Many of us spend entire lifetimes striving for health and happiness. If that’s your goal (and it’s a worthwhile one), it’s impossible to overstate the importance of developing healthy habits regarding nutrition.
The food you eat can dramatically impact your well-being and state of mind. It can make you more likely to experience mental problems like depression. And it can affect your likelihood of developing a health problem like high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease.
We’ll share six healthy habits that can help you optimize your nutrition in this guide.
“First we eat, then we do everything else.” – M.F.K. Fisher
How to build healthy habits regarding nutrition
Healthy eating habits are always a choice. Everything starts with a thought and thought leads to action. If you want to modify your behavior around food, begin by establishing a partnership with your mind. Aim to develop an understanding of how your thoughts and mental state impact your relationship with food.
Considering all that, here’s some guidance for forming healthy food habits:
1. Watch yourself
Every scientific experiment revolves around observation. If you want to develop healthy eating habits, there is great value in paying close attention to your behavior regarding food. Specific small steps can help you realize significant improvements in your overall health.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), if healthy living is a goal, it’s a good idea to create a list of your eating and drinking habits. Use a food and beverage diary to keep track of everything you eat and drink. It will help you identify key patterns, and you may only have to use it for a few days to get the insight you need.
For example, you might quickly realize that you turn to sweets for an energy rush to help overcome a mid-afternoon slump. Or your food diary may help you see that you use food as a reward system after a challenging day at work.
As you note your behavior, also observe your mental state. For example, how did you feel as you ate those cookies or french fries? Were you feeling anxious or bored? Depressed or battling lots of stress? Establishing a connection between your emotions and your eating patterns will give you the insight you need to achieve notable health benefits and create meaningful and lasting change.
2. Know the difference between healthy eating habits and harmful ones
“My doctor told me I had to stop throwing intimate dinners for four unless there are three other people.” – Orson Welles
Change starts with replacing a bad habit with good habits. Food can be your friend or your foe, and certain behaviors impact the nature of the relationship. Here are some examples of behaviors that can cause food to work against you instead of for you:
- Eating too fast – This can cause you to consume larger portions than your body needs.
- Eating when you’re not hungry – Many times, eating isn’t a response to hunger; we eat to soothe emotions like boredom or depression.
- Always eating everything on your plate – Many of us were conditioned as children to eat everything on our plate; as adults, this behavior can lead us to consume more food than we need.
- Always eating dessert – Desserts often contain sugar and empty calories; they work as an occasional indulgence, but if they’re a regular practice, it’s a good idea to consider breaking the habit.
3. Identify and address your triggers
Once you’ve established the harmful eating habits you want to change, determine the circumstances that trigger the behavior. Here are some examples of common triggers:
- Watching television at home
- Seeing a plate of bagels at your weekly office staff meeting
- Coming home from work without having a plan for dinner
- Walking past your coworker’s bowl of candy at the office
- Having unhealthy snack foods within reach in your kitchen
Once you know your triggers, you’ll be ready to address them and make healthy choices. Of course, you won’t be able to remove yourself from all situations that trigger you, but you can develop creative ways to achieve better outcomes.
For example, if you know that you like to munch on something while watching T.V., plan to have a healthy snack like celery or carrots on hand instead of candy or cake. Similarly, if you know that the food provided at a staff meeting will be a temptation, bring healthy menu items to help you stay on a nourishing path.
4. Get real about the impact food has on your health
“The food you eat can either be the safest and most powerful medicine or the slowest form of poison.” – Ann Wigmore
Every action has consequences. Whether we have healthy habits or unhealthy ones, those behaviors lay the groundwork for our future. Unfortunately, chronic disease is a fact of life for too many people, and food plays a role in many of these illnesses.
The reach of these diseases is tremendous. For example, according to the American Diabetes Association, roughly 10 percent of Americans have diabetes, and the CDC reports that heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. Also, the National Cancer Institute states that roughly 40 percent of men and women will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lifetimes.
Research shows that the food we eat impacts our risk for chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease and certain types of cancer. And numerous studies have linked food with brain impairment and mood disorders like depression.
If you want to create a healthy life for yourself tomorrow, start by fostering healthy food habits today.
5. Make smart food choices
“To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art.” – Francois de la Rochefoucauld
“Good food is healthy food. Food is supposed to sustain you so you can live better, not so you can eat more. Some people eat to live, and some people live to eat.” – Yolanda Adams
So, which healthy foods should we include in our diet? According to Harvard Medical School, not eating enough of the foods listed below is linked with a higher risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes:
- Seeds and nuts
- Seafood-based omega-3 fats
- Whole grains
At the other end of the spectrum, research shows overconsuming these foods and nutrients may increase your likelihood of developing diabetes or suffering a stroke or heart attack:
- Processed meat
- Sugar-sweetened beverages
- Unprocessed red meat
Generally speaking, it’s hard to go wrong with whole foods. So, aim to make whole foods the most significant part of your diet. And it’s a good idea to choose organic produce, grass-fed beef and cage-free chicken and eggs. Doing so will help you avoid exposure to harmful pesticides and hormones.
6. Adopt a lifestyle, not a diet
These days, we have an almost endless list of options for our diet. If plant-based is your preference, you can go vegan or vegetarian. Many people have found success with keto and paleo diets. And Whole30 is one of the newest eating plans to make an impact.
Regardless of which plan you choose, it’s important to remember that long-term benefits require long-term action. So, don’t think of your eating plan as a diet; see it as a lifestyle change. And it’s essential to develop healthy habits that support that change.
For example, if you want to make Whole30 or keto part of your routine, consider subscribing to a meal delivery service that offers these eating plans. Doing so may make it easier for you to establish healthy food habits and stick with your eating plan over the long run.
Fresh N Lean offers meal plans that include Whole30, keto, vegan, high-protein and paleo choices. We make our meals with grass-fed beef, cage-free chicken and organic ingredients, and we deliver to your home or office.
Want more tips on fostering healthy habits and optimizing your life?
If you want to learn more about healthy behavior as it relates to your diet and other aspects of your life, spend some time exploring Optimize You and our new Optimized Speaker Series. It includes vital tips from top experts to help you supercharge your productivity, creativity, fitness, wellness and mindset. Take charge of your life with Optimize You.