5 Ways to Improve Your Eating With Healthy Habits

At the studio we like to focus more on healthy eating than dieting and learning about ‘what to eat’ as well as how much to eat in order for you make healthy choices. Another method we use is trying to promote healthy habits when it comes to eating in a bid to providing more long term change over quick fix dieting. Sometimes, following a set of strategies is more useful for providing nutritional guidance and change. The guidelines give you the ability to use the information and make informed decisions. Therefore, it becomes applicable knowledge you can use over and over again. This ultimately leads to an improvement in calorie control, nutrient timing and food selection. Simple right! 

Habit #1: Eat slowly and stop at 80% full

Many of us eat too quickly and to the point of fullness. As a child many of us learnt not to leave the table until our plates were clear and this has carried over into adult life.  Unfortunately, this type of learning leads to challenges in weight loss especially if portion control hasn’t been mastered. That’s why, this habit is so important. It will teach you to slow down your eating, you’ll learn to listen to hunger and appetite cues and stop eating at the right time, as opposed to when your plate is cleared or you need to loosen your belt buckle!

This habit doesn’t concentrate on WHAT you eat, but HOW you eat. This makes it the most important habit of all. For starters, it takes about 20 minutes for your satiety mechanism (the trigger that say’s you’re full) to kick in so it’s easy to over eat. In other words, it takes about 20 mins for the communication between your stomach and your brain to work – it’s slow! Therefore, you have 20 mins to overeat before your brain kicks in and says “I’m content, you can stop eating now”. 

An excellent goal to strive for is around 15-20mins eating time per meal (at a minimum). Set a goal to sit down, turn off the tv or other distractions, slow down and eat. Once you’ve slowed your pace, take smaller bites and chew the food completely. The idea is to take your time. Enjoy a chat in between mouthfuls, put your fork down and taste the food! 

Once you’ve mastered slowing down, move onto stopping at 80% full. This could be defined as eating until you are no longer hungry instead of eating until you are full. This should be easier if you are eating slower. Benefits of this are:

  1. Enhanced appetite cues for the next meal
  2. Improved digestion
  3. Better performance with exercise/workouts
  4. More time to enjoy meals
  5. Better sleep if you’re eating before bed

The “How you should Feel Timeline”

 

Hour

0

 

Immediately after

You’re probably still a little hungry. It will take roughly 15-20mins to get a sense of satisfaction from a meal. If you’re a fast eater, wait it out before you go for more

Hour

1

One hour after finishing

You should feel satisfied with no desire to eat another meal

Hour

2

Two hours after finishing

You may start to feel a little hungry, like you could eat something, but the feeling isn’t overwhelming

Hour

3

Three – four hours after

You should feel like it’s time for the next meal. Your hunger should be around a 7 or 8 out of 10 (where 10 is the hungriest you’ve ever felt), but may be more or less depending on when you exercise and what your daily physical activity level is

Hour

4

Four or more hours after

You’re quite hungry, like nothing getting between you and the kitchen!! You’re an 8 or 9 out of 10. The is when the “I’m so hungry I could eat anything” appears. Obviously if you let your hunger get this far you may make poor choices.

 

Habit #2: Eat protein with each meal

This area could be slightly controversial as some experts will have you believe additional/too much protein is harmful and unnecessary. However, most research concedes; in healthy individuals a higher protein diet is safe and may be important for achieving the best health, body composition of muscle to fat, and performance during exercise sessions. 

A portion size of protein is visually about the size of the palm of your hand, between 20-30g

By following this guideline you can ensure you have an adequate amount of protein in your diet to stimulate your metabolism, improve lean muscle (vital for burning calories) and recovery after exercise. 

The Protein Chart

Food Type

Protein dense foods

Food Timing

Eaten with each meal

Food Amount

1 serving for women (size of palm)

2 servings for men (size of two palms)

Examples

  • Lean meats such as ground beef, chicken, turkey, venison
  • Fish such as salmon, tuna, cod
  • Eggs
  • Dairy such as cottage cheese, greek yogurt, cheese etc
  • Beans, peas, legumes, tofu etc
  • Protein Supplements such as Milk based (whey, casein) or plant based (pea, help, rice, soy)

 

Habit #3: Eat vegetables with each meal

This is something your mother and grandmother have been harping on about for years and now scientists have finally caught up. Research has shown that in addition to micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) packed into vegetables, there are also important plant chemicals that are essential for optimal functioning and health. They also provide an alkaline load to the blood, which as discussed in term 1 is a more beneficial environment for the body to live in. Since both grains and proteins present an acidic load to the blood, it’s important to balance these out with plenty of alkaline-rich fruit and veg at each meal.

Reminders:

  1. Include at least two servings of fruit and/or veg per meal 
  2. One medium sized fruit, 1/2 cup of raw chopped fruit or veg and 1 cup of raw, leafy vegetables each equal one serving
  3. While the UK recommends 5-7 portions of fruit and vegetables per day, 10 is more ideal and the make up is more heavily weighted towards vegetables with a ratio of 3:7 to fruit and veg

Habit #4: For fat loss, eat the majority of ‘other’ carbohydrates after exercise (complex starchy carbs)

In other words, if you’ve got fat to lose then you need to earn those higher carbohydrate meals by exercising first! If you want to eat bread, pasta, rice and (a small amount of) sugary foods, then you can as long as you:

  1. Focus more on the unprocessed varieties
  2. Eat the majority of them after exercise
  3. Eat them in moderation and make informed choices regarding when and how much

To make it very clear, this is not advocating a no or low carbohydrate diet, rather a controlled-carbohydrate diet. For fat loss most of your carbohydrates will come from fruit and vegetables and the small amounts of sugary and starchy ones will be eaten post exercise. So we’re not saying you can’t have a treat – a slice of cake when out with the girls – more that it’s occasionally rather than the norm. 

In general, most western societies over consume sugary and starchy carbohydrates anyway: breads, pasta, sweets, cakes and biscuits etc so by advocating these aren’t included in meals apart from post exercise, should reduce your intake to a normal healthy level. 

An important point to remember with regards to carbohydrates, is that this macronutrient can and should be increased for those training and competing in carbohydrate-dependant sports such as long distance running/marathons. This is often referred to as carb-loading before a race. However, for general weight loss sessions these aren’t necessarily required. The sessions might feel tough, but I promise you won’t be completing marathons during your 45-60 minute sessions!

Whilst we haven’t discussed the glycemic index regarding carbohydrates, the below table provides a distinction between different carbohydrates and when to eat them dependent on your goal, which for a lot is weight loss.

The Carbohydrate Chart

Food Type

Exercise

Recovery Drink

Simple sugars & highly processed starches Whole food, minimal processed starchy carbohydrates Fruit & Veg

Food Timing

For muscle gain

During and After Exercise Immediately after exercise Eat soon (within 3 hours) after exercise Eaten with each meal

Food Timing

For Fat Loss

During Exercise only Minimise intake Eat soon (within 1-2 hours) after exercise Eaten with each meal (with emphasis on veg)

Examples

 

Sugary, protein rich recovery drinks

Sugary sports drinks

Breakfast cereals

Fizzy drinks

Fruit juice

Table sugar

Sugary deserts

Ice creams

Muffins

Bagels

Bread (preferably wholegrain)

Pasta (preferably wholegrain)

Rice (preferably whole grain)

Potatoes

Oats

Cereal grains (rye, wheat etc)

Spinach

Carrots

Tomatoes

Broccoli

Cauliflower

Apples

Oranges

Avocados

Berries

 

 

Habit #5: Eat healthy fats for daily life

About 30% of the diet should come from fat, although the optimal intake can range between 20-40%. More important than total fat intake is the balance between saturate, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats – in general 1/3 from each is recommended. These ratio’s and percentages may seem daunting, so focus on adding healthy monounsaturated fats (from extra virgin olive oil, some nuts and avocados) and polyunsaturated fats (from some nuts, vegetable oils, and fish oil supplements) to the diet. By adding these to a diet rich in fruit and vegetables with carbohydrates when earned and lean proteins within each meal you should stay on track for a healthy balanced diet that helps you drop to your optimal weight.