Creating and maintaining healthy eating habits doesn’t have to be hard work. Here are six simple strategies to make healthy eating habits stick.
For most, the prospect of eating healthier may be synonymous with dieting, which may be why many don’t have success long-term. For example, when a person decides to lose weight and then refers to that weight loss attempt as a ‘diet’, it can mean that certain foods are restricted, which may conjure up feelings of deprivation. Before you attempt another ‘diet’, the question you need to ask yourself prior is: What label are you going to give your quest? Is your journey about deprivation? That is, are you ‘going on, then off’ something? Or is it going to be an all- encompassing quest that focuses on re-shaping your eating habits and nurturing a positive and flexible relationship with food?
As wacky as this may sound, the best way to avoid eating too much of the foods you know you shouldn’t eat is, ironically enough, to allow yourself to eat them. The more you deny yourself what you want, the weaker you will feel when you’re around it and the harder it will be to resist. Put simply, if you keep telling yourself you are not allowed to eat chocolate, chances are you will devour the entire block. If there is a certain food you love that is not particularly healthy, plan small amounts of it in your meals or snacks. Better still, opt for quality not quantity, and savour every bite.
You don’t have to overhaul your diet overnight. Small steps equal big results! In other words, making consistent, small tweaks to your eating choices makes it much easier, enjoyable, and most importantly more sustainable to stick with long-term. For example, making water instead of juice or coffee your default drink; choosing fruit instead of biscuits; or nuts instead of crisp or salty snacks are simple swaps that will make your diet instantly healthier.
Each week consider your work, family and social commitments and what days you will put aside to prep, shop and cook. If the start of the week is notoriously hectic, plan to batch cook on Sunday to portion up meals and freeze or chop up extra veggies whilst cooking dinner and store in containers for portable snacks for the week ahead. Spending a little extra time to prepare healthy food for the week not only saves money and reduces food waste, it increases the likelihood a healthier food choice will be made.
It’s really tough to eat healthy if you’re always surrounded by ‘junk’ foods. To make the simple swaps a seamless process (without relying too much on willpower), keep a steady supply of healthy alternatives to your usual comforts. Keep fruit on counter tops, chopped up veggies at eye level in fridge and junk food hidden. The saying “out of sight, out of mind” definitely applies here.
Do certain situations, moods or times of day prompt you to overeat? Whether it’s night time snacking, boredom, or working towards tight deadlines, we all have different "feed me!" triggers. When this occurs, it is important to recognise them for what they are and consider how you could avoid it from occurring in the future. By planning ahead and bringing awareness to trigger situations, you can make more mindful choices or find more satisfying ways to feed your feelings, such as taking a brisk walk around the block to de-stress, sipping a cup of herbal tea, or finding things to do that don’t revolve around food.