Everything you eat and drink matters. Building healthy eating habits can help you live healthier now and in the future. Eating a healthy diet can prevent chronic diseases like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and even some cancers. If you already have any of these conditions, a healthy diet can lead to significant improvement.
Changing eating habits can be particularly overwhelming if you feel like you don’t know where to start. Research shows that on average it takes 66 days for a new behavior to become automatic. Just think, you only have to hang in there, making daily healthy food choices for a little over two months, then, it becomes a habit. If you stick with it long enough, you’ll have a lifelong healthy habit!
Keeping a food journal is a good way to become aware of your eating habits.
To build healthy eating habits, it may help to understand your current eating habits first– what you eat and why you eat. Keep a food journal for a week. Write down what you eat, how much, and what time of day you ate it. Write what else you were doing at the time and how you felt when you ate. Were you hungry, stressed, tired, or bored? For example, maybe you were at work and were bored. Review your journal at the end of the week. Reflect – think about what triggers may be causing some of your eating habits.
Guidelines for building healthy eating habits
Here are some general guidelines to help you get started. Start with small changes the first week and layer on additional changes the next. For example, you might start with drinking only water instead of beverages and eating whole grain carbs instead of refined carbohydrates.
- Focus on variety, amount, and good nutritional content – complex carbohydrates instead of simple, refined carbohydrates for example.
- Choose foods and beverages with less saturated fat, less salt, and no added sugars.
- Control your portion sizes.
- Eat slowly; eat only when you are hungry; plan your meals;
- Get rid of any unhealthy foods in your store or pantry
What you should eat – Variety
No single food supplies all the nutrients your body needs to function at its best. Variety is important. A healthy diet is one that combines the five different food groups in the right proportion daily, to supply the necessary nutrition.
Your meals should include:
- Fruits and Vegetables
- Whole-grain, high-fiber foods
- Fat-free, low-fat or semi-skim dairy products (if you can tolerate them)
- Beans, skinless poultry, and lean meats
- Fish such as salmon, catfish, trout and herring contain omega 3 fatty acids which are good for your heart (The American Heart Association recommends eating fish at least twice a week)
What you should eat – Good nutritional content
How much should you eat? Portion control
This is what your plate should look like – balanced! As an adult, it’s best for you to replace the cup of dairy with water. In hot climates, you need 2 – 3 litres of water daily to stay well hydrated. Eat the right amount of calories for your age, gender, and physical activity level.
Building healthy eating habits takes some planning, effort, and perseverance. If you mess up once in a while, don’t be discouraged. Get right back on track the next day. That’s how you build good habits. You will reap the rewarding dividends of better health and longevity.