packed meal within about an hour of waking. Then continue to eat meals and snacks at regular intervals as hunger approaches (if hunger doesn't approach, take a look at the type and amount of foods you're eating!). Three meals + one or two snacks per day is a good place to start. (If you're curious about meal + snack composition, keep following along in the series to find out more!)
Think consistency is boring? Sure, it can be, but it doesn't need to be. I get that there are days when you don't want to eat a single healthy item or times when you want to save room for your favorite meal. And that's ok. We can work with those desires and still remain consistent. If your day is bound to be filled with junk food (think tailgates + holidays), aim for small portions of the foods you really enjoy and consider skipping your snacks (but not entire meals!). If you're heading to your favorite restaurant at night, look for lighter options earlier in the day, but keep them full of fiber and protein (to promote satiety!). If you arrive at the restaurant feeling ravenous, it will be much more challenging to savor the meal (and much easier to devour the bread basket before you even taste the much-anticipated main dish).
Forbid forbidden foods
Finally, think twice before eliminating a food or food group from your life (unless medically necessary, of course!). Placing foods into a strict "forbidden" category can lead to disordered eating patterns (think feeling guilty after eating that food or bingeing once you allow yourself a bite). Based on the specific food or food group, a Registered Dietitian can help devise a better strategy than simply avoiding it for the rest of your life (again, unless medically necessary). Skipping out on forbidden foods should help you gain consistency in your daily eating routine rather than saving up all the "bad" food for a big meal or cheat day.