Trying to Eat Healthier? Make it a Habit!
In one month an average person consumes around a hundred meals, and more if you prefer “grazing” over “3-square meals a day.” If you focus on making small, lasting changes to your eating habits, taking it one meal at a time, these steady improvements can culminate into extraordinary lifestyle outcomes, including the prevention or management of chronic diseases.
Take a moment and think about your typical eating patterns.
- When do you eat? – On a schedule, or perhaps you are more sporadic?
- What do you eat? – A simple plate of colourful vegetables, lean protein, and starch, or are you constantly facing the daily dreaded question, “what’s for dinner tonight?”
- Who do you eat with? – Alone or with co-workers, friends and families?
- Where do you eat? – At the dinner table, in front of the television or computer, in the car, or at restaurants?
- How do you eat? – Always on the go or do you take the time to leisurely enjoy your meals?
You may find it a little surprising that you eat very similar day-to-day. This is because we tend to be creatures of habit. Habits are powerful things because they allow us to do tasks easier and faster, because our brain does not have to work as hard.
Essentially, the behaviors become automatic. For this reason, if we can get in the habit of making just one positive dietary change or food swap this month, it will soon become second nature and almost effortless.
To get the ball rolling, here are 10 examples of small changes that you could commit to:
- Relax and eat without any distractions – no television, no computer, no cell phone.
- Add an extra helping of vegetables to your dinner meal.
- Eat around your plate in this order: vegetables, protein, and then starchy carbohydrates (i.e. potatoes, rice, pasta, bread) versus saving vegetables for last!
- Drink one big glass of water immediately upon waking up in the morning to hydrate all the cells in your body.
- Swapping half or all sweetened beverages for water.
- If you eat out at lunch every day, try packing your lunch from home the night before starting with 1-2 times per week.
- Grill or bake one extra serving of protein at dinner to throw on a salad, for lunch the next day. For example, baked salmon makes for the perfect accompaniment to a kale slaw or rice pilaf.
- Replace your candy bowl in the office with fresh fruit.
- Prioritize time in your calendar each week to go grocery shopping. Having a well-stocked kitchen will set you up for success!
- Place your fork down after each bite and ensure that your food is well-chewed before swallowing to ensure for optimal digestion.
Let us commit to starting with one nourishing change, and taking it one meal at a time, with the goal to forming it into a lifelong habit!
Amanda Li is a Toronto-based Registered Dietitian, owner of Wellness Simplified, Professor at George Brown College and a foodie at heart. Upon completing a culinary arts diploma she knew she wanted to bring together her dietetic experience to create a nutrition coaching philosophy that is food centric and grounded in teaching individuals a basic life skill – nourishing their body, mind and soul. Her aim is to encourage, educate, and equip individuals with the hands-on food skills to make healthy eating the easier choice!