Decision Fatigue and Making Healthy Choices
Have you ever been told that you can accomplish anything with enough self-control? Later, if you fail, do you question if you have weak will-power?
We’re here to tell you that it’s not so black and white. Let’s specifically talk in terms of nutrition. Grabbing for a bag of chips after a long day of disciplined eating isn’t necessarily low will-power, even if you have the strongest motivation in the world.
It could be decision fatigue. So, let’s dive into decision fatigue and making healthy choices.
what is decision fatigue?
On an average day, you typically make 35,000 decisions. Many of the decisions are seemingly small, such as, when to go to the bathroom, what to wear, or which route to drive to work. Other decisions are bigger. For example, close the deal, respond to a job offer, ask for a pay raise.
Just like finishing up a workout and feeling physical fatigue, your brain gets tired throughout the day as there is only a finite amount of mental energy to spare. Once that mental energy is gone, your decision-making ability and productivity levels plummet. This threat is why Barack Obama and Mark Zuckerberg wear the same outfit every day. One less decision to make.
Decision fatigue is incredibly impactful on making healthy eating choices. As the day goes on, your brain becomes tired – as does your resolve and will-power to eat healthily. When decision fatigue strikes, making healthy choices becomes exceedingly difficult.
decision fatigue and making healthy choices
Let’s face it, in this day and age, eliminating decision fatigue is impractical. Instead, the secret to making healthy decisions when fatigued is making the decision easy. Follow these steps to reduce decision fatigue and make nutrition easier.
1. Just Do One Thing Right
When it comes to planning meals, none of us are as perfect as we would like. There is always going to be something out of our control. On days when meal planning fails, or healthy food isn’t available, our goal is to just do one thing right. For us, our guaranteed healthy meal is Shakeology.
Shakeology is the one meal that provides essential nutrients and is one less thing to expend our mental energy. We get natural, whole food nutrition that contains adaptogens, pre- and probiotics, antioxidants, and all nine essential amino acids (yes, even in the vegan versions).
So, even if the rest of the day went sideways and we found ourselves sitting down to a typical Argentine 10 PM dinner at a cervecería (brewery) loading up on french fries, at least we know we got the nutrients for a day’s worth of vegetables already with our Shakeology.
It also gives us the freedom to cook a dinner we want without worrying if we’ve covered the whole rainbow of phytonutrients from fruits and vegetables that day. A 2009 study showed that 80% of Americans fall short in every category of phytonutrients.
Read more: Why drink Shakeology and our top 10 recipes.
2. Establish Eating Routines
A 2015 study published in the journal Public Health Nutrition shows that eating at regular mealtimes makes you eat more healthily. Setting the rhythm and expectation of when you need to eat helps avoid sugary snacks and processed foods throughout the day and thus, decision fatigue.
For us, we eat three meals, breakfast being the biggest and dinner being smaller, in an 8-hour intermittent fasting window. Eating this way keeps our energy levels stable while helping us avoid hanger and unnecessary snacking. It also massively simplifies our eating routine
We highly recommend you start intermittent fasting. We share our wisdom in our Intermittent Fasting How To Guide.
3. Plan In Advance
Having a weekly meal plan, created in advance, helps reduce decision fatigue and make healthy choices. We keep a set of basic food around that can always be made into a 10-minute meal when in a bind.
Our staples include items like lentils, canned tomatoes, eggs, and frozen veggies. More often than not, dinner leftovers are repurposed into a breakfast or lunch omelet. Check out this in-depth guide if you want to learn more what healthy foods we eat. Also provided below is a downloadable grocery shopping cheat sheet to ensure you buy the most nutritious and quality foods.
If you need to learn how to meal plan for the week, here are our best tips on meal prep.
Since your goals are health related, it’s best that they are worked into your goal achieving to-do list. Having a quality to-do list and visiting it on a daily basis is essential to reaching your goals.
4. Know Your Meal Macros
Put yourself on autopilot by knowing what you should be eating and when in terms of healthy fats, protein, vegetables, and fiber-filled carbohydrates. This not only cuts down the menu options for easy decisions but will help you pull the food out of the fridge that you need without too much thought.
It also pushes your mindset to think of food as fuel so you can eat strategically. This is why you hear not to eat carbs at night. Carbohydrates are a source of immediate energy which your body doesn’t need to use while sleeping. However, do not fear carbs. They do not make you fat.
For us, knowing our meal macros was an essential step in our health journey. Why? Well, Ryan needs to eat 2X the daily calories as Alex. Once we learned this, it was easy to portion the food when we at meals together. Ryan eats 2/3rds and Alex eats 1/3. In this article, we talk more about that and how to manage food portions as a couple.
Do you have other tips or tricks to eliminate decision fatigue and make healthier eating choices? Share them in the comments section below.
The Ultimate Healthy Food Guide And Shopping List (PDF)
Do you ever wonder which foods have the highest nutritional quality or "bang for their buck?" Check out our guide and prepare for success before your next grocery store visit. We list our pantry staples, and healthy foods in order of the highest nutrition value.
Weekly Meal Prep Calendar & Grocery List
Those who placed their bet with Couple's Clean Week have spoken: We want a week-long meal prep calendar, healthy recipes to prepare, and a grocery list for two for the full week.
This downloadable meal prep calendar includes everything you need for a week of healthy eating.
As Seen In
Hey we're Ryan and Alex
The creators of Ryan and Alex Duo Life. We are a husband-wife duo and “lifestyle engineers.”
After eight years working in the corporate world, originally as engineers, we left our high-powered jobs to tackle our true passion — helping couples engineer their best lives.
The synergy of our engineering minds and ten years of health coaching experience produced Ryan and Alex Duo Life. Our mission is to help you transform your bodies, minds, and relationship, as a couple.