Tired of yo-yo dieting, restrictive eating plans and complicated nutrition advice? Take things back-to-basics and focus on adopting key healthy eating habits instead.
No matter what new diet trends emerge, the basic principles of healthy eating never really change. That’s why we’re encouraging you to ditch strict diets and focus on healthy eating habits instead. Building solid healthy eating habits into your day-to-day is the simplest and most sustainable way to achieve and maintain a healthy diet and weight for life.
Here are some handy tips and tricks to create healthy habits that stick, followed by 9 key healthy eating habits to get you started.
9 key healthy eating habits
When it comes to your health, temporary changes bring temporary results. Rigid diets might give you a quick fix, but it’s unrealistic to follow strict guidelines consistently and to the letter for 365 days a year. We’ve all been there, done that and ended up right back where we started!
Habits, on the other hand, become an effortless part of your life. Think brushing your teeth, making a morning cuppa or walking the dog. They happen automatically, without much thought at all.
We believe that building healthy eating habits into your lifestyle is the best way to simplify healthy eating. Unlike strict diets, habits don’t require willpower or zap up all of your energy every day. Instead, they put healthy eating on auto-pilot and make your life much easier, healthier and more enjoyable.
Here are 9 key healthy eating habits to get you started:
1. Eat more whole foods
Real food is the foundation of any healthy diet, no matter your age, dietary preferences or requirements. That’s why eating mostly whole foods is a simple healthy eating habit with a huge impact.
Whole foods from nature—think vegetables, lean meats, fish, eggs, legumes, beans, nuts and seeds—are brimming with natural fats, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that will improve your health and make you feel great.
Plus, whole foods are incredibly filling. By gradually replacing processed foods with whole foods, you’ll naturally eat fewer, but better quality, calories. This allows healthy weight loss to come naturally, without actually having to diet or track your food intake.
That’s not to say that you need to make absolutely everything from scratch. It’s just about making an effort to choose natural foods over artificial, processed and packaged foods whenever you feasibly can. When you do need to buy something ready-made, make a point of reading the ingredients label and favour the most naturally nutritious product you can find.
2. Pile on the veggies
Piling up your plate with veggies is a fool-proof healthy eating habit. Packed with essential nutrients, eating more veg is one of the best things anyone can do for better long-term health.
Why? Vegetables are low in calories but high in fibre, which will leave you feeling fuller for longer to help you maintain a healthy weight. At the same time, fibre-packed veggies keep your gut and digestive system healthy and running smoothly. Vegetables are also loaded with antioxidants and plant compounds, which help to fight free radicals and lower your risk of disease.
To put this habit into action, aim to fill a third to a half of your plate with a variety of vegetables at every meal. If that seems a bit much at first, start with a quarter and slowly increase over time. Adding a side of leafy greens (such as romaine lettuce, watercress, spinach or rocket) to your meals is an easy way to get more veg into your day without needing to prep or cook extra portions.
3. Make simple swaps
Simple food swaps are one of the easiest but most effective healthy eating habits to incorporate into your daily meals.
It involves swapping out unhealthier food choices for equally delicious, but healthier, alternatives. This way, you can still enjoy the meals you know and love, whilst eating fewer calories and getting more nutrients into your diet. Win-win!
Here are some ideas to get you started…
- Swap mash for cauliflower mash
- Swap fries for sweet potato or celeriac fries
- Swap pasta for spiralized courgette
- Swap rice for cauliflower rice
- Swap salad dressings for lemon and olive oil
- Swap flavoured yoghurt for plain yoghurt
- Swap milk chocolate for dark chocolate
- Swap crisps for unsalted nuts
- Swap sweet treats for protein balls
- Swap sugary smoothies and cereals for Purition
Making a few small swaps here and there can add up to make a big difference to your overall diet. That’s not to say you can never enjoy unhealthier foods—for any diet to be sustainable, it needs to be balanced. Just try to choose a healthier swap for your day-to-day diet and enjoy the ‘unhealthier’ version in moderation.
4. Think protein, fibre, fat
If you’ve ever tracked your daily food intake, you’ll know that keeping on top of your macros (that’s carbs, protein and fat) can feel time-consuming and overwhelming. Thankfully, there’s a much simpler way to ensure you’re eating a balanced diet: think PFF.
When you’re planning or cooking a meal, just ask yourself “where’s my protein, where’s my fibre and where are my healthy fats?” or PFF for short. This healthful combo of macronutrients will leave you feeling full and satisfied between meals, which can ultimately help you to curb overeating. Plus, filling up on protein, healthy fats and fibre (healthy carbohydrates) will help you avoid eating too many refined carbs, which can contribute to weight gain.
Think fat will make you fat? If anything, it’s the opposite. Healthy fats regulate your blood sugar, boost satiety and, in turn, naturally help you to stop snacking and reduce your overall caloric intake. Find out more in our article ‘Does eating fat make you fat?‘.
Using your hand to build out a balanced meal is a great way to get started with this healthy eating habit:
With every meal, include….
- 1–2 palm-sized portions of protein
- 2+ fist-sized portions of vegetables (fibre)
- 1–2 thumb-sized portions of healthy fats
|Protein: 1–2 palm-sized portion||Fibre: 2+ fist-sized portions||Healthy fats: 1–2 thumb-sized portions|
|Chicken, fish turkey, beef, eggs, tofu, greek yoghurt, beans & legumes etc||Broccoli, leafy greens, green beans, cabbage, kale, mushrooms etc||Avocado, nuts & seeds, olives, olive oil, cream, hard cheese etc|
5. Moderate starchy carbs & sugar
Paying attention to the type of carbs in your diet is a key habit of healthy eaters.
Refined, processed carbs like bread, rice and pasta, as well as processed sugary snacks digest quickly, causing rapid spikes and dips in your blood sugar levels. The result? You end up feeling tired, sluggish and craving snacks and carbs, not long after eating. This cycle not only encourages a build-up of fat, but also puts you at a greater risk of developing type-2 diabetes.
High-fibre carbohydrates (think veggies, beans, legumes and some whole grains) leave you feeling full and energised for longer and are less likely to be stored as fat. This is because they digest slower, resulting in steadier blood sugar levels and less fat accumulation over time.
You don’t have to go no-carb or low-carb, but being mindful about the amount of refined carbs you consume (and replacing them with nutritious fibrous carbs when you can) is a great way to drive a healthier diet and weight.
6. Plan your meals
While diet plans are pretty impossible to sustain, meal planning can be a game changing healthy eating habit for some. In studies, meal planning has been associated with a healthier diet and less obesity
Planning your meals ahead of time can amount to less time spent shopping and preparing food. It’s also a great way to keep your healthy eating routine on track during busy weekdays. No more last-minute panicking about what to eat for dinner!
If this seems like the right healthy eating habit for you, pick a day and spend half an hour or so organising your meals for the week ahead. Your meal planning routine might look like:
- Friday – Choose meals for the days/weeks ahead
- Saturday – Go shopping for the ingredients
- Sunday – Prep the food and batch cook what you can
Struggle to stick to meal planning? Try the habit stacking method. Pick a time where you already sit down at a table and simply add meal planning to the occasion. Your everyday meals don’t need to be fancy. Pick quick, easy-to-prepare recipes made with a handful of fresh ingredients—Stonesoup is a great place for inspiration.
Most people try to meal plan weekly, but there are no rules. If you think meal planning every 3, 5, 10 or 14 days will work better for you, try it that way instead. And we’re all for time-saving, so there’s nothing wrong with making 2 or 3 plans and alternating them week by week.
This healthy eating habit will leave with healthy and balanced meals made with nutrient-dense whole foods, prepped and ready to go for the week ahead.
7. Fill your cupboards
Most unhealthy food choices are made impulsively. If you don’t have the right ingredients for a healthy meal come 6 pm, you’re more likely to pick up takeaway than trudge to the shop, buy ingredients, come home and cook.
You can close that door by making food shopping a habit, to ensure you always have enough fresh food in your kitchen to make healthy meals. Whether that’s a weekly trip to the farmers market, an evening supermarket run or a delivery, it doesn’t matter. Just find something that works for you.
After all, you need the right ingredients to cook healthy meals. Rather than winging your shop, go prepared, with a list of ingredients that you actually need for your meals. The good news is that if you make meal planning a habit, the shopping list comes in tandem.
8. Cook at home
Those who cook dinner at home eat healthier and consume fewer calories than those who cook less, according to a study of more than 9,000 people. That’s because convenience food is often laden with artificial ingredients, sugar, salt and calories, but typically offers little in the way of nutrition.
Cooking from scratch at home promotes a healthier diet in so many ways. You can choose fresh, nutrient-dense whole food ingredients and gain complete control over the quantities and portion sizes of your meals. It’s also enjoyable and can save you money to boot!
If you’re used to takeaways and meal deals, cooking from home can feel daunting. The best way to get started, stress-free, is to plan your meals ahead of time, as mentioned above. You could also set yourself mini goals like reducing the number of ready meals you buy, only ordering takeaway once a month or making your own lunch to take into work at least 3 days a week.
Start small, set goals and, in time, cooking from scratch can become a rewarding healthy eating habit.
9. Eat mindfully
Mindful eating is less about what you eat and more about how you eat. It involves eating slowly and without distraction, so that you can tune into your physical hunger cues and stop eating once you’re full.
If you eat in front of the TV or in front of the computer whilst cracking on with work, your body may fail to register that you’re actually eating. When you’re not focused on your meal, it’s easy to miss those tell-tale cues that you’ve eaten enough (or not)—like seeing how much is physically gone from the plate and recognising that ‘full’ feeling.
What about eating in a hurry? It can take up to 20 minutes after eating for your body to release satiety hormones, which make you feel full. By eating too quickly, you’re at risk of eating more than your body actually needs.
So, try to make mindful eating a habit. Press pause on the TV, step away from your phone or computer and sit down at a table to eat whenever you can. Make an effort to slow down your eating by taking smaller bites and chewing your food thoroughly.
How to make healthy eating habits stick
We know what you’re thinking: healthy eating habits sound great, but how can I actually make them stick? Try one of these simple habit-forming tricks. They’ll help you to incorporate new habits within the structure of your existing daily routine.
The idea behind habit stacking is simple: add a new behaviour to your daily schedule by ’stacking’ it on top of something you already do.
- Step 1: Pick a habit that you already do regularly
- Step 2: Link the existing habit with a new habit that you want to add to your routine
We’ll use meal planning as an example:
- Step 1: I already sit down for breakfast every Sunday morning
- Step 2: While eating my breakfast every Sunday morning, I will plan my meals for the week ahead
Studies show that 21 days is enough to make a new habit permanent, so stick with it for a few weeks and it should become second nature.
Habit pairing is when you link up something you genuinely enjoy doing with a new (and maybe not so enjoyable) habit that you’re trying to stick to.
- Step 1: Pinpoint an enjoyable activity you do regularly
- Step 2: Link the activity with a new healthy habit you want to add to your routine
Let’s use cooking from scratch as an example here.
- Step 1: I enjoy watching my favourite soaps every evening
- Step 2: I will watch my favourite soaps on my iPad whilst cooking a healthy meal from scratch every evening
You naturally want to do the things that you enjoy, so this method is a great way to motivate yourself to implement a new habit. After a while, you might even find yourself looking forward to it!
Kickstart healthy eating habits with Purition
Unlike strict diets and extreme weight loss plans, working on one healthy eating habit at a time will help you to build up a healthy lifestyle and drive a healthy weight for the long-haul. Focus on 1 or 2 at time and aim to make them a natural part of your routine before moving onto the next.
Purition can help you to kickstart healthy eating habits that stick. Our wholefood smoothies deliver quick, convenient nutrition from 100% whole food ingredients. Purition offers a balanced combination of protein, healthy fats and fibre to leave you feeling energised and full for 4–5 hours. Blend with milk for nutritious meal shake, mix with hot milk for an instant porridge or mix a spoonful into some yoghurt for a crunchy breakfast bowl.
Purition can make healthy eating that little bit easier. Replace one or two meals with Purition (often solving the problem of what to have for breakfast or lunch) and you’ll instantly have less healthy meals to plan for and cook. You’ll be making a significant, positive change to your diet without actually doing very much.