Healthy eating is something that we all aspire to, but it isn’t always easy to put it into practice! Whether it’s because we use being busy as an excuse for less healthy eating, or there’s a string of social or work occasions where there are unhealthy foods, it’s easy to let the best of intentions fall by the wayside.
We know that quick fixes won’t last, so how can you maintain a healthy eating pattern in the long term? The answer is to develop sustainable healthy habits, so that healthy eating becomes a natural part of your life. When healthy behaviours become habits, your overall health and wellbeing can improve.
20 Healthy eating habits to follow
These 20 healthy eating tips from Sweat trainers can help you to get back on track and make healthy food choices part of your daily life.
1. Commit to making a small change for 30 days
Small changes can make the biggest difference! Think of one eating habit you can change that will benefit your health and stick to it for a full 30 days. Here are some ideas:
- Say no to takeaway food
- Commit to drinking an extra glass of water each day
- Skip the snacks while watching TV
This might be difficult at the start and the first week will be the hardest! Challenge yourself to commit to the full 30 days and watch for the signs that your health is on track.
2. Start simple
Rather than cutting certain foods out of your diet, try swapping them for something else. Instead of eating highly processed foods, go for something unprocessed. Instead of a chocolate bar, you can choose a piece of fruit. Switch a packet of chips for hummus and veggies, or swap takeaway for a homemade meal. Instead of an energy drink, soft drink or soda, you could choose sparkling water or kombucha.
3. Find healthy foods that you really enjoy
Kelsey Wells’ number one tip is to find healthy foods that you love to eat! Instead of forcing yourself to eat something you hate just because you know it’s healthy, choose foods that you actually enjoy eating and fill your diet with these.
For example, if you really don’t like kale, that’s okay, there are other foods that are just as good for you! Healthy eating should always be enjoyable and never a chore.
4. Eat fruit when you want something sweet
Fruit is a great alternative to desserts which may contain high amounts of refined sugar and saturated fat. Sliced fruit with plain yoghurt and cacao nibs is just one idea of a healthy option you can have to satisfy your sweet tooth.
There are also heaps of healthy dessert recipes on the Sweat blog, including apple donuts and nice cream.
5. Eat protein with every meal
Making sure that you eat protein at every meal will not only help you reach your recommended protein intake but it is proven to help you to feel fuller for longer. This can be helpful if you have a fat loss goal.
Adequate protein is also especially important for people who are training as it is required to build and repair muscle tissue. Learning how to combat protein myths and understanding how to build muscle on a plant-based diet while you balance all of your energy needs is important to ensure that you have the energy you need for your workouts.
6. Stay hydrated
Drinking water is so important! Making sure that you are hydrated can also prevent you from overeating or snacking when you think you’re hungry, but are actually thirsty. Plus, you’ll get more out of your training when you are properly hydrated.
7. Increase your vegetable intake
Filling your plate with extra vegetables will help you to get all the essential vitamins and minerals you need, whilst providing energy and adding volume to your meals so that you feel full and satisfied.
You can also find ways to sneak extra veggies into your snacks! For example, try adding spinach to your fruit smoothie (we promise you can’t taste it!). Hummus makes a tasty dip, you can try enjoying it with chopped celery, carrot and capsicum rather than crackers.
8. Don’t categorise foods as good or bad
Healthy eating should be just one part of a sustainable approach to being healthy, not a quick fix or fad. Having a restrictive mentality about food can encourage unhealthy eating practices and isn’t sustainable in the long term. Instead, make nutritious choices as much as possible, but don’t punish yourself for enjoying a treat every now and then. One meal won’t derail your healthy lifestyle — healthy eating is all about balance!
9. Find a meal plan that you like
For some, sticking to a meal plan is a fool-proof way to eat healthily. Find one that suits your lifestyle, diet and taste and that is designed by a nutritionist or dietitian so you can be confident that you are making the right choices.
10. Plan and prepare
Take some time out to prepare your meals for the week, either by writing down a plan and/or actually cooking your food so it’s ready to go. Planning and preparing some of your meals for the week can take away the burden of deciding what to eat and prevent you from making less healthy choices when you’re out and about or don’t have healthy food on hand.
You could even commit to something as small as packing your bag with an apple and some nuts each night so you know you’ll have something nutritious on hand every day.
11. Learn to read food labels
Knowing exactly what is in your food can help you to make healthy choices. Of course, it is always best to choose whole foods, but if you do buy packaged food, here’s what to look for:
- Choose products that contain less than 5g of sugar per 100g serve for a low-sugar option. Avoid products that contain sugar alcohols like maltitol and sorbitol as these can cause digestive issues when eaten in excess. These types of sugars are often found in protein bars and low-calorie, low-carb sweets as they provide sweetness without a lot of calories or carbohydrates.
- Take some time to compare different products in-store and choose the one with the lowest saturated fat per serve.
- Look for products that have reduced salt or are labelled ‘no added salt’. A low-salt food has less than 120mg per 100g serve, so check the nutrition label.
12. Practice mindful eating
There are so many benefits to eating with more awareness for both your body and your mind. Try these tips:
- Chew slowly. This makes food easier to metabolise and will prevent indigestion.
- Listen to hunger cues. Asking yourself whether you are still hungry, or whether you are satisfied and being more aware of how you feel will help to prevent you from overeating or eating when you are not hungry.
- Savour and enjoy your food! Mealtimes will be even more enjoyable when you take the time to taste and appreciate the flavours and textures of your food. It also encourages you to reflect on the time taken to prepare the meal and practise gratitude, which can lead to a greater sense of wellbeing.
13. Make a healthy choice first
Chontel Duncan’s top healthy eating tip is that when you want to reach for a less-than-healthy snack, eat a healthy snack first! For example, if you’re craving a salty snack like potato crisps, try a handful of unsalted peanuts or smoked almonds. If you still feel hungry for chips afterwards, have some. But it’s most likely that you won’t want them any more!
14. Find healthy ways to manage stress
Many people turn to food for comfort when they feel stressed or overwhelmed — you can even buy “emergency chocolate” these days for a quick hit of sugar. However, there are many ways to deal with stress that give you a better outcome. Some examples are meditation, taking a walk, reading a good book and checking in with friends.
15. Cook at home
When you prepare your own food, you know exactly what has gone into it! It’s also easier to manage your portion sizes when you cook at home. You can choose organic or fresh vegetables and fruit, whole grains, and even prepare your own sauces to make the food that you eat healthier. Establishing healthy habits like preparing your meals at home is one step you can take towards giving your body what it needs so you feel at your best more of the time.
16. Variety is key
The different colours in fruit, grains, seeds, vegetables and legumes are linked to the different minerals, vitamins, antioxidants and phytochemicals they contain.
The more colour you can put on your plate, the wider the variety of nutrition in your meal! This Sticky Beef Bliss Bowl or this Vegetarian Rainbow Quinoa Bowl are both great examples of nutritious, colourful meals.
17. Try new things
While it’s easy to eat the same foods each week, mixing it up can increase the variety of nutrients your body is getting. Plus, trying new foods is fun! You could recreate dishes from different cultures, buy vegetables, fruits (have you tried jackfruit?) or grains you haven’t tried before, or try making vegetarian food once a week.
18. Stock your kitchen with healthy food
When there’s only healthy food in the cupboard, you’re less likely to make the effort to drive to the shops to get that ice cream fix! Make sure that you buy plenty of healthy food and snacks to eat throughout the week so that you feel satisfied after each meal. When you fill-up on whole grains, fruit and veg, lean meat, nuts and legumes you’ll be less likely to crave unhealthy processed foods.
19. Choose whole grains
Whole grain options may be more nutritious than white bread, pasta and rice because they are high in fibre which means that they will keep you full for much longer.
You can boost your nutrition by incorporating a variety of different grains into your diet. Oats, barley, rye, buckwheat and quinoa are all examples of different grains you can include in a balanced, healthy diet.
20. Learn to eat healthy at social events
Social events can be some of the hardest times to eat healthy, especially when you’re tempted with all kinds of greasy, highly-processed foods and desserts. First of all, it’s okay to enjoy these foods sometimes!
If you know you have a lot of these types of events in a row, there are some things you can do to eat healthily:
- Have a healthy snack before you go to take the edge off your hunger
- Fill up on salad and vegetables
- Look for grilled fish or lean meats
- Share dessert with a friend
- Bring a healthy dish to share
When you step away from fad diets and incorporate sustainable healthy eating habits into your life, it’s going to take time to adjust! Change is always difficult, but if you can stick to it and fuel your body with nutritious, balanced food choices, over time you will have more energy and healthy eating will become a habit.
Make healthy eating habits a part of your lifestyle
Try these tips for yourself and share what works for you with the Sweat Community — we love to hear how you’re going. Sharing advice and getting support can help sustain you on your health and fitness journey, especially if you’re returning to training after a break and starting to move again.
Making healthy eating into a habit is worth it! Plus, you can try meal prep to make healthy eating easier, more convenient and more sustainable in the long term. Do you have a healthy eating tip that’s helped you to establish a healthier habit? Share your experience in the comments below!