Easy healthy eating habits are an important part of the healthy living diet. They can make or break your success when it comes to health and weight loss.
What to eat and not eat are top of mind when it comes to health and weight loss, but little thought is usually given to how food is prepared and consumed. Best food preparation practices and how and when you eat are just as important as choosing quality nutritious foods for your body.
Healthy Eating Habits to Make Part of Your Life
Nutritious food, proper food preparation, and easy healthy eating habits are the three pillars of a good meal plan. Good eating habits are not about rules or being perfect. They are about making mealtime more enjoyable and healthful for your mind and body in the long-term. They are about helping you digest well and assimilate the most nutrients from your food.
Feel free to adapt the suggestions below to fit your needs and lifestyle.
1. Adopt a Healthy Living Diet.
The healthy living diet is an easy healthy eating plan suitable for most people. It can be adapted for weight loss (or gain) and special needs with a little tweaking. It includes a wide array of nourishing foods and beverages as well as some leeway for not-so-good for you foods you like.
Find out what to eat on this healthy living diet plan here. If this plan isn’t right for you, find one that is and stick with it.
2. Make your first meal of the day nutritious.
Of course, your body deserves to be fed healthy food at every meal, but if your overall diet is less than life-giving, then a good meal to focus your attention on first is the first meal you eat. When you break your fast, enjoy a nutritious meal that gets your body off to a good start.
Have protein such as eggs or quinoa with avocado and vegetables. Or enjoy a bowl of steel-cut oatmeal with berries and a tablespoon of ground flax seeds mixed in. Include superfoods during your first meal of the day. If you are in a rush or just don’t feel like solid food, healthy drinks, such as green smoothies or plant-protein meal replacement shakes. offer a rich supply of nutrients in a pinch. Real whole foods may be better, but a donut is much worse.
Whether eating breakfast within an hour of waking is a healthy eating habit or not is debated health and nutrition experts.
Some research shows that eating an early breakfast shortly after you wake up is best. Other research shows that if you wait until 11 AM and exercise first, you will burn more fat all day and do better by your insulin levels. Whether you choose to eat an early breakfast or wait, eat your first meal when you are hungry and not just because it is time or you think you should.
A good practice is to start your day with a glass of water or lemon water or other hydrating beverage, preferably one without sugar or artificial sweeteners. Then eat afterwards when you feel hungry.
3. Follow the 80-20 rule.
An easy healthy eating habit is to have 80% of your calories from food and drinks come from healthy sources and to stop eating when you are 80% full.
On this meal plan you primarily eat whole, minimally processed healthy whole foods. At least 80% of your calories come from a wide variety of real foods that nourish your cells. If you want to know what those foods are, Jack LaLane said it best:
If God didn’t make it, don’t eat it.
In today’s world this is a very difficult standard to achieve. That’s why we have the 80-20 rule. It takes the edge off temptation and guilt, while still providing a nutritious diet.
You may indulge your ‘junk food tooth’ for up to a total of 20% of your calorie intake. Calorie counting is not necessary when you primarily eat nutritious, whole foods, but for illustrative purposes let’s use this example. If you consume 1800 calories a day, up to 360 calories may come from processed foods and beverages. Beware. Those calories add up quickly. If you have health concerns, it may be better if you follow the 90-10 rule and keep sugar and processed foods to a minimum.
Also follow the 80-20 rule for how much you eat. Stop eating before you are full. This healthy eating habit helps prevent excess calorie consumption and allows your stomach to do its job of churning and breaking down food without discomfort.
4. Practice traditional food preparation methods.
Indigenous peoples naturally follow a healthy diet. They don’t just eat healthy foods, they know how to prepare them in nourishing ways. There is great wisdom in traditional food preparation. It neutralizes nutrient-blocking compounds, aids absorption, and preserves the quality of foods.
Some traditional practices are easy to incorporate into your cooking and healthy eating routine.
- Soak most beans and grains for several hours before cooking them slowly over low heat. This makes them more digestible and neutralizes certain compounds.
- Cook meat at low temperatures (250 degrees) to avoid damaging proteins.
- Boil dark leafy greens for up to an hour to break down cell walls so nutrients are more accessible.
- Add vinegar to a salad to help it ‘cook’. Get apple cider vinegar with the mother at the bottom. The mother is strands of protein, enzymes and friendly bacteria.
- Add a little healthy fat to vegetables and salad to help you absorb fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.
- Include a small serving of cultured food or beverage with your meals for a probiotic boost and better digestion. If you buy cultured vegetables, get them in the refrigerated section.
For delicious recipes and interesting information about dietary traditions and wholesome ways to prepare food, I highly recommend Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. It’s my favorite cookbook.
5. Think convenience.
Another healthy eating habit is to have nutritious foods and beverages on hand. Then they are ready to go and you are more likely to eat them instead of reaching for unhealthy fast food.
- Prepare and store food and nutritious beverages ahead of time. It’s just as easy to make two or more batches of whatever you are cooking as one.
- Freeze extras or pack up for lunches or to re-purpose as another dinner.
- Buy cut-up or frozen vegetables that are ready to cook up quickly. Or cut up your own. Let the kids help, they’re more likely to eat them if they help prepare them.
- Cut up melon and fruit into bite-sized pieces. They are a lot more likely to get eaten that way.
- Make a big pot or two of ultra-healthy soups and stews each week for a ready extra dinner or lunches. Vary your recipes so you don’t get bored with them.
The hearty soup shown here contains 13 bean soup mix (soaked overnight first), diced tomatoes, vegetable stock, mushrooms, onions, dulse flakes, a variety of vegetables, a big handful of kale, salt, curry powder and turmeric. It’s also good with cut-up potatoes and a bit of leftover meat.
6. Eat meals within a 8-10 hour time frame.
Intermittent fasting is all the rage right now and with good reason. Eating two or three daily meals within an 8-10 hour window on most days has numerous health benefits. This healthy eating habit improves insulin sensitivity, weight control, and mitochondrial function.
Limiting your feeding window may take some getting used to if you are in the habit of eating whenever you want.
Ease into this healthy eating habit by cutting back an hour of eating time every few days. At a minimum, aim for 12 hours of fasting between your last meal or snack and breakfast. It is best to stop eating at least three hours before bedtime. Feel free to drink water, tea or coffee (unsweetened) whenever you want.
Learn more about intermittent fasting in this short video.
7. Prepare food with positive energy.
Everything is energy. Food prepared with negativity holds that energy. Food prepared with love and positive thoughts is a blessing.
If you are familiar with Dr. Emoto’s experiments with water crystals, you’ll remember that the words and thought transmitted to the crystals made them either beautiful and vibrant or ugly and sick looking. You are made up of about 75% water and so is most of your food.
Again, we can look to the wisdom of the ancients who blessed their food before eating it. They blessed and thanked the spirits of the animals and plants that provided it. Prepare your meals and eat them with a same spirit of gratitude.
If you are angry or stressed, calm yourself before eating. Stress interferes with digestion and increases cravings for carbohydrates and junk food.
Develop a healthy eating habit for your mind as well as your body. Feed your mind with a steady diet of nourishing, supportive, loving thoughts and positive emotions.
8. Sit at the table for mealtime.
Sitting at the table with family and friends isn’t just for the movies. It is a healthy eating habit that nurtures mind, body, and spirit.
If you have a family, sit and eat a meal together at the table at least a few times a week without electronic distractions. Put aside your cell phones and turn off the TV.
Mealtime is the perfect tome to nourish your relationships, your spirit and your body at the same time. Research shows that children who eat with their families at least five times a week do better at school, have better eating habits, and are at less risk for substance abuse and weight problems.
Sharing a meal with friends and loved ones is the perfect opportunity to bond and build a sense of community. It fosters communication and a sense of well-being. Enjoying a relaxing healthy meal together also increases levels of the feel-good love hormone, oxytocin.
On the other hand, munching mindlessly in front of the TV makes eating more unconscious and is a good way to consume more food than you need.
Eating on the run or eating quickly is a recipe for indigestion ad overeating, especially if you’re feeling stressed.
9. Remember why you eat.
We are talking about the health reasons here. The main reason you eat is to provide all the cells of your body with the nourishment and fluids needed for optimal functioning. Your cells need nutrients to do their jobs, to keep themselves healthy, and to replace themselves with new healthy cells.
If you are eating to alleviate stress, anxiety, food addiction, or boredom, take note. Emotional eating often leads to eating too much, too often, and too much of the wrong foods. At the same time, stress eating can cause poor digestion and assimilation of nutrients because your body’s energy is being diverted to parts needed for fight or flight.
Bottom line – healthy cells equal a healthy you. And sure, if you also want to eat healthy foods (and a little soul food) for pleasure and social bonding, that’s great too.
10. Try new healthy foods, beverages, and spices.
Most of us are in the habit of eating the same foods, perhaps in a different form, week in and week out. Have you ever counted how many different foods you eat? To keep it simple, count all your wheat-based cereals, breads, cakes, and pastries count as one. Milk- based milk, ice cream, yogurt, and cheeses count as one. For a lot of people, these two foods account for half their diet!
Trying new foods, beverages, and spices once a week or even once a month helps you expand your palate, get a wider variety of nutrients, and excites your taste buds. Your taste buds can communicate up to 100,000 flavors to your brain through neurochemicals. As you age, sensitivity to taste changes, so what you found too intense to like as a child, may now seem delicious. Likewise, the blander foods you liked as a child may now seem tasteless.
A good way to try new foods and drinks is to
- try a new recipe with one or two spices or foods that are new to you.
- try a new blend of herbal tea.
- add a small amount of a new food to a salad or casserole or pizza. For example, if you hated olives as a child, you may find a few of them acceptable or even tasty on a pizza or in a salad.
- if you are at a buffet, add a small serving of an unfamiliar food to your plate and give it a fair two or three bite try.
- prepare a food in a new way. If you don’t like steamed vegetables, you might like them roasted or raw.
11. Eat mindfully and slowly.
Do you wolf your food so fast that your brain can’t signal you to stop eating before you are full? It takes around 20 minutes for your brain to send the signal to the body that it is full.
Are you so distracted by the TV or computer that you lose track of what you are eating and how much? If so, gift yourself time to just focus on your meal.
Chew thoroughly to start the digestion process in your mouth. This mixes your food with the enzyme in your saliva that breaks down carbohydrates. Stop eating after several bites and take a breath. When you are about 80% full stop eating. You’ll eat less, enjoy it more, and your digestion will thank you.
Here is a simple mindfulness eating meditation to try:
Look at your plateful of food. Put a mouthful on your fork and notice how it looks and feels. Put it in your mouth and notice the taste and texture as you chew it. Notice how it feels as you swallow. After several mouthfuls, notice how your body responds to the food. Do you feel nourished and energized or yucky and blah?
You can start your meals like this or even an occasional full meal.
These easy healthy eating habits are an important part of your wellness lifestyle. How you eat and what you put in your body play a major role in the health of all your cells.
In addition, your relationship with food goes beyond what you eat. It is about listening to your body, preparing nourishing foods in healthful ways, guarding your thoughts and attitudes, and viewing eating as a positive, healthful experience.
Healthy Eating Habits page updated 02/2020