Food is a basic need, and all of us eat to survive. Food is a source of fuel that can make us perform our daily activities. But the wrong type of food can make us prone to various health problems. That is the reason why our eating habits have a huge role in our health.
In fact, most health experts recommend that we should have a balanced diet. This kind of diet contains fruits, vegetables, whole grains, proteins, fat-free and low-fat dairy, and fats. It also limits your consumption of sodium, trans fats, saturated fats, and cholesterol. If our eating habits are out of control, this might make us develop a certain health condition that could be life-threatening (1).
In this article, we will learn how eating habits can influence our health as well as the ways of how these bad eating habits can be changed.
How Eating Habits Can Influence Health
Your eating habits can determine your current health status. Here are just a few things about how eating habits can influence your health:
It affects your physical health
Several studies have shown that eating habits can influence your health. A bad eating habit can make you at risk of various conditions such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. For you to improve your entire well-being, you need to modify your eating habits.
Experts recommend that we should have a healthy eating plan, such as including whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and other foods that are low-fat and fat-free. Your diet should also include poultry, beans, nuts, eggs, fish, and meats. You should limit your consumption of trans fats, saturated fats, added sugars, and sodium.
Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke are just a few health-related conditions that increase mortality rate. This is mostly due to the consumption of too many sugar-sweetened beverages, processed meat, sodium, and red meat. The risk of mortality is also high for those who don’t eat sufficient amounts of fruits, vegetables, seafood omega-3 fats, seeds, nuts, polyunsaturated fats, and whole grains. In fact, about 45 percent of deaths in 2012 are due to these diseases (2).
It affects your mental health
Your eating habits can also influence your mental wellness. If you eat healthy foods, it can help improve your cognition, memory, information processing, problem-solving, alertness, and sleep. Our brain also needs to be fed with nutritious food for it to properly develop and to maintain a normal function.
Eating right can help keep your energy and blood sugar levels normal. These are crucial in terms of mental health because energy and blood sugar levels can help promote clear thinking and mood. Protein-rich foods such as quinoa, lean meats, and low-fat yogurt and fiber-rich foods such as raspberries, oatmeal, and lentils can help control your blood sugar. And these foods might be helpful for brain development, mood, and behavior (3).
It affects your social health
Having a proper diet can make you feel good emotionally and physically. If you feel better, you will most likely enjoy engaging in social activities. A study has shown that obtaining the right nutrition can help in social development, especially in children. Those who eat nutritious foods tend to be friendlier than those kids who don’t.
A proper diet can help with mood swings. Who wants to spend time with someone unpredictable, anyway? And it is very common to experience mood swings nowadays. The good thing is that if you eat foods that are low in refined sugars and processed carbs, your mood swings will dramatically be improved. The same is true when it comes to energy levels, appearance, and confidence. These three factors are most likely to be improved if you eat healthy foods (4).
Ways to Change Your Bad Eating Habits
Eating habits can greatly influence our health, that is why if we currently have bad eating habits, we should be open to change it. It cannot be denied, but a lot of people in all parts of the world are already experiencing weight gain, usually because of their eating habits.
But if we opt for a healthy diet, we can combat our health from various diseases such as heart disease and cancer. If we can identify our eating habits and shift to healthy choices, we will most likely obtain good health. Here are the three ways on how you can change your eating habits:
Identify your bad eating habits
Know what are healthy eating habits
Before you can be able to change your eating habits, you need to know first what is considered as healthy habits. If you know what these habits are, then you can assess yourself whether or not you are eating right (5). You can get this information from various sources such as magazines, books, and even online.
Keep a food diary
You may find it a waste of time, but this is very helpful, especially if you want to change your eating habits. You should try to make a detailed food diary regarding your current eating habit so that you can identify whether or not such a habit is good for your health. According to experts, having a food journal can aid in losing weight, detecting food intolerances, knowing portion sizes, having better nutrition, and identifying what triggers unhealthy eating (6).
Identify your bad eating habits
If you have kept a journal, it will be easier for you to track down what eating habits are unhealthy. If you can identify these habits, then you can make a plan out of these. For instance, you have observed that you have been eating too quickly every meal, you have been eating a lot even if you are not hungry, or maybe you are fond of ordering desserts or appetizers every meal.
Identify your good eating habits
Of course, you should also identify your healthy eating habits. This will help you maintain or expand these habits to become healthier. Some good eating habits might include eating vegetables, fruits, whole grain products, and low-fat dairy products, engaging in physical activities every day, and trying to lose weight (7).
Make a plan to change bad eating habits
After you identify your eating habits, either good or bad, you have to develop a plan. Make sure that your plan is feasible and attainable. There are actually many ways on how to you can change these unhealthy eating habits. Anyway, we will discuss it later in this article.
Seek medical attention
Sometimes, your eating habits may be due to a certain condition. And this cannot be treated without help from an expert. So if you are not sure about your eating habits, you need to talk to your healthcare provider or maybe a dietician. These individuals can help you determine your problem as well as suggest the proper plan for you to shift into a healthier eating habit.
Switch your habits
- Avoid things that trigger bad habits
Bad eating habits are sometimes triggered by a certain situation. This situation should be avoided so that you can prevent these bad eating habits. For instance, eating in a restaurant makes you grab a breadbasket. Or maybe watching TV can make you eat a lot of junk foods and drink sugar-sweetened beverages (8).
- Replace bad habits into good ones
If you have a food diary, you will become aware of both your bad and healthy eating habits. Bad eating habits should be replaced with healthy ones. For instance, you are used to eating a lot, even if you are not hungry. Now that you identify that it is not healthy, you will eat only if you are hungry.
- Make gradual changes
Change does not happen overnight, and it takes some time. That is why you should not expect that you can quickly change these bad eating habits. You should be patient with yourself. You should slowly, but surely make changes for the better. For instance, if you are used to eating desserts every day, try to minimize it by eating every other day until you get rid of it.
- Plan your meals
Planning your meals in advance can help you make healthier choices. Last-minute decisions on what to eat can make you prone to unhealthy foods. It can make you consume more sodium and calories, which are not really good for your health. Aside from that, planning your meals can improve your nutrition, eat high-quality foods, save money and time, as well as decrease stress (9).
- Be patient
As mentioned earlier, changing your current eating habits into a healthier one may take time. But remember that as human as you are, there will come a time when you will commit mistakes. It is not that we expect you to be back to your old, bad eating habits, but it can be inevitable, especially that many factors can cause a change in your eating habits. And yes, you are allowed to cheat once in a while. In fact, experts say that this can make you maintain your healthy habits (10).
Make healthy food choices a habit
Yes, we are always advised to eat healthily. But eating healthy is very hard to achieve, especially since there are lots of unhealthy foods that are readily available in the market. And as what they say, humans are complicated creatures.
Eating foods does not only make us full when we are hungry, but it also allows us to enjoy, especially if the food tastes so good. Sometimes, we tend to eat in excess amounts. Overeating is not good for our health, not only because it changes our physical appearance, but it also makes us prone to numerous diseases such as diabetes, stroke, and obesity (11).
Here are just a few healthy eating habits that you can follow:
Avoid eating unhealthy processed foods
Processed foods can be found in almost all convenient and grocery stores. Yes, they can be prepared easily. And this is helpful, especially if we are too busy to prepare our meals. But processed foods are not healthy. They are rich in preservatives and chemicals that are really bad for your health (12).
Choose healthy cooking methods
Aside from the food itself, the cooking method you use is also important. For instance, mixed vegetables have various nutrients, but these nutrients can diminish if you cook these with cooking oil. Instead of using salt, you can use spices, herbs, and ground pepper. Instead of salad dressing, you can use lemon juice or balsamic vinegar. Today, several studies have shown that raw foods can offer more vitamins, fiber, and minerals (13).
Drink plenty of water
Water has many health benefits. It can aid in absorption, digestion, and transportation of various nutrients. It helps in regulating your body temperature. It can aid in eliminating toxins and waste from your body (14).
Your body is composed of about 60 percent of water. Every day, you are required to drink at least eight glasses of water. Although there are little explanations regarding this rule, it is important for you to stay hydrated all the time (15).
Our eating habits may be established since we are a child, but it doesn’t mean that we should continue it and remain as it is. Our eating habits can influence our health, physically, mentally, and socially, so we should promote a healthy one. People with unhealthy eating habits are at risk of various diseases such as obesity, stroke, and hypertension. To avoid this, it is important to identify bad habits, switch to healthy habits, and make healthy food choices as a habit.