TOVI's Science Communicator, Ashley Miller-Dykeman, M.A.
Your Behaviors and Nutrition
Making healthy choices can be really hard, and your daily habits and routine can make it even harder. In this article, you'll learn more about the little things you can do to make healthy eating more manageable.
Understanding which foods are worth eating more of (and which foods to cut back on) is only part of the healthy eating story. You also need to understand the habits that will make it easier for you to make healthy eating choices. Often just small changes to your behaviors can have a huge impact!
Let’s take a look at the behaviors that can help.
Plan your meals and snacks
By thinking ahead, you can ensure you make the right choices, even when you're hungry or short on time. If you already have a healthy meal prepared, or at least decided on, it becomes much easier to choose healthy options instead of skipping meals or choosing convenient foods (which are often full of salt, sugar, and unhealthy fats). This is particularly helpful at work when a packed lunch can save you time, money, and calories.
Planning ahead isn’t just useful during meal times. Having healthy snacks on hand for when hunger hits is a quick and easy fix. This is especially true if chips, cookies, and other common snack foods are your kryptonite! Easy to prep snacks include veggies and hummus, fruit, whole wheat crackers and cheese, or popcorn (just skip the butter and salt)!
Eat regular, healthy meals
If your goal is to eat less throughout the day or if stress makes you lose your appetite, you may skip meals. But skipping meals often backfires for people. Once you get to a state of extreme hunger, you are more likely to reach for unhealthy foods or overeat (or both!). Instead, eating regular, healthy meals can actually help you manage your food intake throughout the day and give you the energy to deal with stress.
It all starts with breakfast
Start your day with a healthy breakfast for a dose of energy and nutrients. It will give you a head start on your target vitamin and mineral intake for the day and prevent you from indulging in a mid-morning snack.
On to lunch
Don’t skip lunch! A healthy meal at lunch can help you get through the 3 o’clock slump like a champ. It will also keep you feeling good and energized as the day wears on.
Wrap up with dinner
Dinner is where things fall apart for many people. It can be tempting to opt for a quick, convenient (and unhealthy) dinner if you’ve had a long day. A healthy dinner, however, can help you sleep better and is a nice way to end the day.
Control portion size
Portion sizes at restaurants have been gradually increasing over the years. In fact, portion sizes are 20-25% bigger now than they were 50 years ago. As portion sizes have gone up, our expectations for what a 'normal' portion is have become distorted. One of the results of eating bigger portions is an ongoing obesity problem as people get used to eating way more than they actually need.
By reducing portion sizes and scaling back the quantity of food you eat, you can regain control over this problem and add balance to your diet. There are simple ways to do this like using smaller plates or portioning out snacks in advance. Reading labels and paying attention to the recommended portion sizes for foods you enjoy can also help.
Don't forget to eat slowly!
Slow, mindful eating is another way to manage your portions because it can help you become aware of when you are full. Hunger signals take about 20 minutes to reach the brain, so the faster you eat, the more likely you are to overconsume. Slowing down, enjoying your food, and being aware of how full you are can help prevent eating too much. It also makes dining a more enjoyable experience.
Much like the cravings you feel for specific foods (or food in general!), your body gives off signals that you need water. This is because staying hydrated is important for keeping your body healthy, and it can actually help keep you from overeating as well.
For the most part, drinking when you’re thirsty is enough to keep you hydrated, but you might need extra water if:
you’re sweating a lot (exercising or spending time in warm or humid weather)
living at a high altitude
have been ill (particularly with diarrhea or vomiting)
Keep an eye out for sugary drinks. While they technically contain water, their high sugar content isn’t worth it. You’re better off replacing sugary drinks with plain, naturally flavored, or sparkling water.
Starting the day with a glass of water and carrying a water bottle throughout the day are two useful ways to be sure you stay hydrated.
A healthier you is on the way!
Don’t forget, proper nutrition isn’t just about eating healthy foods; your habits and behaviors are also incredibly important. With gradual adjustments, you can make changes that have a big impact on your life.
The TOVI app can help you every step of the way. Download today, it's free!
Reviewed by: Dr. Tara Coletta, PhD in Nutritional Biochemistry