With busy schedules and seemingly contradictory health advice coming at you from every direction, eating right can seem nearly impossible. However, it is something that everyone can — and should — work towards. These seven habits can help you eat healthier starting right now.
1. Eat Mindfully
Take time to pay attention to what you are eating instead of mindlessly chomping away while you go about your day. That means stopping what you are doing and skipping that bag of popcorn in front of the TV. Instead, focus solely on the experience of eating — how the food tastes, feels and smells as you eat it. Additionally, start asking yourself if you are hungry when you reach for a snack, or if you are bored or stressed instead.
2. Look for Nutritional Content
You want to eat foods that are delicious, but you also want to make an effort to meet nutritional needs through a healthy, balanced diet. One way to do this is by paying attention to the nutritional content of your food and adjusting it so you get the vitamins and minerals your body needs.
Some signs you might not be getting enough include fatigue, poor hair or nail growth and muscle cramps. A vitamin D test can help identify if that is the problem.
3. Eat the Rainbow
One way to work in a good range of nutrients is to eat foods that are a range of colors, which is commonly called eating the rainbow. The different pigments in fruits and vegetables are often a reflection of the phytonutrients they contain. When you sample a variety of different color foods each day, you are more likely yot meet your nutritional needs.
4. Cut Back on Added Sugar
Most Americans eat too much sugar every day. Unfortunately, this is often in the form of added sugars instead of the natural sweetness found in fruits and vegetables. Added sugars are linked to a host of health conditions, including diabetes, heart disease and obesity. Learn some of the common names that sugars are listed under and start reading food labels to identify where yours are coming from.
5. Drink Water With Meals
Most adults should aim for about eight glasses of water each day, but many do not get that much. If you find yourself falling short of water goals, try adding a glass with each meal. That will help you get closer to your goal while also reducing the amount of food you consume at each sitting. Since portions tend to be larger than needed, this means you’ll end up with a more nutritionally balanced diet.
6. Make Mealtime Social
Too often people eat alone, working away at their desks or driving from one place to the next. Unfortunately, this is not a healthy eating habit. Instead of scarfing down your meal between other tasks, make mealtime a social event. Sit down with family and friends and talk about your day. Relax and enjoy the company. Research into blue zones hints that social eating is one way to improve longevity.
7. Limit Processed Foods
Stop for a minute and think about how much of what you ate today resembled its original state. If you are like most Americans, it probably isn’t a very large portion. The Standard American Diet is high in heavily processed foods that are far removed from how the ingredients started out. You can counter this by trying to focus on eating whole foods.
Healthy eating doesn’t have to be some far-off dream. You can take steps right now, such as eating whole foods with bright colors, focusing on nutritional content and making mealtimes more social, to improve your eating habits and overall health.