Habits guide our lives: from how we perform everyday tasks to the ways we behave around other people and, critically, how we eat. Our social environment also influences our habits and we are bombarded by advertising which seeks to persuade us that we should be consuming profitable and addictive products as part of a ‘balanced’ diet. But we know this is a lie, right? Developing healthy eating habits takes practice, time and effort but once they are habits you make it much easier on yourself!

The benefits of healthy eating go much further than skin deep. Our diet dramatically affects our minds, bodies and emotional state in a scientifically proven way which goes deeper than common sense. In this guide, we provide the evidence, motivation and methods to improve your eating habits with ease.

What is Food?

It might seem like an odd question but what is it that we love to put in our mouths? Is it for enjoyment, nutrition, emotional support, boredom or something else? Unfortunately, the methods used to process the pre-packaged food available on our supermarket shelves have changed drastically in the last few decades. The alarming increase in additives, pesticides and transgenic products is starting to cause a significant (yet profitable!) problem for the health of humanity.

The composition of the food we have been eating for centuries has changed into something foreign to our bodies and we simply can’t adapt to this change so fast (kind of like a trying to teach your grandparents to use Facebook “I’ve put my thumbs up, but nothing’s happened”). We have fallen down a slippery slope of addiction and advertising but times are changing and many people are looking for simple ways to create and enjoy healthy eating habits.

Many products called ‘food’ would be better known as mildly-toxic-edible-substances and they are totally lacking the nutrients we need to survive or thrive. The modern epidemic of lifestyle diseases is because our lives have: too many toxins (including our own stress levels) and not enough nutrients (including non-tangible ones like ‘having enough friends’).

Why Do I need a Healthy Eating Habits?

  • Repeatedly studies[1] have shown that our brain function is directly related to the food we eat. You can probably guess which types of food feed the brain and which ones slow it down!
  • A diverse plant-based diet avoids the complications of these modern edible products, contributing to not only a better mood, but also improvements in memory, concentration and cognitive functions.
  • Incorporating planty habits into your diet will naturally reduce your consumption of the ‘empty calories’ that elevate insulin and driving fat storage while promoting unhealthy food cravings. [2]
  • A diet richer in plant based foods will help you: lose weight, protect your heart, avoid diabetes and even reduce the risk of cancer.
  • Even doctors are realising that plant based diets are “cost-effective, low-risk interventions” that “lower body mass index, blood pressure, HbA1C, and cholesterol levels” reducing “the number of medications needed to treat chronic diseases”[3]

How to Harness Habits

You must be wondering how to make such a big change to deeply ingrained habits. The secret to achieve this change without feeling overwhelmed is… planning! By creating a routine beforehand, you can control yourself better and successfully initiate and then eventually maintain new empowering habits. When we first start a new habit it feels awkward and difficult (like roller skating or driving a car for the first time) but after we have had some practice it gets easier, and eventually effortless!

The table below is an example of how to plan your food for a week:

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Breakfast
Mid-Morning snack
Lunch
Mid-afternoon snack
Dinner
Evening snack

By planning your week ahead (including snacks), it is much easier to avoid destructive dietary diversions. Give it a go! At the start of next week, plan your week ahead with the goal of healthy habits. Just sketch out some ideas of things you’d like to eat, research some recipes and write a shopping list.

This is the first part, now that you have an idea how to organize yourself, we will tackle some of the villains that plot to set back these plans, including misbehaving old habits and despicable foods that cause addictions.

Make It Easier For Yourself!

Old habits can set you back A LOT, but, there are effective ways to change them! For starters, when preparing a meal plan for your week, you can get some things ready beforehand. For example making a big batch of delicious homemade tomato sauce and freezing it so it can be used as the base for several meals, saving you time and mental energy.

Instead of packing a candy bar or reaching for a sugared sneaky-snack, always keep some fruits, nuts and seeds around. Have them packed before work or leave a bowlful in a visible place for you to reach for when peckish. This simple habit change replaces potentially dangerous snacking diversions with a healthy and safe equivalent. When we have safe and healthy options around us we are much less likely to go crazy and binge on anything we see! These are some simple healthy eating habits which really do add up.

You may have noticed that we advise refraining from refined sugar – there is an abundance of scientifically backed data, not to mention real life experience, justifying this rationale! Some foods, and specifically refined sugars, cause addiction-like effects including: cravings and drug like withdrawal symptoms when not consumed [4] – research suggests Oreo’s are just as addictive as cocaine and heroin![5]

Sugar will make you crave for more, creating a false-hunger effect, prompting you to eat excessively and spiking your insulin levels. In turn this prompts your body to store more fat, consequently creating weight gain. Refined flour products, like bread, have a similar effect as when we eat them the carbohydrate content is rapidly absorbed and there isn’t enough fibre or other nutrients to buffer the effects. Some kinds of cheese also have addictive properties and create morphine-like effects that make us crave more.

When creating a plant-based diet you can be confident that you are choosing the healthier option, but make it even healthier, and easier, by avoiding the artificial-addictive options (even if they are officially “plant based” does an Oreo look like any kind of plant you ever saw in nature?).

Self-control and Dietary Discipline

While changing how you eat at home is all about planning ahead and making things easier, eating out is a whole new challenge (and opportunity to grow!). When going out, self-control will be your main barrier, but you can make things easier on yourself by following a few simple rules. The first one is to let people know of your decision to have a plant-based diet, their comprehension and respect is an essential factor.

Family meals are the most manageable aspect, by letting them know your decision; you can also help them to prepare meals that fit your requirements. Remember that active communication is the key, and do not be afraid to go to the kitchen to show them that you are serious.

When going out, you can use a few tactics to keep your diet from falling off balance. For instance, if you are planning to go on a specific restaurant, you can go ahead and web search their menu. Knowing beforehand your options will enable you to decide what you will choose, and if there are not many options, you can always call the restaurant to see if they can help you out or prepare a special treat just for you (you are worth it!)

In case your choices are limited, you can also eat something nutritional before going out to avoid being hungry, and then tactically snacking on the safe foods you have. If you do slip off the plant based path, which happens every now and again, be aware of your energy and emotional state. Feeling guilty about food mishaps makes you more likely to experience another one in future, so tell yourself that it’s okay to eat this (burger/candy bar/edible product) just this once, and allow yourself to enjoy it.

It’s ALL about the First Steps!

If you’re considering changing your diet and that lead you to read this article, well done, you’ve already taken your first leap to some delicious healthy eating habits! Gathering the energy and mental focus to move towards your goal takes a huge amount of energy to start with, but, once it gets going it is an unstoppable force! Take steps towards implementing a plant-based diet to see your life improving every day.

Support Each Other

By sharing this article on social media you help others interested in plant-based nutrition know they are not alone. Every piece of vital information that reaches the public’s attention has the potential to shift our planet towards a more harmonious existence. Together we can create a plant-based future to be proud of, but we all need to act. You are the paradigm shift, share this information now.

References