ABCs of Nutrition: Develop Good Habits

Most of us are creatures of habit, whether it pertains to drinking, exercising, reading, watching TV, cleaning or sleeping – and many others. Think about it! If it is feels good, satisfies our needs and feels comfortable, why not do it again?

Diet and eating are no exception to the rule. I want a cup of coffee when I crawl out of bed each day and there’s nothing better than a cold beer after a day of skiing, long run or lengthy tennis match. My child wants dessert every night after dinner without fail (can’t imagine where he got that one!).

What are your dietary habits? Which ones do you want to keep? Which ones would you like to break?

Here are a few ideas to kickstart healthy habits that stick.

Increase your awareness. Don’t just walk through the motions. Take notice of what you eat or drink automatically, without hesitation. Keeping a healthy living journal is a good way start.

Tweak the routine. Another reason you sometimes eat without thinking is due to  daily rituals that create and sustain those patterns. If you grab snacks or meals on the go, sit down and take a time-out instead. If you eat second helpings of food at night, wait twenty minutes after round one. If you eat dessert after dinner each evening, go for a walk instead.

Know your weaknesses. Is your biggest temptation a slice of hot apple pie or a big bowl of chips? Maybe it’s a caramel Frappuccino on the way to work. Identify what you want to cut back or eliminate from your diet, so you know where to focus your efforts.

Beware of addictions. Caffeine, sugar, salt and alcohol are addictive, thus making habits much more challenging to overcome. Try cutting back – without cutting out – to see if you safely manage addictions. If that doesn’t work, then cold turkey may be your only option.

Try substitutions. If you like sugary cereal for breakfast, try shredded wheat with a little stevia on top. If you like sweets after every meal, eat more fruit. If chips are your go-to snack, experiment with almonds instead. Substitute with something that’s fulfilling but better for you.

Take small steps. You aren’t going to turn bad habits upside down overnight. And that’s okay. Little steps go a long way in developing good habits that stick. So take your time.

Think long-term. There’s a reason fad diets are fads. They work in the short-term without producing lasting, positive effects. If you make changes for the better slowly and sensibly, then you’ll be much happier with the results.

Eat mindfully. Another great way to kick a bad habit is to slow down, enjoy and appreciate what you’re eating. Remove distractions and savor each bite!

Melinda Hinson