Eating habits are conscious, repetitive behaviors that lead people to select, consume and use certain foods or diets in response to social and cultural influences. They can lead to weight gain, diabetes, heart disease and many other health problems.
Emotional eating is an example of a habitual eating pattern where you consume food to cope with negative feelings or emotions, rather than to nourish your body. This can be especially dangerous if you eat foods that are high in sugar and fat.
Identifying unhealthy eating habits is a first step toward changing them. Next, identify the triggers that make you engage in these habits. Then, work on incorporating healthier choices into your life.
1. Avoid buying calorie-laden snacks in stores or on the go. Instead, stock up on whole-grain cereals, fresh fruit and vegetables and low-fat milk.
2. Keep a small container of healthy snacks in your desk at work so you can have them when you are hungry.
3. During stressful situations, eat a snack that will help you feel better, such as a cup of herbal tea or almonds.
4. Take time to eat meals at the table, and avoid rushing through them.
5. Ensure that all the food you eat is nutritious and tastes good.
6. Choose meals that are full of fiber and complex carbohydrates, and don’t eat too quickly or too much.
7. Count your calories and portion sizes, and stop eating when you are full.
8. Drink water between meals.
9. Eat a balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, lean meats and nuts.
10. Limit intake of processed foods, such as junk food and white breads, pasta and rice.
Invest in a good recipe book and cook a family meal at least once a week, or buy an online cooking service that delivers pre-prepared recipes to your door.
11. Keep your cupboards stocked with healthy choices, such as fruit, vegetable trays and hummus and other dips.
12. Boost your intake of whole grains, low-fat dairy products (milk and yogurt) and nuts and seeds to add more protein and fibre to your diet.
13. Eat less red meat and more fish.
14. Get more calcium and vitamin D from milk and other dairy products, such as cheese, yoghurt and milkshakes.
15. Get plenty of vitamins and minerals from a variety of foods, including dark green, red and orange vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins, such as beans, poultry without skin, fish, and eggs.
16. Include lots of dietary fiber in your diet to stay fuller for longer.
17. Cut down on your intake of fried foods and processed snack foods that are high in fat, salt and sugar.
18. Don’t drink sodas or juice drinks that are high in sugar.
19. Have more healthy snacks at home, such as fresh or frozen fruit, yoghurt, nuts and seeds.
20 Conclusion: Learning to recognize the difference between physical hunger and habitual overeating is a crucial first step in establishing new, healthier eating habits. The most important part is to take it one step at a time, and to reward yourself for your successes along the way.