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People develop specific eating habits as they grow up. These dietary habits become part of their character and routine. As a result, it is difficult for one to change these habits as an adult. Because eating habits become overlearned. And overlearning anything makes it stick to the subconscious. Therefore practising it becomes an involuntary action. This means if you overlearn unhealthy eating habits, they become your second nature. As a result, healthy eating habits become alien.
Overlearning good eating habits enhance healthy eating. Bad eating habits, however, are harder to eliminate from a lifestyle. This is why most people have problems with weight loss. Because they are unable to desist from unhealthy eating habits. Unhealthy eating habits have caused health problems worldwide. As a result, people engage in unsustainable drastic measures such as fasting to curb the effects of unhealthy eating. Such measures only work for a limited period. Because they are unsustainable in the long run.
Benefits of healthy eating habits for your family
- Protection from chronic health problems like obesity and diabetes.
- They make weight management and weight loss easier.
- Overall health improvement.
- Setting an example for family and friends.
- Personal satisfaction and happiness.
Adults must encourage healthy eating habits at home. They must influence how their families eat. And adjust their family’s dietary habits to promote healthy eating. This drives families towards healthier eating habits and lifestyles. A family’s first stage to a healthy lifestyle is a healthy diet.
In this post, I will explain 13 healthy eating habits for your family. This will drive your family towards a healthy lifestyle.
1. Drink more water for health
All healthy eating habits must involve adequate hydration. Water is the liquid of life and a critical nutrient. Lack of water in the body becomes lethal within a few days.
Over the years there has been a shift on water consumption patterns around the world. Most people ignore water and opt for liquid beverages. These beverages give a feeling of full hydration. When the body is in need of real water.
Benefits of water and full hydration to health
- Water is essential for the prevention of nutrition-related diseases.
- It is essential for skin health. Skin dryness and roughness decrease if you drink more water.
- Water also improves skin extensibility and elasticity.
- It is essential in human neurological functions. That is, mental and sensory responses.
- Low water content in the body has negative effects. It results in headaches, poor cognition and mood swings. So, when you pile up medicine to treat these. You may just need a litre of water!
- Water helps reduce indigestion. Drinking a glass of water 30 minutes before a meal minimises indigestion. Water helps alleviate gas and blotting issues.
- It is also good for kidney health as it helps clean up the system.
- Water is a critical component of blood.
- It can assist in weight management processes.
Poor water intake causes health problems. Healthy eating habits can be improved by improving water intake. It is recommended for adults to take between 2-3.7 litres of water per day. This can improve overall health.
How to encourage water uptake in the family and improve healthy eating habits
- Explain why water is important.
- Help them set water uptake goals. For example, a minimum water volume for everyone to finish everyday.
- Encourage everyone to always keep reusable water bottles with them.
- Set reminders and replace other drinks with water.
- Encourage drinking a glass of water before eating meals.
- Use new innovations, eg. water bottles that remind you to drink water.
- Flavour your water to improve variety.
How to test for adequate water in the body
There are 2 simple tests in which you can test if you have adequate water.
Checking your urine
If the body has adequate water and is fully hydrated, the urine should be as clear as water. If it is not clear and deviates towards yellow then you have inadequate water.
By pinching your skin and pulling, you can test for adequate water in your body. If you are fully hydrated the skin should instantly return to the original position. But if it remains extended a little longer, you need to chug in some water.
All this shows that water cannot be separated from healthy eating habits. Because all healthy meals start with a glass of water!
2. Improve healthy eating habits by controlling meal portion sizes
Meal portion size control is a critical healthy eating habit. Reducing meal portion sizes in the diet is difficult. Because the level of satiety in the stomach depends on pressure cells of the stomach lining. So consistent consumption of large meal portions is not recommended. Because this stretches the stomach walls. The walls become more elastic with the intake of bigger meals. As a result, the stomach requires more food to signal satiety. Therefore, when there is a shift to smaller portions of food, hunger is experienced. This results in compensatory eating behaviours.
This is caused by changing from big meal portions to small meal portions. These small portions will induce less pressure on the stomach walls. Resulting in low satiety levels for one used to bigger meals. However, if smaller portions are eaten consistently, the stomach will adjust accordingly. This means anyone can get used to small meal portions. However, the first few days are gruesome for those used to eating bigger portions.
Bigger food portions and healthy eating
Bigger food portions usually increase energy intake. If more food is put on a plate, it tempts the consumer. As it compels the consumer to eat more than they normally do. This results in excess energy in the body. And leads to increased energy storage and fat deposition. As a result, overall weight gain is experienced. The effects of the excess energy last for a few weeks. The longer big portion meals are eaten, the higher the excess energy. And also the longer the effects of excess energy lasts. This means more weight can be gained. And the negative effects of being overweight are well documented.
Family-based portion control methods encourage healthy eating. Various tools are available for portion control. Meal portion control plates can be utilised. The goal is to limit overeating. This is because excess nutrients are harmful to the body. Too much food consumed equals more excess nutrients. Being consistent with portion control makes it a lifestyle. And healthy lifestyles make healthy eating habits.
Nutrient density and portion control
The nutrient density of each food plays a role. Small portions of nutrient/energy-dense foods are harmful. They provide more energy/nutrients than bigger portions of less nutrient-dense food. And yet, they have low satiety levels and cause overeating. Such a situation is highly undesirable. This is why foods of moderate nutrient density and high satiety are recommended. Because they limit the dangers of excess energy or nutrients. And take your family closer to healthy eating habits.
Portion control for healthy eating
- Liquid meals must be replaced with solid ones. Solid meals give a longer lasting satiety or sense of fullness. Especially after meals. Replacing liquid meals eliminates calories and improve satiety and fullness. This reduces chances of over eating.
- Limiting nutrient-dense processed foods from the diet helps portion control. It reduces dangers caused by excess energy and nutrients. These include nutrient toxicity and weight/body fat gain.
- Portion control should be stricter for tasty foods. Delicious, or sweet foods must be consumed sparingly. This is because these foods compel overeating. And this increases the chances of cleaning the plate. Which is an unhealthy eating habit.
- Sweet tasting foods are energy dense and contribute more to weight gain.
- Portion sizes of delicious, highly tasty and sweet food should be smaller.
Adults must find the best ways to practise healthy portion control. It’s not always easy, but healthy eating habits build healthy lifestyles.
3. Say no to unhealthy eating at gatherings
Saying no to friends and relatives is very difficult. Most of the times they label you disrespectful, not funny or something worse. But, the big question remains. Is the risk to your health worth the fear of scorn?
Most people do well when they are alone. They can eat healthy foods as long as they are alone. But when exposed to situations where food is dictated, things go out of control very fast.
In such situations, the mind tricks you. It makes you think that since someone else provided the food, you are obliged to eat. The mind makes you think you have no control!
Besides full investment in healthy eating habits, unhealthy eating can ruin progress. Especially unhealthy foods at parties, gatherings or when visiting. Why? Because of the fear of saying no!
An investment for nothing?
Take this for example. A person invests in clean eating for a month. They start noticing the first signs of progress. But then they visit a friend, relative or attend a family gathering. There, they face unregulated eating, highly tasty, delicious and unhealthy foods. They can’t resist or say no. Because they cannot dismay their friends or family. All the progress of a health investment is lost in a single day. In one day, the condition becomes worse than before. Starting again is a frustrating and time-consuming exercise.
Saying no shows confidence and strength. Being against unhealthy food doesn’t make you bad. It doesn’t make you less funny. You could find alternatives or bring food from home. This won’t spoil the fun, but it will preserve the investment to your health.
How to say no to unhealthy eating
- Set boundaries. Don’t be afraid to offend anyone. Remember, practising healthy eating habits is for you. This is a fight for your health. People can feel offended today and makeup tomorrow. But unhealthy foods can harm you forever. Some friends and relatives can be pushy. But remain firm and stand up to your cause politely.
- Make sure that your preferences are known. Notify them of what you can eat or drink before the event. If possible assist them in making preparations. Yhen make sure all you need will be available.
- Be prepared when you visit or attend gatherings. If possible bring your food. Prepare low sugar fruit blends. Take, healthy snacks with you so that you can still have fun.
- Make it a habit so that whoever invites you knows your preferences.
- The right words can determine acceptance when you say no. For example “I don’t eat this ” is more assertive than “I can’t eat this”. So use don’t to express whatever you don’t like. Clearly and politely explain why. Some people will try to discourage and downplay your resolve so remain firm.
Saying no can help you maintain healthy eating habits away from home. You just need the guts to confront the situation!
4. Start your day with breakfast
Starting the day with a breakfast meal is another foundation pillar of healthy eating. It is stated that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
Eating breakfast every day ensures healthy eating. This is because breakfast usually contains whole foods, fruits and vegetables. A healthy breakfast contains all nutritional components. As a result, it is an integral part of an optimal nutritional diet. Poor quality breakfasts have little contribution to the beneficial effects of breakfasting.
Regular vs high quality breakfast
Regular breakfast has no special health benefits. Whilst a high quality breakfast contains all nutrients. And it has beneficial health effects.
A standard breakfast should contain 20 to 35% of the daily energy. This energy should come from 3 sources. These include milk and its derivatives, cereals and fruits or fruit juices with no edible sugars.
A high-quality breakfast must contain whole grains. It must also have less processed foods. Whole grains have a high glycemic index. This means they release sugar slowly to the body. As a result, they have a low impact on energy, blood sugar and insulin spikes. Most processed foods (including most breakfast cereals) have a low glycemic index. This means they are digested quickly causing blood sugar and insulin spikes. These 2 factors are risk factors for diabetes mellitus. A healthy breakfast must be high in high glycemic index food and low in low glycemic index foods. It must also be high in protein. This improves the health status and well-being of consumers.
Skipping breakfast is an unhealthy eating habit. Breakfast skippers have poor quality lives. They are also predisposed to unhealthy risky behaviours such as alcoholism.
Benefits of eating breakfast
- Regular consumption of breakfasts ensures higher micro-nutrient intake.
- Breakfast consumers are less likely affected by the adverse risks arising from glucose and insulin metabolism.
- Breakfast skipping is associated with a high intake of saturated fats. It also results in reduced intake of dietary fibre and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). The opposite is true for breakfast consumers.
- Quality breakfast consumers have a better health-related quality of life. They also have lower stress levels and depression levels.
- Breakfast improves cognitive function and intuitive perception in breakfast consumers.
- Current studies show that more calories are burnt in the morning. Which means a high-calorie diet in the morning enables burning of most of the meal-derived calories. Therefore this can result in improved weight management.
The reader should know that there are a lot of contradictions on breakfast eating. However, a healthy breakfast, like any healthy meal can help you sharpen up your healthy eating habits.
5. Late night eating and healthy eating habits
Late night meals do not conform to healthy eating habits. Late-night eating before sleep is not recommended. This habit is linked to weight gain, poor health and body composition.
Possible dangers of late-night eating
Late-night eating is associated with obesity and being overweight. More food must be consumed during the day or at breakfast. If done late in the day or at night, weight gain will occur. And this disturbs several metabolic processes in the body. Late night meals should be avoided. Because they disturb circadian rhythms that are essential for optimal health.
Night eating causes metabolic syndromes and obesity. Metabolic syndromes and obesity are associated with cardiovascular diseases. These include cerebrovascular disease, ischaemic heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Late-night eating is associated with obesity and weight gain. All this shows the problems of late-night meals to a healthy lifestyle.
Late-night meals attract unhealthy meal options. They attract consumption of unhealthy snacks and foods. These meals usually include unhealthy junky or high-fat foods.
A new perspective?
There is a newer perspective to effects of late-night eating. It argues that late-night eating is only bad if large quantities of foods are consumed. It is believed that consuming low-energy and low nutrient meals before sleep is beneficial. However, late-night meals are usually unhealthy. They drive unhealthy eating habits if sustained for long. Healthy eating habits and late-night eating don’t usually go hand in hand.
Children tend to follow the eating habits of their parents. Which means if parents practise night eating, children become night eaters. This affects the health of the whole family. Therefore, behaviour change agents must advise against late-night eating. This will enhance the healthy eating habits of the whole family.
6. Adequate sleep and healthy eating habits
Lack of sleep may not involve direct eating but it goes against healthy eating habits. Sleep deprivation alters or changes hormone balance. It changes the appetite-regulating hormone balance. This results in the development of cravings for high energy foods. Meaning that calorie intake is increased. Therefore weight gain or obesity results.
Guardians must regulate the sleeping hours of children. Because sleep deprivation predisposes children to weight gain.
Short sleep duration (less than 7 hrs) increases the risk for development of chronic diseases. This includes cardiovascular diseases, obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Irregular sleeping patterns interfere with the levels of hunger regulating hormones. These are ghrelin which signals hunger and leptin which signals satiety. Lack of sleep increases ghrelin levels and lowers leptin levels. This results in overeating behaviours. Which result in many undesirable health problems.
Lack of sleep also leads to increased responses to food stimuli. This causes an increased desire for high energy foods. These are usually unhealthy food choices. Which include energy-dense foods, high-fat foods and sugars.
As can be seen, inadequate sleep results in disruption of healthy eating habits. It can also make it harder to improve eating habits.
7. Exercising and healthy eating habits
No matter how strict your healthy eating habits are, you still need to burn the extra calories. Neither exercises nor healthy diets can provide optimal health benefits alone.
The interaction between nutrition and exercise is essential for optimal health.
Correctly linking exercises and nutrition enables healthier ageing. It also improves mental well being and metabolic health. These are the beneficial effects of a good combination of healthy eating habits and exercises.
The interaction between diet and exercises provides the greatest benefits to human health. Neglecting exercises can harm your health, even with the healthiest meals.
Benefits of exercise
- Regular exercises and healthy eating lowers type 2 diabetes risks.
- It also lowers the risks of dyslipidaemia.
- Exercises help improve the body composition.
- Good nutrition and exercises improves muscle and bone health in humans.
- It also helps to reduce the risks of chronic nutrition-related diseases. These include obesity, diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular diseases.
- Regular exercises will strengthen the heart and improve cardiovascular health.
- In older adults balancing diet and exercises helps to alleviate most age-related diseases.
- Prolonged exercising motivates healthy eating habits in young individuals.
- Exercises will improve heart health.
- It is also an essential component of weight loss programs. As exercises help burn fat. They also help burn excess dietary calories.
- Exercises and healthy diets improve mental and physical development in children.
- Engaging physical activity in families is beneficial. This is helpful since research shows that obesity is easily eliminated in childhood than in adulthood. This is possible through a perfect interaction between healthy eating habits and exercises.
It is important to note that healthy eating habits alone cannot bring optimal health. However, if combined with exercises. The results are phenomenal.
8. Sharpen your healthy eating habits with whole grain cereals
Consumption of whole grains has beneficial effects on health. Eating whole grains reduces the risks of chronic diseases. Whole-grain consumption improves personal health.
Benefits of whole grain meals and diets
- Whole-grain diets reduce risks of diabetes mellitus, obesity, cardiovascular diseases and colorectal cancers. In the diet, they also improve gut health by favouring the growth of beneficial gut bacteria.
- They also have beneficial effects against insulin and glucose homeostasis. Whole grain cereal foods have a high glycemic index. This means they release sugars slowly to the body when digested. Therefore, they do not cause blood sugar and insulin spikes. Blood sugar and insulin spikes are diabetes risk factors.
- Since they have a higher glycemic index, whole grains are good for weight loss diets.
- A whole grain-rich diet reduces the risks of weight gain. Whole grains diets can improve healthy eating habits. They induce weight loss in weight loss diets.
Do you also want to lose fat? Then whole grains are good for you too. Because whole-grain diets reduce overall body fat content. They are more effective with abdominal fat.
In addition to everything whole grains help with bowel movements. Some like oats are rich in the soluble fibre, beta-glucan which is beneficial to health. They speed up the transit time of food in the gut. Preventing the overstay of harmful substances in the gut.
You can include these whole grains in your diet
- Whole wheat
- Corn (whole)
- Whole oats
- Brown rice
- Brown bread
- Multigrain mealie meal
- Whole grain flour
Whole grains can bring health to the table if they are successfully integrated into a diet. Maybe, this was the missing part of your diet. Add some more whole grains and build up your healthy eating habits!
9. Reduce intake of red meat to build your health eating habits.
Red meat can be important to a healthy diet. It contains most of the essential nutrients required for optimal health. And it is an excellent source of minerals, vitamins and essential amino acids. However, besides all this, red meat has been implicated as a risk factor in several chronic diseases.
Effects of excessive red meat intake
Excessive dietary intake of red meat is an unhealthy eating habit.
Overconsumption of red meat increase the risks for cardiovascular diseases.
Processed red meat has the highest adverse effects to health. During processing, a lot of additives are added to the meat to improve shelf lives. Additives are also added to preserve colour or impart desirable colours and flavours. Most of these additives have many negative effects on health. They can increase risks of colorectal cancers, cardiovascular diseases and deaths. Next time you want to buy processed meat, remember this.
Excessive consumption of red meat increases intake of saturated fats and cholesterol. This results in weight gain and obesity. It also results in fat deposition in blood vessels. Thereby increasing the risks of cardiovascular or heart related problems.
Red meat and kidney problems
Red meat plays a role in the development of kidney problems. It is made up of mainly muscle cells. The meat contains compactly packed muscle cells. This means there are more cells per unit area than white meat. As a result, it also means that the red meat also has a lot of nucleic acids per unit area. The body metabolises nucleic acids to uric acids. Uric acid is responsible for the formation of kidney stones. As a result, overconsumption of red meat can cause kidney problems.
Red meat can still be part of healthy eating habits. Moderate consumption of lean red meat has substantial benefits to health. Besides, red meat can prevent malnutrition due to it’s high nutrient content. Access to red meat and its moderate consumption can be a tool against malnutrition. Especially in areas where fruits and vegetables are not readily available. It is advisable to reduce red meat consumption to improve healthy eating habits.
10. Eat more fruits and vegetables
Over the years more information concerning healthy eating habits has become available. This information ensures correct consumption of healthy foods.
Fruits and vegetables must be part of the diet if you are to improve healthy eating habits. Fruits and vegetables are the cornerstones of dietary recommendations around the world. Unlike animal-based foods, fruits and vegetables are healthier. According to American guidelines, fruits and vegetables should cover half the plate in every meal.
Possible benefits of fruits and vegetables to your health
- They contain phytochemicals which reduce chronic disease risks. These phytochemicals also improve overall health. They have beneficial effects, beyond normal nutritional benefits. The bioactive compounds can also help reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in the body.
- Vegetables contain unsaturated vegetable oils. These have healthier fats than animal foods. Therefore the risks for cardiovascular diseases are lower.
- They improve human longevity and boost the immune system.
- Fruits and vegetables are also beneficial in weight loss diets. They are high in dietary fibre which is beneficial to health.
- Vegetables (non-starch) also improve glucose and insulin metabolism. This is because they have small effects on blood sugar concentrations.
If you want to learn more, Read this article on, “Why vegetables are good for you”
Vary your selections of fruit and vegetables
To get the most out of fruits and vegetables, the wider the variety the better. Different coloured fruits have different nutrients and bioactive compounds. So the more colour on your plate the better. Variety gives the best health benefits when you take more fruits and vegetables.
Fake healthy foods?
Be aware of fake healthy foods. Fruit juices and canned vegetables are different from the farm-fresh ones. Whilst fresh fruits and vegetables are healthy. Canned and processed products contain a lot of sugars and sodium. Too much dietary sugars and sodium have negative health implications.
They may not be always affordable. But fruits and vegetables can be the foundation for healthy eating habits.
11. Plan your shopping trips
Healthy eating habits start with planning your diets. When you sit down and plan what food to buy, you prevent uncontrolled buying. Planning enables you to know what you need to stock up. Its easier to make healthier food choices when you know what you need.
If you have noticed, when you haven’t planned on shopping for groceries. The shopping session is undisciplined and random. As a result, its difficult to chose only the foods that are healthy. Or only those that improve your healthy eating habits.
When shopping tradeoffs must be made between price, nutrition, taste and convenience. Properly balancing these factors help people make healthier food choices.
The food market environment is complicated. Having a shopping list makes it easier to navigate this complicated environment. And planning helps you make grocery shopping lists.
Benefits of grocery shopping lists in healthy eating
- Listing everything down helps you remember what type of food and how much of it you need. It acts as a memory aid. This makes you remember the important components of your diet.
- Grocery lists limit impulse buying. Unhealthy food choices can cause impulse buying. With a list, you can make a budget and only use funds you need to.
- Grocery lists prevent confusion and being overwhelmed in the food market. It’s good for healthier eating and for your pocket too.
- Lists can also allow you to carry the exact amount of money you need. This does leave little room for snacking and unhealthy eating.
- Planning your shopping can help you check for promotional products. These you can buy cheaply and in bulk saving money and time.
Planning for grocery shopping is a huge step towards improving healthy eating habits. Because to eat healthily, you need healthy food first.
12. Contribution of food labels to healthy eating habits
Healthy eating habits can greatly improve your health. And unhealthy eating habits cause many chronic diseases. Interpreting food labels can improve one’s healthy eating habits.
Interpretation of food labels helps in the making of healthier food choices. Most people, do not have time to read food labels. They just collect what satisfies the eyes from the shelves. Only those who care about what they eat can read food labels.
Benefits of reading food labels
- Food labels can help you avoid unhealthy foods. For example, if you look at the level of sugars in cereals, you can choose low sugar options.
- You can also avoid food with high saturated fat contents.
- Also, some food labels have instructions on recommended serving portions. Food labels can help you plan your meals.
- For those with food allergies, food labels can be a nutritional guide. Because they will help avert the risks of unknowingly consuming allergens.
- Proper use of food labels translates to reduced risks of food allergies, weight gain, obesity, diabetes, cancers or even cardiovascular diseases.
Interpreting food labels correctly can improve your healthy eating habits. Food labels have uses in optimal health improvements.
13. Reduce alcohol intake
Alcohol consumption and healthy eating habits can’t be on the same line. The potential benefit of alcohol are small. Not everyone experiences these benefits.
Moderate alcohol consumption has several health benefits. It reduces the risk of heart disease. It also reduces the risks of ischaemic strokes. Moderate wine consumers had health than non-consumers of alcohol and other alcohol consumers. Also, moderate wine consumers ate more vegetables and were less likely to smoke.
Dangers of excess alcohol consumption
Any form of alcohol consumption is not risk-free.
- Light drinking of alcohol can cause various cancers including oesophageal cancer.
- Heavier alcohol consumption exposes you to risks of many cancers.
- It also causes pancreatitis. This is the inflammation of the pancreas. The common symptom is abdominal pain.
- If you already have a cardiovascular disease, alcohol consumption can cause sudden death.
- Alcohol consumers usually eat less vegetables.
- Heavy drinking destroys heart muscle. This increases the chances of overall heart failure.
- It can also causes stroke and high blood pressure.
- Excessive alcohol consumption causes excessive liver damage.
- It alters the metabolism of many nutrients. As a consequence, liver damage or liver diseases results.
- Alcohol consumption interferes with carbohydrate metabolism. This results in lowered blood sugar content and body protein loss.
- Alcohol inhibits the breakdown of fats, therefore it promotes fat deposition and weight gain.
- In pregnant women, alcohol can cause brain damage and harm the foetus.
- Foetal Alcohol Syndrome can also affect the foetus.
- Heavy consumption of alcohol places women at risks of bone fractures.
- Heavy alcohol consumption causes several nutrient deficiencies. This is because alcohol can take 60% of daily calories. This means less food may be eaten and this results in malnutrition.
When should you prevent and limit alcohol?
- Avoid alcohol when pregnant and when trying to get pregnant.
- You must avoid alcohol when you have an alcohol addiction.
- People with haemorrhagic stroke must avoid alcohol.
- Also people with liver and pancreatic diseases.
- Individuals with weak hearts must also avoid alcohol.
Evidence shows that moderate drinking of wine is healthier. However, consumption of other forms of alcohol is a health risk. So if you want to improve your healthy eating habits. Reduce the consumption of alcohol.
Coming up with beneficial healthy eating habits is not a one day process. It takes commitment and dedication as well as knowledge. And sometimes even money. But everything is possible. These healthy eating habits can help you get optimal health from a healthy diet.