Oftentimes, your eating and drinking habits go unnoticed. They become such a normal part of routine, like grabbing your water bottle every time you leave the house or eating eggs and toast for breakfast each morning, that you do them without much thought. However, not-so-healthy habits — like drinking a soda every afternoon or avoiding vegetables — eventually catch up with you. Your annual visit to your primary care physician (PCP) may reveal high cholesterol or high blood pressure, leading you to examine your habits and make some changes.
Did you know that healthier eating habits can reduce the risk of chronic diseases?
In fact, diet is linked to type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and 13 kinds of cancer. According to the American Heart Association, a majority of Americans don’t eat a healthy diet.
Unfortunately, changing unhealthy habits isn’t always easy. First, grabbing a fast food meal on the way home is cheaper and quicker than buying ingredients and preparing a healthy, home-cooked meal. Second, research shows that, the more a person eats high-sugar or high-fat foods, the more they crave them.
In today’s blog post, I want to share four tips for healthier eating habits.
1. Understand the basics of a healthy diet.
You don’t need to cut out whole food groups or deprive yourself of your favorite foods to eat healthier. Instead, adopt a diet that fits your lifestyle, tastes, and budget. Some basic tenants include:
- Aim for five to six servings of fruit and vegetables per day. Grab an apple for an afternoon snackl or throw some spinach on your turkey sandwich.
- When it comes to breads and cereals, opt for “whole grains” or “whole wheat” when possible.
- Opt for low-fat proteins like eggs, chicken, fish, and lean beef most of the time. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy bacon every now and then!
2. Make one adjustment at a time.
You don’t need to overhaul your entire diet at once. Instead, focus on making small changes. Add blueberries or banana slices to your bowl of oatmeal each morning. Use brown rice instead of white rice. Add an extra serving of vegetables to your plate.
If you’re not sure where to start, consider tracking your snacks and meals for a few days. Make notes about your mood and hunger level in addition to what you ate. You may notice that you eat more when you bring a book to the table or that you’re constantly grabbing a bedtime snack. From there, you can look for patterns that you want to replace with healthier habits.
3. Ask for support.
Talk to your PCP if you feel like you could benefit from professional help. They can refer you to a dietitian, who can help you implement strategies that are customized to you.
Tell your friends and family about nutritional goals too. That way, you won’t get any sideways glances when you bring a salad to your next cookout or say no to a second slice of your favorite pie. You may even inspire them to make changes as well!
4. Remember that healthier eating habits are more than just the food on your plate.
It can be challenging to make healthy choices when you’re tired or stressed. Part of improving your eating habits, then, is focusing on your sleep and stress management as well. When you’re struggling, focus on your why. Do you want to run a half-marathon in the spring? Or do you want more energy when you play basketball with your friends?
Additionally, your relationship to food is just as important as what you’re eating. To maintain a healthy attitude, avoid an all-or-nothing mentality. It’s okay to enjoy a cinnamon roll with your kids on Saturday morning or grab an extra slice of pizza.