Eating habits are a group of conscious, repetitive behaviors that lead individuals to select, consume, and use certain foods or diets. They are influenced by individual, social, cultural, religious, economic, and environmental factors.
Commonly referred to as eating patterns, they involve both healthy and unhealthy eating behavior. They can affect weight gain and health outcomes including obesity.
All people eat to survive, but their food choices are also shaped by family traditions, religion, culture, and other influences. Regardless of what your eating patterns are, there are some things you can do to improve them.
Identify the triggers that lead you to eat unhealthy or avoid eating healthy. For example, if you often find yourself snacking when you are bored or stressed, try to find something else to do instead. Whether it’s going for a walk or having a phone conversation, find a way to release the emotion without consuming food.
Keep a food diary for a few days to identify your most common triggers and unhealthy eating habits. It’s important to note the time of day and what you ate or drank when you engaged in your bad eating habits.
Control your portion sizes and eat slowly to avoid overeating. Studies show that people who eat slowly eat less than those who eat quickly.
Take small bites and put down your fork between each one, allowing your stomach to tell you when you’re full. You’ll feel satisfied and stuffed more quickly when you eat slower.
Don’t buy plates or bowls that are too large. This makes it easy to overeat. For example, a Cornell University researcher found that people served popcorn on extra-large bowls ate 45 percent more than those who ate it out of smaller containers.
The size of your plate determines how much you eat, according to Cornell food psychologist Brian Wansink, PhD. So, for example, if you regularly eat your morning cereal and juice on a large plate, swap it out for a smaller one. Or, if you usually have dessert at dinner, set your table with a bowl of fruit instead.
Replace high-sugar, low-nutrient beverages with water and fruit or a low-calorie juice drink. Keeping these in your home or office can make it easier to stop cravings for sugary drinks and snacks.
Ensure that you have enough protein, fruits, and vegetables in your diet by ensuring that you get the recommended daily amount of each at every meal. This will prevent you from getting hungry throughout the day and sabotaging your health goals.
Plan meals and snacks ahead of time. This will help you avoid grabbing unhealthy treats and food while you’re on the go.
Break the habit of mindless snacking when you’re at home or on the go by ensuring that you pack healthy snacks with you. These include fruit, vegetables, yogurt, and low-fat or fat-free milk.
Snacking round-the-clock can result in excessive consumption of high-calorie, unhealthy snacks such as chocolate bars and potato chips. These high-calorie, highly processed foods are not good for your health and can lead to weight gain.