Stuck in a loop of fast food, overeating, and fad diets? Cutting through work deadlines, busy schedules and general stress has lead to a routine of unhealthy eating thanks to the convenience of frozen dinners and fast food.

Since our bodies were never designed to calorie restrict, when we start fad diets, the body’s hunger mechanisms kick in, triggering a craving for unhealthy foods to make up for the calorie deficit. This results in craving high calorie ‘unhealthy foods’ to make up for the hunger. Also when we stop feeling full, our mind tends to associate fullness with failing at our goal instead of telling us that we’ve had enough to eat.

Acknowledging your own personal relationship with food and the challenges you’re going face while trying to break the unhealthy eating chain is the first step in learning how to lead a healthier life.

Here’s how you can break your bad food choices and develop a healthy eating routine.

Practice Mindful Eating

Eating mindlessly can develop bad eating habits and weight gain. Being mindful means focusing on the present, while accepting your thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations. Eating mindfully will help you consciously stay aware of what you’re eating and this will reprogram your mind to build a healthy relationship with food by making the right food choices. Here’s how you can practice mindful eating:

  • Create a healthy shopping list and stick to it.
  • Eat at scheduled times to avoid being ravenously hungry.
  • Use small portions.
  • Eat slowly and appreciate your food.
  • Use all your senses to enjoy the meal: Be attentive to the color, aroma, texture and sound of different foods.

Focus On The Nutrients, Not The Calories

Remember, calories tell us close to nothing about the nutrients a particular food has, both from macronutrient (carbs, proteins, fats) and micronutrient (vitamins, minerals, antioxidants) perspective. A general rule to live by is observing what you’re putting into your body rather than what you’re restricting it from. Focus on building a healthy diet: A slice of white bread may contain the same calories as a slice of brown bread, but they’re both fundamentally different. Brown bread contains four times the potassium, three times the zinc and twice as much fiber and protein than white bread.

Focus on nutrient-dense foods:

  • Berries- Blackberries, strawberries and blueberries
  • Cruciferous vegetables- cabbage, kale, cauliflower and bok choy
  • Whole grains- oats, rice, quinoa and whole grain pasta
  • Legumes- beans, chickpeas, kidney beans and  lentils
  • Nuts and seeds- chia seeds, almonds, pistachios and flaxseeds
  • Greens- spinach, broccoli, and chard

Avoid Nutrient-poor foods:

Processed food- meats, ready meals, frozen dinners and processed cheese

Sweets and baked goods- muffins, donuts, pastries, candies and anything fried

Drinks- alcohol and sports drinks and aerated drinks

Live By The 80/20 Rule

Don’t be too hard on yourself while trying to break old unhealthy eating habits. Give yourself some space to also enjoy less-healthy foods once in a while. Setting unrealistic healthy goals will eventually make you fall back so its best to employ the 80/20 eating rule. Make sure you eat 80% healthy and treat yourself to a 20% less healthy indulgence. Make a note of how often you’re doing it to avoid overindulgence.

Make Some Time To Prepare Your Meals

We get it, dealing with busy schedules, family and work can be stressful. But it is important you make healthy eating a priority. By setting up a simple routine for yourself and with a little prep once a week, you can avoid last minute takeaways and frozen dinners for good.

Some Tips To Break Unhealthy Eating:

  • Try prepping meals on Sundays. Spare 2 hours of your time to make 3 or 4 meals for the week and pop them in the refrigerator.
  • Create a food time table for the week and stick to it.
  • Look up easy-to cook recipes on the internet or use recipe apps
  • Start your day with a nutritious breakfast.
  • Keep only healthy snacks within reach and unhealthy snacks out of your sight
  • Get sufficient sleep each night, as fatigue may lead to overeating.

Always practice quality over quantity. Make smart choice during meals to ensure you’re full for a longer period of time. Plant-based meals have fewer calories but are nutrient-dense. They will keep you full much more than starchy carbs, and unhealthy fats.

And when you slip, try not to feel too bad after an unhealthy binge episode or compensate by over-exercising or skipping your next meal. These reactions may lead to the risk another binge episode in the future. If you can’t figure out how to start a healthy eating cycle or are looking to lose weight, talk to us at DrNewMed for a complete healthy lifestyle transformation.

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