We all know how important it is to make positive changes. Changing your diet can be an extremely effective way to improve your cardiometabolic wellness, by decreasing your excess weight (especially visceral fat), blood pressure and blood sugar. If you need extra motivation to improve your eating habits, check out this article.
The great news is you don’t have to do anything too restrictive or extreme to see these positive results.
We will be reviewing 7 healthy eating habits that you may want to try this year.
Importance of Healthy Habits
The importance of healthy habits shouldn’t be underestimated. First, take a moment to look at your current routine, so that you can make a list of habits you need to work on. Our daily habits are what make or break our day, week, month and year.
Many times, when people try to eat better, they focus on short-term changes that are too difficult for them to sustain. When it’s not a true lifestyle change, it can be harder to maintain the results long-term.
That’s why we want to focus on forming healthy habits that will eventually become so routine that you don’t feel like you are restricted or that you are “on a diet”.
List of Good Habits
Now let’s get into the list of good habits that may be beneficial for you to try.
- Eat a primarily whole foods diet.
Most of us would be way better off, if we simply ate a whole foods diet. Focus on foods that are more natural and less processed. Think of single ingredient foods such as berries, almonds, flaxseed, black beans, broccoli, oats, sweet potato, salmon, etc.
Modern convenience foods make it easier than ever to eat a whole foods diet, even if you don’t like to cook or make elaborate meals. Utilizing canned foods and frozen foods can help you need to save time, just make sure the ingredients list is short.
You don’t have to give up all your favorite foods, but it is true that most people eat way too much ultra-refined and processed foods, which is linked to increased risks of common cardiometabolic conditions and earlier death.
- Make plant-forward meals.
A good rule of thumb is to fill half of your plate or bowl with non-starchy vegetables at each meal. This helps us to fill up, increase the antioxidants, fiber and phytochemical intake and cut back on some of the less healthful foods.
If you don’t like vegetables, don’t give up! Many times, people find that they do start to enjoy vegetables when they cut back on “junk” food. It takes time for our taste buds to adjust. You may need to roast vegetables with plenty of seasonings or make a stir fry.
Try to enjoy other wholesome plant-based foods, such as nuts, seeds, oats, beans, whole grains and fruit. These items are associated with improved wellness and longevity.
- Increase your water intake.
Most people do not drink enough water. Are you primarily drinking soda, coffee, juices, sports drinks or similar? Being properly hydrated can help with blood sugar, blood pressure and feeling full and satisfied.
On average, adult males should have ~3 liters (13 cups) and adult females have ~2.2 liters (9 cups) of fluid per day. This includes all fluid, including water and other beverages. Try to increase your water intake, if you know that is a problem area for you.
- Meal plan & prep ahead of time!
A failure to plan is a plan to fail. Most people do not know what they will be eating later today. When we wait until the last minute, we are more likely to make impulsive decisions and unfortunately that means we tend to choose less healthful meals.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t have flexibility or freedom. You certainly don’t have to have a regimented meal plan that you can’t stray from on occasion. However, it is important to have some general ideas of foods you like, easy meals you can make and the ingredients on hand.
- Keep healthy food available.
Keep plenty of wholesome foods available in your kitchen, so that you will never be without something to eat. When you have no food available, you may be more likely to pick up fast food.
Use your meal plan and grocery list to keep easy meals and snack foods on hand so that you can whip something up quickly when you need to eat.
- Try to only eat when you are truly hungry and limit mindless eating.
A common problem that many people struggle with is eating mindlessly. They may not even realize they’re eating. They may eat when they are bored, stressed or just out of habit.
This is a big problem because we typically mindlessly eat less healthful foods and when we eat a little bit, we may not actually get full, which causes us to get a little more later. It all adds up and can lead to weight gain over time.
It’s okay to have a snack, if you are truly hungry and cannot wait until your next meal. However, start to identify when you are snacking even though you aren’t hungry and truly work on decreasing your mindless eating.
- Fast daily (generally for at least 12-hours per day).
Most of us naturally fast every night during our sleep. Fasting can be great for many reasons, including helping us be more intentional with our food intake by limiting mindless eating.
There are many fasting strategies, some of which can be quite extreme. Luckily, benefits can even be seen after a 12-hour fasting period. For most people this is mild enough to be achievable to accomplish and sustain long-term.
An example of a 12-hour fast, would be to stop eating at 8 PM and wait until 8 AM the next day to eat again. There are no hard rules; some people can fast longer or shorter periods of time.
Having a regimented fast is not necessary or recommended for all people, especially if you find it too difficult or if you are on certain diabetes or blood pressure medications that make you at risk of going low. Be careful and avoid fasting for too long.
Practicing Healthy Habits
Once you’ve identified a new healthy eating habit that you want to try, try to work on it daily. You won’t be perfect and that’s okay. It is incredibly difficult to make positively change our habits. However, keep trying and over time it will become easier and more like second nature.
If you haven’t already, sign up for my free Healthy Eating Guide to get started on practicing healthy habits.
If you need more help starting and practicing healthy habits, then please join the Wellness Transformation Program! We use a daily checklist to keep track of your progress and meet your goals.