15 Ways to Change Your Eating Habits

by Marixie Ann Obsioma, MT, undergrad MD on June 14, 2019
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Eating habits are quite hard to break, particularly the ones we’ve been living with since we were kids. But there’s still time to change. In fact, you can start right now! Maybe you aren’t sure where and how to start. Don’t worry, we have listed easy, doable tips about how to eat healthily. Follow them and you’ll surely like the way you look and feel after some time!

How Eating Habits Affect Your Health?

The body needs fuel in the form of food on a daily basis. However, the wrong kind of fuel may cause serious health problems. The leading causes of death in the US, which include coronary heart disease, stroke, and some types of cancer, are directly linked with dietary behavior (1). A healthy, balanced diet should include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein, fat, and low-fat dairy products. It must limit sodium, saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol.

Source of Macronutrients

While most foods are packed with nutrients, no single product can give everything that your body requires. It is very important to eat a variety of healthy foods. Carbohydrates, fat, and protein provide energy for your body in the form of calories. Carbohydrates serve as the main source of energy, fats promote vitamin absorption, and proteins are key players for growth and support of muscle tissues.

Micronutrient Mix

Aside from the 3 macronutrients mentioned above, the body also needs micronutrients, more commonly known as vitamins and minerals to function properly. Some of the most important micronutrients include vitamins A, B, C, D, E, and K, calcium, iron, copper, zinc, iodine, cobalamin, and manganese. All of these play significant roles in growth and metabolism. They also promote enzyme function in cells.

Physical and Mental Health

Eating habits can affect both physical and mental health. What you eat affects your immune system, bones, physical performance, and several other functions. Healthy eating supports memory, cognition, alertness, problem-solving skills, and sleep. Good nutrition is very important for proper brain development.

You might be skeptical about changing your eating habits because you have grown accustomed to eating or drinking the same foods, and there is a great fear of trying something new or the unknown. But stop worrying! We have listed 15 easy and effective tips to help you kick bad eating habits to the curb:

Ways You Can Change Your Eating Habits

1. Set Realistic Expectations

Switching to a healthy and nutritious diet is good and will offer several benefits. However, it is very important to set realistic goals and expectations. If you pressure yourself to make the big switch too quickly, your plan to get better health may backfire. Setting a more achievable goal can keep you from being discouraged.

2. Think About What Motivates You

Remembering why you need to switch to healthy eating can help you stay focused and on course. Creating a list of specific reasons can be helpful. Keep this list handy and refer to it every time you feel like you are getting out of track.

3. Slow Down

The pace at which you eat can influence how much you eat and how likely you are to gain weight. Studies show that fast eaters are up to 115% more likely to be obese (2, 3, 4). Other studies also show that eating slowly may help reduce the number of calories you consume and help you lose weight (5, 6). Eating slowly also requires thorough chewing, which has been associated with better weight maintenance (7, 8). So eat slower and chew more often to decrease your risk of eating excessively and gaining weight.

4. Never Shop Without A List

There are two important things you should remember before grocery shopping. Create a list and never shop hungry! Not knowing what you need makes room for impulse buying, and hunger can exacerbate your impulses. Never give in to the temptation! Plan ahead and list down everything you need ahead of time. By sticking to your list, you will not just buy healthier products, but save money too!

5. No Black and White Thinking

A major roadblock to eating healthily is an all or nothing approach. One common example is taking a few unhealthy appetizers at a party and deciding to proceed to overindulge in other foods since you think you have already ruined your diet for the day. Why not put the past behind and still choose to be healthy? Some off-plan choices will only make very little difference if you balance them with healthy foods.

6. Practice Mindful Eating

Evidence shows that mindful eating has greatly improved overweight and obese women’s relationship with food (19). Binge eating severity and episodes were also decreased from 4 to 1.5 weekly when mindful eating was practiced (20). Taking time to enjoy food and appreciating its nourishing capacity increases your chances of keeping good and lasting eating behavior.

7. Keep Your House Free From Unhealthy Foods

It is quite hard to eat healthy if you see junk foods! To keep them out of your mind, you have to keep them out of sight! Displaying unhealthy foods at home has been linked to increased consumption and obesity (9, 10).

8. Always Bring Healthy Snacks

Sticking to healthy eating habits can be extremely difficult, especially when you are not home. When you get hungry on the go, it is more likely that you’ll grab whatever is available. Most often than not, these are processed foods that are not nutritive and will not satisfy your hunger.

Bringing healthy snacks like hard-boiled eggs, Greek yogurt, cheese, peanuts, or almonds, can help keep your hunger in check until you get a full, healthy meal (11).

9. Drink Enough Water

Hydrating is very important for your health. Studies have shown that drinking water may benefit weight loss and maintenance and slightly increase the count of calories you burn daily (12, 13, 14). Drinking water before meals can also help curb your appetite and calorie intake in middle-aged and older adults (15, 16). There is evidence showing that people who drink mostly water have consumed 200 fewer calories daily (17, 18).

10. Don’t Forget About Breakfast

Even if you are not a morning person, try your best to eat protein-rich food for breakfast. This can help you keep a stable blood sugar level and not overeat for the rest of the day (21, 22). It has been proven that eating at least 30 grams of protein in the morning can make you feel more satisfied, hence you eat fewer calories later in the day (21).

11. Eat Your Greens First

To make sure that you’ll eat greens on a regular basis, take them as starters. You will most likely finish them while you are very hungry and be apt to take less of other, less healthy, components of your meal. Eating veggies before carbohydrates have been shown to have good effects on the blood glucose level. It delays the speed at which carbs are absorbed (23, 24).

12. Use Smaller Plates

The size of your plates can affect how much you eat. Eating from a large plate can make your portion appear smaller (35). Evidence shows that people tend to eat 30% more than usual when their food is served on a bigger plate (36, 37). Eating from a smaller plate can help trick your brain into thinking that you had enough or more, making yourself less likely to overeat.

13. Get Enough Rest and Sleep

The importance of rest and sleep cannot be overstated. Lack of sleep disrupts one’s appetite, often causing to increase food and calorie intake (25, 26, 27). People who sleep too little weigh more than those who had enough sleep and rest (28, 29). Lack of sleep also negatively affects concentration, productivity, metabolism, and immune function (30, 31, 32, 33). It increases your risk of heart and inflammatory diseases (34). So, it is very important to get enough rest and sleep, preferably in a single bout.

14. Be More Active

A healthy diet and exercise often go hand in hand. Exercise has helped improve mood and decrease feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression, which can contribute to emotional and binge eating (38, 39, 40, 41, 42).

Try to do at least 30 minutes of moderate to high-intensity exercises daily. You may simply go on short walks or take the stairs whenever possible.

15. Try One New Healthy Recipe Per Week

Thinking about what to get for a meal can be a constant cause of stress, which is why a lot of people tend to just stick to the same recipes over and over again. Chances are, you’ll cook the same food on autopilot for years. It is always healthy to try something new! Search for new recipes at least once a week. This can help add more nutrients to your weekly recipes.

Take Away

Breaking old, bad habits and improving your diet is never easy. However, several tips and strategies can help you stick to a good diet plan and be healthier. Set realistic goals and be mindful of what you eat. Find out what works best for you in the long term. The tips mentioned above can give you a great advantage!

References:

(1) //www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/how-does-food-impact-health
(2) //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18940848
(3) //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26100137
(4) //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21802566
(5) //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24388483
(6) //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18589027
(7) //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21775556
(8) //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24215801
(9) //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25916909
(10) //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16418755
(11) //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25266206
(12) //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19661958
(13) //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23803882
(14) //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17519319
(15) //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17228036
(16) //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19661958
(17) //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20796216
(18) //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16421349
(19) //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21977314/
(20) //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22021603
(21) //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25889354
(22) //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22554612
(23) //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3674531/
(24) //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3882489/
(25) //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3619301/
(26) //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15602591
(27) //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15602591
(28) //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC535701/
(29) //onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1038/oby.2007.118
(30) //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8621064
(31) //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10543671
(32) //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10984335
(33) //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17969465
(34) //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21300732
(35) //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24005858/
(36) //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16905035
(37) //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15827310
(38) //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27423168
(39) //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23630504
(40) //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26917992
(41) //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4768578/
(42) //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20218783


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