The concept of crowding out is simple, it’s about taking steps to add healthy foods to your daily meal plan and building on that over time.
As the days and weeks progress, and you continue to add healthy whole foods to each meal, this practice leads to a diet full of healthy foods that support a healthy body and your increased overall well-being.
This concept is not new and has been used in various ways, such as in economics and public health (1).
If you’ve ever been on a diet with the main focus being to avoid certain foods, you can probably attest to how difficult this can be as the days and weeks progress, until after a while you give up on your dieting plans altogether. This is, in part, because controlling one’s appetite involves cognitive, neural, social, and decision-making behaviors that can be altered by chemicals found in processed foods today (2).
So, using the crowding-out concept you begin to naturally avoid the foods that affect your ability to exert willpower and self-regulate your appetite (3).
Check out this article to learn about two common food additives that can alter the way your body regulates your appetite.
Deprivation doesn’t work!
Rather than focus on depriving yourself of foods you have grown accustomed to, switch your focus to adding delicious whole foods that support your health goals!
As you add healthy foods to your daily meals, you will have less room for the unhealthy, highly processed foods that rob you of your health. After just a couple of weeks of eating healthy whole foods, your body will begin to adjust to your new foods. Even your palette begins to appreciate the taste of healthier foods.
With an average life span of about 8-12 days, our taste buds can be “recalibrated” when we eliminate processed foods that contain taste-altering food additives (4).
Check out this article to learn why we prefer junk food over healthier options.
Practical ways to apply the crowding-out concept
Changing habits that we’ve lived with for years or decades can seem daunting, and if this is true for you then focus on one step at a time and building on that over time.
You can begin by starting your day with healthy protein and veggies or fruit. A spinach and bell pepper omelet with apple or mango slices on the side can be a great swap for a bowl of sugary breakfast cereal with milk. The whole food omelet, vegetables, and fruit provide our bodies with the nutrients it needs to start the day right. And, if you’re needing to be out the door quickly in the morning, slice up some bell pepper wedges and boil some eggs the night before - this eliminates the need to cook and clean on a busy morning while still getting out the door with a nutrient-dense, health-supporting meal.
Begin to replace those unhealthy staple foods like white rice, table sugar, vegetable oils, and cold-cut meats with wild rice, honey or maple syrup, extra virgin olive oil, and canned tuna, respectively, when you run out in the pantry. Eliminating highly processed foods like refined grains and sugar will help to balance your blood sugar and replacing them with healthier options provides more nutrients to support your increased health.
Used to having potato chips with your lunch? Add a small salad with some seeds or nuts - for that “crunch” - to your plate instead. This healthy swap adds nutrients and phytochemicals that guard our cells against damage and helps to protect us from diseases like cancer.
Sweet treats are consumed far too often in our modern world. We have access and opportunity in abundance, which makes this one of the most challenging changes. However, with a little planning and motivation, we can enjoy health-supporting whole foods that move us toward our health goals rather than highly processed, sugar-laden foods that move us in the opposite direction.
For example, slice up an apple and sprinkle on some cinnamon. The apple is packed with those phytochemicals mentioned above that help to protect us from disease, and the cinnamon contains bioactive chemicals that slow the release of sugar from the apple into the bloodstream which can inhibit insulin spikes that lead to insulin resistance and conditions like type 2 diabetes over time.
Needing a sweet treat for after lunch or dinner? Pecans baked with maple syrup and a little coconut oil and sea salt can be just as satisfying as a candy bar, and, unlike the candy bar’s processed sugar, the maple syrup contains the nutrients the body needs to process this sweet, healthy treat.
These are just a few practical ways to begin crowding out the unhealthy foods in our diets by replacing them, over time, with nutrient-dense, healthy whole foods that support our bodies and move us closer to our health goals.
Final thoughts…keep your focus on adding the “good-for-you”, rather than taking away the “bad-for-you” – this will keep you in a positive mindset that will help you move more consistently toward your health goals.
And, the next time you’re in the produce section of the market, take a look at the colorful vegetables and choose one or two that you don’t normally eat, and add those to your meals this week to begin your crowding out process.
If you would like some assistance on your health journey, please contact us here, we’d love to help, and look forward to hearing from you!