Proper nutrition is one of the most cardinal things for one’s health. If you want to feel happy and content with who you are, or to look slim and attractive, despite your age, start with changing unhealthy eating habits to healthy ones. Though most of our eating habits develop in childhood, it is never too late to change them. Making sudden changes or restrictions (Diet) in eating habits can lead to weight loss in the short term but is not a healthy idea of reducing your weight and would not be successful in the long run. To ensure healthy living, you need not eat less, but eat right.
Therefore, one should gradually improve eating habits through a thoughtful approach as follows-
- REFLECT on your eating habits, both bad and good; and, your common triggers for unhealthy eating.
- Create a list of everything you eat and at what time of the day to uncover your habits. E.g., you might discover that you crave for a sweet after the meal.
- Highlight the habits that may lead you to overeat like eating too fast, eating when not hungry, eating while standing (may lead to eating mindlessly), Skipping meals.
- Review the unhealthy habits highlighted and identify the triggers that let you engage in those habits. These may be opening the cabinet & seeing your favorite snack, watching TV at home, feeling bored/ tired/ stressed.
- REPLACE unhealthy eating habits with healthier ones like slow eating if you are a fast eater, eating fruit to replace dessert, or drinking low-fat or fat-free milk, avoiding TV during meals. Try to replace stress eating with some non-eating activities like reading a book, exercising, going for a spa, or finding something other than food that helps you unload your distress.
- REINFORCE or take action on your new, healthier eating habits and be patient as it takes time to develop new habits.
Studies have indicated that our eating habits connect with our mood, and certain foods can help manage emotional challenges, such as anxiety, anger, and insomnia. Also, a healthy diet can help fight depression. It is because the gut (stomach) and brain are connected. When people have chronic stress, there is a disruption in the stomach, which allows the harmful bacteria to overtake the good ones, and the communication between the gut and brain breaks down. Food can resolve this imbalance of good and bad bacteria in your stomach.
Try to inculcate BRAIN FOODS in your diet where each letter reflects what should we consume-
- B- Berries, for fiber and antioxidants.
- R- Rainbow colors of fruits and vegetables, to provide a diversity of fibers and nutrients. Paint your plate with more colors to get more nutrient variation.
- A- Antioxidants, to get rid of damaging compounds made in the body.
- I- Include lean protein.
- N- Nuts, a good source of nutrients.
- F- Fiber-rich foods and Fruits and Veggies, which feed the good gut bacteria.
- O- Oil (healthy) such as olive oil, which has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
- O- Omega 3 fatty acid-rich foods, which have anti-inflammatory effects.
- D- Dairy, which adds good bacteria to your gut.
- S- Spices because certain spices have excellent brain benefits.
Eat less CRAP-
- C- Carbonated drinks.
- R- Refined Sugar.
- A- Artificial Sweeteners & Colors.
- P- Processed Foods.
Ways to Change your Eating Habits-
Select foods that promote your health & prevent ailment and maintain or reduces weight. Healthy eating provides the sustained energy our body needs. Below listed are some ways to make healthy changes in your eating habits:
- Drink lemon water empty stomach, which is a rich source of Vitamin C and acts as a detoxifying agent and has antibacterial properties.
- Eat lots of vegetables (3 or more servings a day), especially dark green vegetables and a variety of fruits (2 or more a day). It is advisable to eat at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day. So, consider swapping your snacks for fresh fruits or fruit juice.
- Do not skip or delay your meals and fix a time for your snacks. Some people skip breakfast, thinking it will help them lose weight. Others are so busy that eating often becomes a chore. Remember, if you ignore your feelings of hunger, you may give into not-so-healthy cravings eating much more than required.
- Include more herbs and spices like turmeric, ginger, garlic, black pepper, etc. They have proven benefits in boosting your immunity.
- Reduce refined or processed carbohydrates, eat whole-grain, high-fiber bread, and cereals. Avoid intake of carbohydrates after 7:30 pm.
- Drink low-fat or fat-free milk and eat low-fat dairy products.
- Reduce intake of saturated fats and choose foods that contain unsaturated fats instead, such as vegetable oils or olive oil, and avocados. Saturated fats cause blood cholesterol to increase, which enhances the risk of heart disease.
- Reduce the daily intake of salt or sodium because it can raise your blood pressure and increases the chances of heart disease or a stroke. Try to avoid salt after 7:30 pm.
- Restrict Junk food as it contains refined white flour, solid fats, added sugars, and are high in sodium.
- Reduce or eliminate sodas and other free sugar-added drinks that are high in calories and lead to weight gain and tooth decay. Use product labels to check how much sugar the foods contain. Instead, drink 100% natural fruit juice.
- Drink enough water (at least 3-4 liters) to stop you from getting dehydrated and helps in detoxification. Place a water bottle at your desk or use an app to track how much you drink. If your body craves for a sugary drink, try to drink fruit infused water.
- Drink water between bites. It will help you to feel that you are full so that you do not stuff yourself. But avoid water immediately after finishing your meal as it dilutes the digestive enzymes and can lead to poor digestion and acidity.
- Take a pause, chew more, and eat slowly because it helps the food break down and help you revel in the flavors, textures, and smell, which makes you appreciate food more, eat less. When we eat fast, we tend to eat more than our body wants as the brain realizes in around 20 min that your stomach is full.
- Serve your snacks on a plate rather than eating from the package. It helps you control how much you eat.
- Find a way to include the foods you love without overindulging, as this is part of being healthy. Do not ignore your craving, but do not go overboard while trying to sate your desire. A small piece of dessert will not impair your goal.
- Save the best bite for last so that you leave your meal satisfying your craving without overindulging.
The food that you eat, in turn, affects your health. You may require to change some of your daily habits to eat healthier. But you need not change all your habits at the same time. Awareness is the start. Proceed with small changes, try to sustain them, and then build on your healthy habits. Over a period, these small changes can make a big difference in your health.
The food that you eat can be the safest and most potent form of medicine or the slowest form of poison. So, do not focus on short term diet but a long-term lifestyle change, which concentrates on making you healthier. When we begin to change our relationship to food, we change the way we live!!