As you already know, the food you consume affects your health not only in positive ways but in negative ways as well.
To promote good health, prevent diseases, and maintain or reduce your weight, you should adjust yourselves in certain ways by sticking to healthy eating habits. Hence it’s imperative to center your attention towards the ways to improve your eating habits. Through this article, we will be discussing 9 real ways to improve your eating habits. First, let’s see
When did it all start?
Do you remember when you started exploring your relationship with all these tasty and not-so-tasty types of foods? Maybe all of your experiences were not favorable as a result of the complications like food allergies and food intolerances that came up with it. Or else, it could have been impacted by the budget restrictions and other cultural, religious, and moral restrictions. However, due to all the aspects, you might have developed cravings, preferences, and obsessions with relation to certain food items regardless of their healthiness. Mostly this includes sweet snacks, junk food, spicy food, and the obsessions towards chocolate.
Eventually, you mix those cravings, preferences, and obsessions with your lifestyle habits where ultimately you get accustomed to. Then you tend to care less about the facts you should be focusing on. These mainly include:
- How much food you consume
- The type of food you will have
- The way it is prepared
- Your cooking skills
- The time of the day you ingest them
- The logical and emotional ways you think about the food
Usually, as a consequence, you don’t realize you have unhealthy eating habits until you have gained or lost a lot of weight. Ultimately what you worry about is making alterations to your lifestyle habits.
On the other times, you successfully switch to a healthier diet with no resistance whatsoever at first, only to realize that you have lost a part of your identity that you have attached to food. As a result, you tend to lose progress and revert to old patterns.
Common unhealthy eating habits
When bad eating habits become common practice, you will end up gaining weight, higher cholesterol levels, high blood pressure and many other health issues. Some of the most common bad eating habits are,
- Mindless eating
This happens when you try to have food while engaging in another task so that you are unaware of the amount of food or what you consume, making you gain weight and many other health problems. This is often known as shoveling. Even though you are not hungry you tend to take more and more as your brain is distracted.
- Eating junk food and processed food
Eating junk food and processed food regularly might lead to an increase the risk of obesity and chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, non-alcoholic fatty liver diseases, cardiovascular diseases and some other cancers.
- Nighttime noshing
This can cause you to eat more calories than you need and lead to weight gain. Avoiding food before bedtime might be a good approach if you want to improve your health and body composition.
- Endless snacking
This is not a problem with only adults. Nowadays kids are snacking unhealthy junk food more than adults. These salty chips, soda and candy-like food are full of empty carbs which eventually make you gain weight.
- Skipping breakfast
Not taking in enough calories throughout the day spikes hunger leading to overeating. At the end of the day, you tend to eat whatever you find at your sight without considering the size of the portion.
- Emotional eating
People do not eat solely to satisfy their physical hunger. Most of the time people seek the help of food to make them feel better by relieving stress. This way you tend to reach for sweets, junk food, and other comforting but unhealthy foods.
- Eating too fast
Having busy days with no time to sit down and have your meals properly and slowly leads to many unhealthy problems. Also, with your busy schedules, you tend to eat whatever food you find, real quick. Chances are, your brain doesn’t recognize you’re full and you will end up with high levels of triglycerides or high blood pressure.
- Poor meal planning
This also happens with a busy lifetime. When you do not have enough time to plan your meals, you tend to consider less of the nutritional value when preparing your meals or when buying your food items. Not planning your meals makes you take not-so-smart choices that you can never be proud of in the end.
- Giant portion sizes
This is also called binge eating. Overdoing portions (even with healthy foods) can cause a calorie overload. This usually happens with the food you crave.
- Eating when not hungry
Food can indeed make you feel good and boost your mood. But eating even when you don’t feel like eating, makes you gain more and more weight.
How can you improve your eating habits?
Clarity and preparation are the two steps that you must focus on if you really want to improve your eating habits.
If you want to see an effective change in your meals, first you have to think clearly of,
- What you are doing?
- Why you are doing so?
As you cannot expect to change yourself overnight, you have to take everything slowly. Or else, you’d end up discouraged. In this case, your emotions willpower and motivations are imperative to be considered.
How to start to get clear?
As the first step note down the habits, you think are not healthy or you are guilty of. You could also use note-taking apps to monitor what you eat.
Here are some apps you can use in this regard:
- Calorie Counter & Food Diary
- Food Intolerances
- Calorie Counter & Diet Tracker by MyFitnessPal
- MyPlate Calories Tracker
- Morning Pages
- Fitocracy Macros
- Google keep
- Carbs Control
- Cara: Advanced Full-Body Tracker
- YouEat: What You Eat And Why You Eat It
Thus using these you could keep track of every meal so that you can identify and decide how and what to change. Also, you could question yourself.
- Why do I have to eat this?
- Is this the best option available?
- How does this support me to achieve my health goals?
- How hungry I am usually? At what times?
- Am I really hungry?
- How would I feel after having these?
- How long will it take to have a meal?
If you could go through all these types of questions, then you could start to get prepared.
Now, consider the list of eating habits that you identified and take action where necessary.
For instance, let’s imagine your problem is with mindless eating,
To fix this, you could use smaller plates instead of your regulars. Or you could change your larger and heavier dinner plate with unhealthy carbs to a salad plate.
Or if your problem is with nighttime noshing,
To fix this, the easiest way is to brush your teeth after dinner. So that you’d not want to eat again. If you feel hungry even after that, and if you cannot resist the craving, try to take a piece of fruit. Or try 7 snacks you can eat before bed
This is all about discipline and your dedication towards your goal.
3. Plan your meals
When planning your meals, do not forget to focus on the value and the quality rather than the quantity or the money. Also, when planning make sure,
- Half of your plate contains veggies and fruits: make sure to add fruits and red, orange and dark-green vegetables such as tomatoes, sweet potatoes and broccoli.
- Include whole grains, since they provide more nutrients like fiber than refined grains.
- Not to forget the diary: make sure to add fat-free or low-fat dairy products with your meals
- Add lean protein: Choose protein foods such as lean beef, pork, chicken or turkey and eggs, nuts, beans or tofu.
- Avoid extra fat
- Healthily satisfy your sweet tooth: try fruits as your dessert or a fruit parfait made with yogurt.
For more information: 10 Tips: Build a Healthy Meal
4. Prepare for cravings
When you start to note down the food you take as we mentioned before, you’ll notice what type of foods you crave for. First, take it slow and reduce the amount you consume little by little and then get rid of it.
For example, if you are craving sweetened chocolate, you could first reduce the portions and then gradually switch into an alternation; like dark chocolate. Dark chocolates are proven to have health benefits, unlike sweetened chocolates which are unhealthy.
If you want to know more about the benefits of chocolate, visit 8 Healthy Reasons to Eat Dark Chocolate.
5. Do not skip meals
When your goal is to lose weight, the first thing that comes to your mind would be skipping meals. Skipping your meals is not the right way to do so. In fact, it’s totally the opposite of what you should do. This could altogether result in tiredness and might mean you missed out on essential nutrients.
These are some of the reasons you shouldn’t skip meals,
- It changes your blood sugar levels
- Affects your mood and concentration
- Increase the risk of diabetes
- Lower your nutritional intake causing brain fog, fatigue, hormonal changes, and moodiness
- It affects your blood pressure
- Causes indigestion problems.
6. Eat slowly
Whatever the excuses you have, eating too quickly and carelessly could make you overeat which will cause various health issues eventually.
On the other hand, eating slowly can be benefitted in various ways.
- Helps you to eat less
- Increase fullness hormones
- Decrease calorie intake
- Increases the enjoyment of food
- Improves digestion
- Helps to absorb nutrients better
- Makes you feel calmer and more in control
- Reduces stress
To slow down your eating, you must avoid extreme hunger. Because you tend to eat faster even without chewing your food properly when you are in hunger. While eating keep your utensils (forks and spoons) down from time to time and drink water in the meantime. Another thing you should avoid is using phones, tablets and other devices while you’re having your meals since it is a distraction. However, when you eat slowly, you sense satisfaction unlike which is different than being “full”, which is imperative as our goal is to improve the eating habits to be healthy.
7. Eat only when you’re hungry
Eating indeed makes you relieve your stress and comforting. However, eating when you are not hungry is not something you should do, if your motive is to improve your eating habits then you must limit consuming food unnecessarily. Even when you are watching movies, it’s not compulsory to keep on snacking throughout the entire movie.
Here are some common reasons you eat food, even though you’re not hungry.
- When you’re bored
- When you want the taste
- When you’re full of nervous energy
- When you need emotional comfort (visit: How to Overcome Stress Eating)
- When you snack out of habit
8. Avoid eating junk food and snacks
Cravings for junk food are a common reason that people get used to eating unhealthy foods. We either crave cakes, biscuits, doughnuts, ice cream, crisps, muffins, chocolate or sweets. Aren’t we all?
However, next time you pick these at the supermarket, first, look at how much sugar and salt are hidden inside. Then you can decide whether you really want them or not. As we mentioned earlier, it’s all about your motives and your disciplines.
Look for Tips to reduce junk food cravings for more.
9. Change the way you see food
In this case, you must focus only on the nutritional value and the quality of the food. For that, you have to view food primarily as fuel and nourishment. If you want to improve your eating habits, you have to forget all your cravings and the pleasure and the comfort you seek. Also, make sure not to use food as a stress-releasing companion. You could find something else, like doing some workouts, go for a walk or a swim.
Brace your new and healthy habits and be patient with yourself. You cannot expect yourself to change overnight. Habits do take time to develop. As we suggested through 9 real ways to improve your eating habits, keep tracking your meals and cravings at first. Then you know what and how to get adjusted.
You might be interested in reading 7 Foods that Lower Cholesterol Levels