When it comes to healthy eating, habits are formed in early childhood. Habits that are ingrained during this time can be difficult to break as an adult, such as rewarding yourself with food or forcing yourself to finish your plate. Identifying unhealthy habits is the first step to making healthy changes. Once you have identified some of your unhealthy habits, make a list of 5 good eating habits to replace them with.
Eat mindfully. Eating while distracted can lead to mindless overeating and makes it more difficult for your brain to detect when you are full. Try to minimize distractions such as watching TV, playing on your phone or working while you eat. Instead, focus on the flavors of your food and take time to chew your meals.
Choose smaller portion sizes. Portion sizes have ballooned in recent years so it is easy to overeat even when you are not hungry. When dining out, share a meal with a friend or opt for a starter or salad as your entree. When preparing meals at home, serve your food on smaller plates and use visual cues to guide your portions. For example, a serving of meat or fish should be the size of a deck of cards and half a cup of rice, pasta or noodles should be the size of your thumb.
Make sure to stock your pantry and fridge with healthy foods. You are more likely to make healthy choices when these foods are within reach. Stock your kitchen with foods such as hummus, whole grain crackers or pretzels, air-popped popcorn and sliced vegetables. You may also find it helpful to set up a grocery delivery service or create a weekly meal plan so you always have healthy options on hand.
Avoid fast foods and processed foods. These foods are high in fat, sodium and sugar. Studies have shown that people who eat these types of foods are at higher risk for heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
When changing your diet, it is important to focus on small steps and be patient with yourself. It takes weeks for new habits to become ingrained, so be kind to yourself and celebrate your successes, such as drinking a glass of water rather than soda or choosing vegetables over chips and salsa. Incorporate a few healthy habits each week, and you will soon notice that they become second-nature. If you feel overwhelmed, enlist the help of a friend or family member who can support you through this journey. It is much easier to stick with a healthy diet when you have someone to hold you accountable. This may mean that you have a designated snack buddy or lunch partner to help keep you on track. This could be a spouse, sibling, parent or coworker. You can even ask a health coach to be your accountability partner. They can help you develop a personalized plan to fit your schedule and goals. This is a free and effective way to get the support you need to make healthy changes.