12 ways to develop healthy eating habits for life

Author: Canadian Living


12 ways to develop healthy eating habits for life

1. Eat 5 to 6 balanced meals a day
Eating 5 to 6 balanced meals a day means eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and 2 to 3 snacks daily. Each should include a grain and/or starch, a vegetable and/or fruit, and protein.

Build a balanced plate at every meal, a well as snacks. You'll see that the plate is divided into three sections, each section representing one of the main food groups, along with portion size. On one-half of the plate are fruits and vegetables, on one-quarter of the plate are grains and starches, and the remaining one-quarter is a source of protein.

2. Control portions and count calories
People who have successfully lost weight are those who control their calorie intake by monitoring food portions and calories. Reading labels, carefully measuring servings, and eating off smaller plates are all smart strategies to get you started. If you are dining at a restaurant, ask the waiter to serve you a small portion and wrap up the rest in a doggie bag.

Here's a reminder of the Energy Equation:
Calories in + calories out = caloric deficit or gain

Track your food intake by measuring your meals and snacks with measuring cups or a scale into appropriate portion sizes, rather than by counting calories. Use portion sizes as the guide to lowering calorie consumption, simply by eating less. When I divided my own dinner plate into the three components I describe above, I instantly realized that my portion sizes were larger than needed and this alone has helped me to better manage my weight. Here are some useful tips for assessing portion sizes by hand, when you are unable to measure your servings:

• A 1 cup (250 mL) serving of cereal, rice, or beans is roughly equal to the size of your fist.

• A 3 ounce (90 g) serving of chicken, beef, or fish is roughly equal to the size of the palm of your hand.

• A 1 ounce (30 g) serving of cheese is roughly equal to the size of your thumb.

3. Eat breakfast every day
Research shows that breakfast eaters generally weigh less than people who skip breakfast. A healthy breakfast provides those first critical nutrients your body needs each day for energy (so that you enjoy your exercise more!) and to manage stress. Eating breakfast also revs up your metabolism, which helps manage your weight. (People who skip breakfast also tend to snack throughout the day and consume a lot of extra calories at night, when metabolism starts to slow down. This all adds up to weight gain.)

Breakfast should be a combination of lean protein, complex carbohydrate, and healthy fats containing essential fatty acids, found in the omega-3s and omega-6s. This will help you build lean muscle and stabilize insulin levels, which help maintain hormone levels and manage sugar cravings early in the day. With your mind and mood in a positive and peak performance state, before you know it, mornings will have become your best friend.

Here are six breakfast suggestions to get you going:
1. 1 cup (250 mL) cooked oatmeal with 1 cup (250 mL) skim milk or soy milk and 2 tablespoons (30 mL) dried cranberries sprinkled on top

2. 1 to 2 slices whole-grain toast with 1 tablespoon (15 mL) peanut butter per slice and 1 sliced banana

3. Yogurt parfait: 3/4 cup (175 mL) plain yogurt with 1/3 cup (75 mL) fresh or frozen berries and 2/3 cup (150 mL) muesli.

4. 1 cup (250 mL) high-fibre cereal with 1 cup (250 mL) skim milk or soy milk and 1 apple

5. 2-egg vegetable omelet with a whole-wheat English muffin

6. 3/4 cup (175 mL) cottage cheese with 1/2 cup (125 mL) fresh pineapple and 1 to 2 slices whole-grain toast

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Excerpted from Good Life Fitness 6 Weeks to a New Body, copyright 2009 by Maureen Hagan. Used by permission of Penguin Group (Canada).
All Rights Reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced except with permission in writing from the publisher. 4. Manage your metabolism
The Smart Eating Plan is all about keeping your energy up so you can build lean muscle, which will help you manage your metabolism. This becomes even more important as you age. As I mentioned earlier, the average adult loses 10 per cent of lean muscle per decade, with the metabolism slowing down by about the same percentage – unless something is done to stop the slide. Eating a mini-meal every 2 to 3 hours is a smart eating strategy that will help you manage the calories while building lean muscle. This is the best way to manage your caloric expenditure – your body will burn more calories by itself just to survive. Although you want to eat 5 to 6 meals and snacks a day, don't overeat at any of the meals and be sure to choose healthy, nutrient-rich foods.

5. Be mindful when eating
Pay attention to when and what you eat, and tap into your behaviour and feelings around food. Eat only when you are hungry, but don't wait until you feel starving, when you will more likely overeat and choose unhealthy foods to calm your cravings. When you are heading to the fridge or pantry, ask yourself, "What is motivating me to eat? Am I bored, angry, stressed, tired, full but not satisfied?"

Your New Body Daily Journal will help you keep track of your eating habits and food triggers. While it may seem tedious to keep a food journal, research shows that this is a highly effective practice. As I mentioned earlier, the average person underestimates his or her calorie intake by as much as 30 percent.

Recording what and how much you eat offers a much more accurate picture. By journaling what and when you eat and how certain foods make you feel, you will begin to notice your habits and spot trends and patterns around healthy and unhealthy eating. Seeing it on paper will help motivate you to make the necessary changes.

Be mindful of your eating environment. If your favourite treat is a cookie, why have a cupboard full of them? Treat yourself to a cookie, but make the experience worth it: Take a walk, purchase your treat, bring it back home, and enjoy it slowly with a cup of herbal tea or milk. Don't eat your treat while you are completing other tasks or activities, such as driving or emailing. Instead, place it on a plate, sit down, and consciously enjoy every bite.

If you are tempted to eat something that you don't really need, make sure you make it count. Do you remember the last time you gave into temptation? How quickly did you eat? Did you really enjoy it? Did you actually taste the food? Eating mindlessly can lead to excess calorie intake because we are not being aware of the amount of food we are eating. Many people give in to a junk-food craving when they are stressed; deep breathing curbs cravings by calming you down. Drinking water can also help control food cravings.

Changing your eating habits can be difficult. You might want to consider speaking to a registered dietitian to ensure that your meal plan fits with your lifestyle, preferences, goals, and health issues. You'll also be getting advice that is current, credible, and scientifically based.

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Excerpted from Good Life Fitness 6 Weeks to a New Body, copyright 2009 by Maureen Hagan. Used by permission of Penguin Group (Canada).
All Rights Reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced except with permission in writing from the publisher. 6. Drink lots of water
Water is one of the essential nutrients required by the body; we need a minimum of eight to ten 8-ounce (250 mL) glasses every day. Water transports nutrients and energy to cells, regulates body temperature, supports muscle, protects joints and organs, removes waste, and helps regulate body weight. The best source of hydration comes from non-caffeinated, non-alcoholic beverages, soups, and watery foods such as fruit and vegetables. On average, 20 per cent of your water needs will come from food. Drink water with every meal and keep a bottle handy on your desk or in your bag.

Herbal teas are an excellent source of water, whereas caffeinated beverages add to your daily water need by acting as a diuretic and contributing to your daily fluid loss. Juices are a good choice because they contain vitamins and nutrients; however, they are high in naturally occurring sugar, which can contribute to weight gain. Sports drinks contain electrolytes (but also lots of carbohydrates in the form of liquid sugar or corn syrup) and may be beneficial for athletes who are training for high-intensity and long-duration events. Plain water is the best option.

Drink 1 cup (250 mL) water 2 hours before and again 30 to 40 minutes before you exercise, during as you can (being careful not to drink too much, as liquids in the stomach not yet digested may cause cramping), and again after exercise to manage energy and prevent dehydration. Water also helps reduce hunger and control cravings, so drink up the next time you are experiencing an energy crash or food craving. Drink water at whatever temperature you enjoy it – it's all good.

7. Wait before stepping on the scale
I don't believe in weighing oneself daily or paying too much attention to the numbers on the scale. They're just numbers, and they don't report body composition (ratio of lean body mass and fat weight). Also, weighing yourself more frequently may be de-motivating – you may think you aren't losing weight fast enough.

But trust me, as you achieve your new body over the course of the 6-week program you will begin to see your body shape change and the numbers on the scale change, too. Instead of weighing in daily, weigh yourself once a week and rely on more than just those numbers for an assessment of your progress. (In the program we use the body mass index and waist measurement as described in Chapter 1, as well as simple checks such as how your clothes are fitting.) Even though, at the end of the day, you do have to "measure it to manage it," just be sure to use all of the different methods to do so. Not only will it give you a more accurate picture of your progress, but it will keep you feeling positive about it.

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Excerpted from Good Life Fitness 6 Weeks to a New Body, copyright 2009 by Maureen Hagan. Used by permission of Penguin Group (Canada).
All Rights Reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced except with permission in writing from the publisher. 8. Spend less time each week being sedentary
Time spent being a couch potato is time spent completely sedentary—and not spending calories. And often, being a couch potato goes hand in hand with mindless snacking. Consider this: Successful weight losers watch fewer than 10 hours of television per week. I recommend that you spend these hours better by doing something that will increase your fitness, help you manage your weight, and reach your new body goal. You might take a walk after dinner or play a game of Frisbee with your kids.

Engaging in as little as 15 minutes of light physical activity within 30 minutes after eating helps contribute to your caloric expenditure goal, curbs late-night food cravings that lead to snacking, and can help you sleep more soundly, too.

9. Keep your cup half full
Research suggests that people who are optimistic are more successful at changing their behaviour, including eating healthy and losing weight. Being optimistic is about focusing on what you can do, rather than on what you can't do. The focus is on gaining rather than losing—gaining health versus losing weight. Being optimistic is self-empowering; it's taking back your self-control. The difference between those who succeed in life and those who don't is that those who succeed make no excuses. They take action in the direction of their goals. You have the knowledge and the ability to do the same.
10. Supplement smart eating
Even the healthiest eaters can fall short of the daily requirements of certain vitamins or minerals. I know I don't always eat the best that I could. Some days I fall short on vegetables, some days on fruit, some days on grains. When I'm visiting my family, having dinner at a friend's home, or travelling, I'm not able to plan the menu to ensure that I get what I know my body needs. Taking a multi-vitamin and -mineral supplement helps me ensure that I get a basic amount of all the essential vitamins and minerals that I need for health. I'm a big believer that a pill shouldn't replace a balanced diet but, rather, as the name suggests, supplement it. Micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) each have a specific role in the body, and I need a daily dose of them to ensure that my body is functioning optimally. Health Canada recommends that all women of child-bearing age take a daily multi-vitamin. Before taking a supplement, consult with a registered dietician or physician.

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Excerpted from Good Life Fitness 6 Weeks to a New Body, copyright 2009 by Maureen Hagan. Used by permission of Penguin Group (Canada).
All Rights Reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced except with permission in writing from the publisher. 11. Choose whole grains
Research suggests that diets that include high amounts of whole grains may contribute to significant weight loss, while also reducing the risk of chronic illnesses such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. A recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that eating whole grains is associated with lower blood pressure and a lower body weight. This latter may be in part because whole grains slow digestion, making you feel fuller for longer.

The term whole grain means the grain still has the outer bran layer and inner germ layer, where most of the grain's nutrients are found. Refined and processed grains have been stripped of these two layers, leaving only the starchy endosperm. Whole-grain choices include oatmeal, whole-grain cereal, brown or wild rice, whole-wheat pasta, and snacks such as granola bars and popcorn. Be sure to read labels carefully—often what might at first glance seem like a good choice isn't really as healthy as you thought. For instance, "whole wheat" and "multi-grain" are not the equivalent of "whole grain," and many products touting "whole grain" are packed with sugar.

12. Say "no thanks" to empty calories
We've all given in to those urges and eaten too much chocolate or grabbed a doughnut and coffee at break time. But by doing this regularly, we gradually lose touch with our bodies, as empty calories and snacks become one quick-energy stepping stone to the next. A doughnut, for example, sends blood sugar soaring, giving you a boost of energy. Then, after about 10 minutes, your energy levels drop drastically, sending you to the kitchen or vending machine for something that will spike your energy again. What comes after that? Maybe chocolate-chip cookies or a handful of jujubes. The result is weight gain and eating habits that negatively impact your health.

Read more:
7 tips for maintaining fitness motivation
6 signs you're overdoing your diet
Eating for energy

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Excerpted from Good Life Fitness 6 Weeks to a New Body, copyright 2009 by Maureen Hagan. Used by permission of Penguin Group (Canada).
All Rights Reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced except with permission in writing from the publisher.
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12 ways to develop healthy eating habits for life