Healthy eating is not about extreme restriction or fad dieting, its about learning tips to improve eating behaviors for a healthy lifestyle. Start your journey on creating a healthier lifestyle by following these basic tips to improve eating behaviors. You will re-learn proper, healthy eating habits, learn to eat mindfully, and gain control over your food instead of letting food control you. Eventually, these behaviors will lead to better habits and produce long-lasting results.
- Plan your meals
- Plan the days menu – having a rough idea of what you’re eating will help you avoid excess food.
- Shop from a list – shop smart by creating a grocery list based off the foods you plan on eating during the week. Purchasing foods on the list will reduce purchasing excessive unnecessary or tempting foods.
- Do not grocery shop when you’re hungry or you’ll likely purchase excess unhealthy foods.
- Take the time to read food labels, don’t fall for claims on the front of the package such as “organic, natural, gluten free” as these don’t necessarily mean healthy.
- Shop the perimeter of the store – where you’ll find the least amount of processed foods which are often full of additional salt, fat and sugar for preserving.
- Fill up your cart with fruits, vegetables (fresh or frozen), lean meats, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes
- Limit purchasing foods not intended to be a part of a planned meal or snack such as cakes, pies, ice cream, cookies, crackers, etc
- Keep healthful foods readily available – prepping fruits, raw vegetables, yogurt, hard boiled eggs, etc will help curb your hunger and reduce temptations of eating foods that lack nutrients.
2. Eat mindfully
- Avoid eating foods directly out of the containers, bags, etc.
- Keep track of the snacks you are consuming, sometimes we don’t realize how many cookies, crackers, or handfuls of other foods we’ve taken from the pantry during the course of the day – these add up!
- Use plates and bowls to place food servings in before eating them.
- Avoid eating in front of the television or computer, focus on your meal.
- Ask yourself on a scale of 1-10, how hungry am i?
- If you’re below a 3, you might just be thirsty. Try drinking some water and re-evaluate in 20 minutes
- If you’re a 4-7, it’s a good time to eat
- Avoid waiting until you’re an 8 or above, as this increases the chance of overeating
- Start with one serving of food, then wait 20 minutes after eating before opting for additional food – it takes 20 minutes for the full signal in your stomach to reach your brain. If you’re still hungry after 20 minutes, your second serving of food should consist of vegetables or protein foods; avoid eating additional serving of carbohydrates.
- Push your plate away when you’re full or get up from the table.
- Never feel obligated to finish your entire meal, even at a restaurant or if someone has prepared your meal. It’s okay to stop eating when you’re full regardless of what is left on the plate.
3. Eat slowly:
- Eating slower increases the time food is in your mouth – meaning you taste and enjoy your food more. You’ll also be less likely to opt for second serving.
- Cut each bite of food as you are ready to eat it
- Put your fork or spoon down in between bites
- Chew your food thoroughly, swallow each bite before taking another
- Take frequent pauses (around 1 minute) throughout the course of the meal
- Eating slowly gives your brain more time to process the fullness of your stomach. Stop eating around 80% fullness is a good rule of thumb to avoid overeating.
Improving your eating behaviors does not happen over night, it will take time and practice to adapt these habits. Mindful eating is just like riding a bike; the more you practice, the easier and more habit forming it becomes.