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How to develop a new, healthy habit

During this “new normal,” some of us may have more time on our hands, some less, but one thing is for sure: we are spending more time in our homes. We are cooking much more of our meals at home (if not all), and this offers us an opportunity to experiment with new recipes, new flavours and learn new skills.

This is also an opportunity to reflect on our relationship with food and look at how we can nurture and grow a more positive, healthy connection with food. When it comes to eating habits, we can have long-established routines, some of which are good and some not so much. Many of our eating habits were established during childhood, but that doesn’t mean it’s too late to change them!

Diet Trends 

If we look at health messages over the last 20 years, we have lived through many different diet and lifestyle trends. In the ‘80s, it was ditch the fat and do aerobics. The ‘90s saw the avoidance of carbs and embracing high-protein diets, and then in the ‘00s, it was butter is great and let’s do yoga! Hopefully by now, we can see that demonising foods or food groups doesn’t work. Embracing foods from all of the food groups in a mindful and balanced way is a healthy habit to work towards.

Instead of focusing on particular foods and what is ‘good or bad’ for us, it can be a good idea to reflect on what you would like to achieve. Ask yourself: Would you like to have more energy? Would you like to eat food without feeling guilty? Would you like to eat less meat? Eat more fruit? Exercise more?

The How To 

Firstly, create a list of your eating habits. Do you notice that you often skip breakfast, eat late at night or eat lunch so quickly you almost don’t taste your food? Reflect on whether you find yourself eating because you are tired or bored or stressed. Highlight the habits on your list that may be leading you to over- or under-eat.

Identify habits that you would like to work on e.g. you might find you feel tired each day but note that you don’t eat breakfast or drink much water—maybe one of these could be affecting your energy levels. Would you like to include more colour in your diet? Perhaps try picking a new colour to include into your daily diet or endeavour to include a colourful food at each meal. Or you would like to exercise more but the couch to 5 km feels like too much for you! Start with getting outside each day for a walk and build up stamina. When we decide to create a new habit, often, we can want the results immediately! Healthy habits take time to form, and we should take our time in creating new ones.

Pick 2-3 of these habits at first. Review your progress after a week and see if you notice you feel better. Are you walking a bit farther each day? Do you feel like you have more energy? Craving less sugar? Savouring your food more because you take time to eat slowly?

Habits do take time to develop, so go easy on yourself! If old habits creep back in, just take time to reflect again and reinforce some of the new habits you wanted to try or know that make you feel better.

Key Tips:

  1. Remember: There’s no such thing as a good or bad food! Just a good or bad diet. If you notice yourself saying ‘oh I shouldn’t have eaten that’ or ‘I feel so guilty about that pizza last night,’ remind yourself that we all overindulge from time to time, so there’s no need to feel guilty.
  2. Try a new dish. we are preparing foods at home more now, so we can experiment with some new dishes that we may have always wanted to try. Perhaps try a themed night!
  3. Eat mindfully. Focus on being in the moment, and slow down. If possible, try to have family meals together without distractions. Maybe your new healthy habit will be eating and talking together for at least one meal per day.
  4. Eat more plant-based foods. Place a fruit bowl near your workspace and try chopping up some different fruits and vegetables to pick at while working from home. Aim to include a couple of meat-free nights where you might experiment with plant-based proteins.
  5. Don’t forgot to enjoy food! Eating should be a pleasurable experience and an ideal opportunity to enjoy positive family time. Take time to look, see, smell and taste your food. Eating healthily can be very tasty!
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