FOOD

How To Form Healthy Eating Habits

In seven simple steps.

14/09/2017 11:20 AM AEST | Updated 14/09/2017 11:26 AM AEST
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Raise your hand if you've tried to overhaul your diet and eat healthy food, only to return to your evening block of chocolate and ice cream a few days later.

You're not alone. Breaking habits and setting new, healthy ones can be difficult. But not impossible.

"For many people, they have been stuck in their not-so-healthy eating habits for a while, so when they do start to try and eat more healthily it can be very easy to revert back to their old ways," Alexandra Parker, accredited practising dietitian of The Biting Truth, told HuffPost Australia.

"It's especially difficult in a world where food (especially the not-so-healthy food) is so readily available."

Forming healthy habits is all about slowing down (that's right, no juice cleanses or 'tea detoxes'), taking small steps and planning well.

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Here are seven tips on how to form healthy eating habits.

1. Set small goals and make gradual changes

While it's tempting to do a juice cleanse or detox which promises quick weight loss, these won't address current unhealthy eating habits and, more often than not, result in re-gaining the (water) weight lost.

"These days everyone is looking for a quick fix to weight loss, whereas changing habits that will stick around for the long-term takes time," Anna Debenham, accredited practising dietitian of The Biting Truth, told HuffPost Australia.

"Set yourself small goals and make gradual changes to your diet. It's safe to assume that you'll find it difficult to stick to your healthy diet if you go from regularly eating french fries to strictly salads in one day."

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Slowly include more healthy meals into your day, and make your junk food favourites more nutritious.

2. Slow down and be mindful

In the course of our busy days, we often overlook mindful eating -- which actually plays a huge part in healthy eating. And it's super easy to do. Simply sit down without distractions while you're eating (that means, emails, Instagram, Facebook or TV), tune into the eating process and savour every bite.

"Our brain and our gut are in constant communication, so if your brain is distracted while you're eating, you might not get the memo that you're full and are more likely to overeat," Debenham said.

3. Use smaller bowls, plates and utensils

With huge takeaway and restaurant portions a norm today, it's tricky to know what a healthy portion of food is, but there's a simple trick: manage your portions by swapping to smaller bowls, plates and utensils.

"Research shows that we struggle to leave vacant space on our plate, so make things easier for yourself and downsize," Parker explained.

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Give this method a go by using a smaller bowl and spoon for brekkie.

4. Snack healthy

Much of the time, snacking is what makes or breaks a healthy diet -- too large and it becomes a meal, too little and you make up for it later and overeat.

Parker recommends keeping these healthy snacks in your pantry, bag or at work: veggie sticks with hummus, natural yoghurt with berries, a handful of unsalted nuts, fruit, and whole grain crackers with cheese or natural peanut butter.

Need more snack ideas? Try these filling snacks under 150 calories.

5. Plan, prepare and surround yourself with healthy food

We've heard the adage before: 'If you fail to plan, you plan to fail'. To help you plan, prepare and stick to your healthy habits, Debenham recommends treating healthy eating as you do work or household chores.

"Take the time to stock the pantry with the right foods and prepare meals in advance. Sit down, plan your meals for the week, make a list of the relevant ingredients and stick to it when you get to the supermarket."

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Head to the farmers' markets for food -- better produce and less junk food temptation.

6. Ditch the diet

As we know, when we follow strict diets (that is, when we dramatically decrease energy intake), this can 'shock' the body, reducing metabolism and increasing hunger. Setting strict rules about what you can and can't eat can also affect mood, sleep, fertility and overall health, Parker explained.

"Rather than cutting out whole food groups or denying yourself your favourite foods, focus on cooking fresh, colourful and tasty meals," Parker said.

7. Don't skip breakfast

It seems logical to forgo breakfast in an attempt to cut calories or carbs, but this can do more harm than good.

"Breakfast eaters are less likely to be overweight or obese and are more likely to meet their vitamin and mineral requirements compared to those that don't," Debenham said.

Need healthy breakfast ideas? Try eggs and avocado on whole grain toast, low-sugar muesli with yoghurt and fruit, or natural peanut butter and banana on whole grain toast.

"Eating a healthy, balanced breakfast means you're less likely to eat high-energy, processed foods throughout the day."

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