Why Do We Struggle to Make Healthful Food Choices?

For the most part, we have a relatively good idea of the decisions we should make every day to optimise our health, from prioritising sleep to moving more.  We also have an idea of the food choices that are more beneficial for us.  If you have carried out any “me-search,” you’ll also be aware of the foods that make you feel energised and ready to take on the day, and those that make you feel sluggish.

We all lead different lives, and yet we all often struggle to make healthful food choices.  Why does this happen?

Some of us are just too busy.

Some of us just aren’t culinary masters.

Some of us don’t like the taste of certain foods.

And some of us just run out of willpower.

Willpower and Food Choices

In any one day, we can think of our capacity for decision making as a glass. We hopefully start the day with a full glass of decision-making ability, but this is generally reliant on sufficient sleep and rest.  Think of sleep as the charger for decision making the next day.

Therefore, we may choose a healthful breakfast choice like eggs, spinach, and mushrooms.  Then for a mid-morning snack, we grab a banana and a handful of nuts.  For lunch, we tuck into the salad that we prepped just before the kids started their day.  But, alongside making decisions around the food we eat, we also make other life-related decisions.


  • placated that difficult customer.
  • planned who is picking who and what up after work.
  • glanced at the biscuit tin and persuaded ourselves that we’re just bored and not in fact hungry.

At each decision, our decision-making glass is getting emptier and emptier and to add insult to injury, willpower needs energy.  Therefore, if we want stable energy levels, we need to make healthful food choices.

Blood Glucose and Food Choices

What’s interesting is that past research suggests that self-control relies on stable blood glucose, so in a nutshell, when your blood sugar levels are low, you’re more likely to make less healthful choices.

By the time we get home from work, our decision-making glass could be pretty much empty, there may be a few drops left if we look closely, but when we have a convenient meal facing us in the fridge, it’s just so much easier to grab it, and so we do.  In the process, convenience foods are generally higher in processed carbohydrates, so we get a nice little sugar boost too!

As we’re eating, we notice it’s lacking in any healthful fats, vegetables or fibre but vow we’ll do better tomorrow.

Tomorrow comes, and we do much the same again.

For many, we will say life gets in the way of eating well, so maybe the reason we struggle to make healthful food choices is more complex than we originally thought.

Top Tips To Make Healthful Food Choices:

  • Try to maintain balanced nutrient intake throughout the day – always opt for protein, fat and carbohydrates at every meal – carbs aren’t inherently bad, it’s the type that you choose! Protein contributes to satiety, so if you feel hungry mid-afternoon, check you’re eating enough protein to suit your lifestyle.
  • If you need to snack, prep them in advance so you don’t even have to make the decision to avoid the biscuit tin – again biscuits aren’t inherently bad if they’re part of your family catch up at the kitchen table, they just aren’t that beneficial when you’ve eaten the whole tin at 3pm.
  • Batch cook at the weekend – even if you have an empty decision-making cup when you get home from work, you know that you’ve got a hearty meal that just needs dishing up.
  • Ensure you are sleeping well if you want to restore your decision-making cup,
  • Start small – rather than removing anything from your diet, see what you can include – can you get one portion of fruit or veg at every meal? Can you do it for a week? A fortnight? If you add one handful of leafy greens to every meal, that’s just one more decision a week.
  • If you’re eating out – ALWAYS order a side of veg or salad.

We often think that optimal health is a destination, but the reality is its days of smaller decisions.  At the end of every day, we can assess our decisions; the ones we are happy with, we repeat tomorrow.  The ones we’re not, we do differently.