Nutrition Month: How Do We Go About Changing Eating Habits for the Better?
March is nutrition month and I've got quite the line up of amazing nutritionists throughout the month who will be sharing their knowledge and tips on nutrition. We'll be discussing how to change eating habits (read below), how to incorporate more nourishing foods, what foods to incorporate before and after your workout and snack ideas for avoiding the midday crash (one I've been experiencing way to often). First off, we have the inspiring Britt Martin from Fit Britt.
Eating habits, for all of us, started when we were children, and often are a result of how we were
brought-up. Perhaps your family always had home cooked meals together, or your parents were always on the go, and you ate out a lot because of that. Maybe food was used as a reward for good behaviour, or maybe you always had to finish your dinner plate, regardless if you were hungry or not. Whatever the case may be, a lot of how we eat today is a result of our upbringing, whether that’s good or bad. Habits take time to make, and they also take time to break, but regardless of your upbringing and relationship with food, new habits can always be formed. It’s important to note what they say about habits, it takes 21 days to form, so know that whatever change you are going to make may be hard at first, but within time (or 3 weeks), it should become easier and before you know it, the habit will become part of your regular routine. Whenever you start to form new habits, be patient and forgive yourself. There will be set-backs and that’s okay.
The first way you can start to transform how you eat is by focusing on eating real, whole foods. Start by doing a pantry and fridge detox in your home. Get rid of any foods or beverages that are not contributing to your well-being. Read the ingredients of the foods in your house, and throw out any items with ingredients you don’t recognize, or any with an excessive amount of ingredients- 10 or less ingredients is a good rule of thumb to follow. Once you have detoxed your kitchen, start buying less packaged foods, and more whole foods. Think organic protein sources, whole grains like oats and brown rice, fresh vegetables and fruits, nuts and seeds, healthy fats like coconut oil and avocado and herbs like parsley and cilantro. As far as beverages, try replacing coffee with organic green tea, and have Kombucha (has probiotics, which are great for gut-health) instead of soda.
You can also commit to eating in, and eating out less. Make one day a week your meal planning and prepping day (Sundays are good for those who work a Monday through Friday job). Plan out meals to have for breakfast, lunch, dinner, plus snacks and make your grocery list. After grocery shopping, come home and prep any meals that you can ahead of time. For example, bake your organic chicken for the week, make a batch of brown rice to have on hand, make a few servings of overnight oats, cut and wash fruit and vegetables for smoothies, roast vegetables, and boil a dozen eggs. The more readymade food you have on hand, the easier it is to stick to eating healthy because you won’t have a reason to need to eat out.
Third, discover what nourishing foods you truly LOVE. Regardless of the stereotype, eating well is not plain, it is not boring, and it is not all “rabbit food”. A diet is restricting, but a healthy lifestyle allows you to have a variety of nourishing foods. So experiment, try a new fruit and vegetable each week, try quinoa instead of brown rice, try different greens for your salads like arugula, and test out nuts and seeds to find out which ones are your favourite. Also, try a variety of recipes and see which ones get those taste buds going and leave you wanting to make the dish again ASAP. You may not love it all, but you will find out what foods and meals you truly do enjoy and being aware of your likes (and dislikes) will make adapting better eating habits easier. As you make positive changes and habits, pay attention to how you feel. If you slip up, and go back to your old ways of eating, also pay attention to how you feel. By being mindful of how you feel when you eat well vs. unhealthy, you should start making the connection that you feel better, physically and mentally, when you are feeding your body nourishing foods. This will make it easier to WANT to eat well. Even now, when I’m in the mood for pizza, let’s say, I always make a homemade one with a whole grain crust, no cheese (I use nutritional yeast instead), and extra vegetables. My body no longer craves unhealthy foods. This transition takes time, but that’s why it’s important to pay attention to how certain foods and meals make you feel.
Lastly, ditch the fad diet and focus on making healthy a lifestyle. Diets don’t last because they aren’t realistic and are too restricting, but a healthy lifestyle is intended to be forever- or a lifetime. It allows you to have a variety of REAL foods with some room for a splurge here and there. Forget trying the newest trend diet, and instead focus on eating an abundant of nourishing foods. And like suggested above, once you figure out which foods you like and enjoy, making these foods part of your lifestyle won’t be looked at as a challenge.
Now, take it step by step. Making drastic changes all at once can become overwhelming, so start slow. Commit to adding one healthy habit weekly, and perhaps ditching an unhealthy habit each week also. If you move 5 steps forward, but then take 3 steps backwards that’s OKAY. Forgive yourself, don’t dwell on your “mistakes”. Accept them and move right back to your new, healthier lifestyle. Dwelling can turn into guilt and guilt can turn into feeling like you’ve failed, which could drive one to binge-eating. It’s so much better on you (and your body) just to move on if you have any set-backs, whether big or small.
Tips and tricks to avoiding sugar, processed foods, or eating out:
- Make healthier versions of your favourite indulgences- Maybe you love brownies or cookies,
look online and find recipes with clean ingredients to these treats. Today, there are so many
healthier versions of what would otherwise be considered unhealthy meal. Do some
taste-testing in the kitchen to find recipes that satisfy your cravings, while still being good for
- Eat from home- When eating out you are consuming extra fat, salt, sugar, and calories that come from restaurants or fast food joints. Make it a goal to regularly eat from home where you have control over the ingredients and what goes into a dish. Bring your lunches to work and as mentioned above, meal plan so when you get home from work your dinner is ready or at least easy to put together. Try limiting eating out to 1-2 x a week.
- Buy more produce vs. packaged goods- When you buy whole foods, they don’t have a long ingredient list because they are the ingredient. Packaged foods can be hidden with things that are not good for you like sugar and trans fats, not to mention, refined (or highly processed) ingredients. Make it a goal to have snacks that don’t come from a package, such as vegetables with hummus or an apple with nut-butter, these are WHOLE foods.
- Learn to read food labels- Not only should you be checking the ingredients list, but you should learn how to read a food label to the foods you are buying. Learn to look for the calories and recommended serving size, check to make sure it has a decent amount of protein, fiber, and listed vitamins, and avoid foods with trans fats, and high cholesterol or sodium.
- When eating out, choose a healthy restaurant- It’s hard eating out with friends, and getting the fish dish when everyone else gets the burger and fries, so when making dining out plans, always choose a healthy restaurant to avoid these temptations, and look at the menu ahead of time to have an idea (or two) of what healthy option you will order.
- Use stevia in place of sugar or artificial sugars- Americans get way too much sugar in their diets, and this is contributing to the huge diabetes and obesity problems our country is facing today. Avoid adding sugar and artificial sugars to your food and beverages, and use Stevia instead. Stevia comes from a plant, has no calories, is sweeter than sugar, and has proven health benefits, such as lowering blood sugar, making it a great, healthier substitute to other real or fake sugars. Even if you don’t add sugar or artificial sugars to your food or drinks, there can be hidden sugar in your foods. When checking food labels, if you see any ingredients ending in “-ose” there is a good chance that ingredient is really sugar. Here are some common hidden sugar ingredients to look for: Maltose, Sucrose, Dextrose, Glucose, Fructose, Galactose, Glucose solids, Lactose, and High fructose corn syrup.
Changing your eating habits takes time and knowledge, so start by making small changes at your own pace and get informed about the food and ingredients you are eating. Realize that you have control over what you put into your body and remember that every time you eat, you are either feeding disease or fighting it. Eat wisely and believe in yourself!
About Britt Martin
Britt Martin is a California native who is passionate about health and nutrition. She has her Communication degree from Cal State Fullerton and is currently pursuing her goal of becoming a Certified Holistic Nutritionist through Bauman College. Britt’s aspiration is to make the world a healthier, happier place by helping people live more nutritious lives. She enjoys traveling, hiking, cooking and her dog-children. For inspiration, workouts, motivation, and lots of health tips and recipes, follow her nutrition-focused social media accounts: Facebook, Website and Instagram: @FitBrittNutrition.