Food is such an integral part of how we live that simple, small changes in how you eat can add years to your life. The key lies in adopting healthy eating habits.
There’s a lot of information out there on how to eat healthy and what a balanced diet is, and many times these messages are conflicting (vegan, Paleo, Atkins, LCHF, 5+2… who can keep track?).
Healthy eating is not only about WHAT you eat or cook, it’s about healthy eating habits and mindful eating: when, where and with whom you eat, how you plan, shop, order at a restaurant, and how you think about food and your body.
Healthy eating is a lifestyle. In this post we share seven healthy eating habits and mindful eating tips we have worked on over the past year with Jamie Oliver and Darya Rose and that our users most often cite as THE healthy eating habits that have tipped the scales for them (pun partly intended).
1 – Celebrate Humble H2O – Every Day
“This is one of my favourite micro-actions because it’s so brilliantly easy. Simply top-up your water intake. We all need it, we often drink it without thinking, but most of us don’t drink enough! Hydration really makes us thrive in all sorts of ways and it’s integral to pretty much every function of our bodies, especially our brains, which are over 70% water.
Daily repetition is the key to forming sustainable habits, so how could you make drinking H2O a habit? Let’s jam some creative ways of pimping your water to make keeping hydrated super-easy. Bottoms up!” -Jamie Oliver
2 – Identify a Habit To Hang On To
We so often focus on the negatives and the changes we need to make that we forget about the positives. When really, forming a solid set of healthy habits is as much about recognizing the things you are already doing well. So here’s Jamie’s mindful eating question for you to think about:
“What’s a good eating habit you have that you want to keep? Here’s a crazy fact – we make more than 200 decisions about food and drink every day, and out of those, we are aware of less than 15 (!). Becoming more conscious of the choices we make when it comes to food is the first step to improving our habits. So be mindful of a good eating habit of yours you want to keep.
Mine is fending off snack attacks by keeping a stash of good stuff when I get peckish. Nuts are perfect for this – 30g is just the right amount, they’re full of essential fats which are vital to keeping your body in good nick. What’s yours?” -Jamie Oliver
3 – Sit At The Table
How and where you eat is as important as what you eat. Both children and adults tend to snack more when watching television. What’s more, people who eat while watching TV rate themselves as less hungry than those who eat while doing other activities – yet the TV watchers keep eating. Here’s Jamie:
“Enjoy a meal at the table without distractions. We’re a constantly distracted generation. How many of you are eating while reading this article? Or usually munch brekkie while checking emails, grab lunch on the go or have a few too many TV dinners? Food is one of life’s simplest pleasures. You’re much more likely to overeat if your mind is elsewhere, so take a minute to sit at a table and enjoy your food today.” – Jamie Oliver
4 – Make Time For a Balanced Breakfast
Eating breakfast should really be a no-brainer – it’s linked to many health benefits, including weight management and improved performance (according to the American Dietetic Association, children who eat breakfast show better concentration, problem-solving skills, and eye-hand coordination). Yet for so many of us breakfast is THE Achilles heel of our eating habits, and we may not even know it.
“I’m sure we’ve all heard over and over that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so let’s show it the love it deserves. Make an effort to eat a balanced brekkie, and make it a joy not a chore. You can pimp your porridge with cinnamon, whizz up a beautiful berry smoothie, or crack out some eggs. What does a balanced breakfast look like for you?
Head here for a super-simple lowdown on beautiful balanced brekkies. Whatever you do, enjoy it!” -Jamie Oliver
5 – Notice Your Hunger
At the core of mindful eating are some really easy tips to think differently about HOW you eat, and really listening to your body. Without noticing it, we may end up eating A LOT more than we think (or should, were we to ask our body). For example, Brian Wansink in his book ‘Mindless Eating’ shares a study where French and US women were asked how they decided it was time to stop eating. The French reported that they stopped eating when they no longer felt hungry. The US women in turn relied on external cues – running out of food or beverage or when a TV show was over. The heavier a person was, the more she relied on external cues for eating vs. simply listening to her body saying she’d had enough.
Sharing some of these mindful eating tips is author, blogger and Ph.D in neuroscience Darya Rose:
“Before eating and throughout the day, simply take a moment to really notice what hunger feels like in your body. Remember how wonderful it is that you get to enjoy food in order to satisfy your body’s needs. Next time you’re hungry take a moment to appreciate the feeling of anticipation for your meal.” -Darya Rose
6 – Snack Smart
“It’s so easy for bad snacking habits to slip under the radar – even the most saintly of eaters can fall victim to the snack attack. We’ve all been there, caught off guard by the 4pm sugar-fix and impulsively grabbing the nearest (often not-so-healthy!) nibble.
This small eating habit can save your afternoon and dinner time – smart snacking. People ask if snacking is good or bad – well, let me clarify that snacking is absolutely good. It helps keep your blood sugar levels in check, which means you subside hunger, and stay alert and active. BUT it’s gotta be the good stuff guys, c’mon don’t reach for the biscuit tin. 100 to 150 calories a go is about right.
This is one you can prepare for in advance – be ready for the snack attack by throwing a small handful of nuts in a tub, packing some crunchy veg sticks with a little pot of houmous, or simply popping an apple in your bag before you head out the door. Get snacking!” -Jamie Oliver
7 – Make One Healthy Swap
Tip no. 2 was to identify habits to hang on to – after doing this one, it’s the perfect time to identify an area you could improve. Now, we often try to change by NOT doing something all together, but the better approach is usually to swap the bad habit out to something better. Jamie says:
“Swap one food or drink for something a tad healthier. We’ve all been there, made a vow to drastically change our eating habits and ended up face-first in the fridge at 10pm. So instead of giving something up, just swap it out for a more nutritious option. Swap a soda for water, coffee for tea, pasta for whole-wheat, or a chocolate bar for a piece of fruit.
The more realistic your habit changes are, the better chance they will stick – it takes around 21-28 days to create a habit like this, so stick with it and in a few weeks you’ll be laughing. Check out these easy swap ideas!“ -Jamie Oliver
IN SUMMARY, LEARNING HEALTHY EATING HABITS:
A healthy eating lifestyle doesn’t need to be a full-on transformation (those rarely work, unfortunately) – you’re better off by taking small steps in the right direction. Small changes, done daily, may end up changing your day, week, month, or whole life.
So start with one action one day, for example the humble H2O, and try to figure out how to turn it into a habit. Setting triggers is one of the best ways to do it. Figure out what external cues you can use to remind you of your new good habit. Say for water it may be:
- Waking up and immediately drinking one glass
- Getting to work and filling up a large glass of water
- Walking to get a refill of coffee or tea – refill your water as well!
Do try this at home. And remember – the small things matter.