Establishing Healthy Eating Habits And Staying Motivated - SACAP
Management & Leadership

Establishing Healthy Eating Habits

Mar 24, 2021
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The benefits of eating healthily extend beyond your weight and physical health. What and how you eat can impact your sleeping patterns, your energy levels as well as your memory!

Did You know these 5 Eating Facts?

  1. Healthy eating can help reduce your risk of physical health problems eg: Diabetes
  2. Eating too few nutrients can cause weight gain
  3. Eating large amounts of refined sugars can harm your brain
  4. Emotional eating isn’t satisfied by eating what you crave
  5. Eating standing up may make you more inclined to overeat

“How you eat impacts your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.”

While logic points us in the direction of the need to eat more healthily, it’s not the easiest path to embark on or to sustain – especially when you wait in a line to pay for your basket of veggies but are surrounded by every imaginable variation of sugar delight.

Which Healthy Eating Nudges Work Best?

A nudge is something that attempts to change behaviour while preserving freedom and not relying on an economic incentive. According to research, one of the most effective healthy eating nudges is to change your portion size. Another one is planning meals ahead with fruit and vegetables as a default set menu option.

Start by exploring what the appropriate meal portion size for you is. Ask questions such as: What’s healthy given my daily routine, my weekly exercise habits, my age and my specific health circumstances? Once you have this information, planning meals and then deciding how much food to eat, wherever you eat, will be a lot easier.

“The key to eating healthily is planning meals and portion size.”

Planning meals isn’t everyone’s favourite pastime. Especially if your focus is on cutting back on things you enjoy. So rather ask yourself: What can you add into your meals? Where can you add an extra portion of veggies? What veggies do you actually enjoy and is there a different way you can prepare them so you can add them in more frequently? This starts a healthier eating plan off on a much more positive footing than if you begin by making a list of foods you’re no longer “allowed” to eat.

How to Start Eating More Healthily

Eating healthier meals isn’t about being miserable and depriving yourself entirely. It’s about establishing a good relationship with food, planning meals that are tasty and nutritious as well as enjoying what you eat, when you need to eat and in the right quantities.

Don’t skip Planned Meals

The quickest way to drop your blood sugar levels and cause a craving is to skip a planned meal. No matter what diet plan you decide to follow you still need to eat. Keeping to your eating plan will help prevent you from “sneaking” in snacks or deviating from your planned healthier food menu.

Swop out, don’t Eliminate

Don’t just cut something out of your diet, swop it for something else. Sugary drinks can be switched out with water, herbal teas or even coffee. If you enjoy chips then find something crunchy to take it’s place and berries can be a great exchange for chocolate and candy treats.

“Eating healthier should be about enjoying food more, not feeling miserable and restricted.”


If you know you are going to be short on time, and therefore tempted to reach for an already made snack or meal, then try prep food ahead and more of it than what you need for just one meal. This way cooking a healthier meal or putting a salad bowl together is quick and easy. You can also pre-prepare snacks for a few days so you have something to grab on the run.

Eradicate Temptation

Temptation can’t tempt you if its not there. Rather than keep something in your fridge or cupboard that you are trying to cut down or avoid, give it away or don’t restock it when you’ve run out.

How to Eat Mindfully and Staying Motivated to Eat Healthily

How you eat can be as important as what you eat. Especially as it can impact the enjoyment of an otherwise perfectly planned and prepared meal. Thus, the final step in establishing healthy eating habits is to be mindful of how you eat what you have prepared, so that you are motivated to keep to your healthier eating plan. Ideally, your focus during a meal should be on enjoying what you eating.

5 Ways to Enjoy a Healthier Meal

  1. Set aside a quieter spot to eat at and minimise interruptions while you eat, for example set your phone to silent.
  2. Set out all the food you intend to eat in front of you, this way you are more aware of what you eating
  3. Slow down how quickly you eat so that you can enjoy the different flavours and textures. You can do this by putting your cutlery down between bites and chewing more before you swallow.
  4. There is a delay of about 20 minutes from when you start to eat until you start to feel full. Try stretching your meal out over 20 minutes or pause before you have more food than you originally planned on eating.
  5. Eating with other people can assist you to slow down your eating pace, be more aware of what you are eating as well as relax while you eat.

Enduring Sugar Withdrawal

One of the most difficult things to do on a healthier eating plan is cut down or eliminate sugar. Its not just because it tastes good and the options of sugary delights are everywhere, the reality is that sugar is addictive. Eating sugar causes dopamine (a happy hormone) to be released in our brains. This makes us feel good which leads us to want more sugar, which when we eat causes more dopamine to be released and we feel good again. However, overtime we need an increasing amount of sugar for a similar happy feeling and so a sugar addiction is cultivated. Although a sugar addiction can be quite pleasurable and give you an energy boost, it can also cause headaches, muscle aches, nausea, bloating and make us feel tired.

“Sugar is addictive because of the fee-good factor associated with its consumption.”

While your body adjusts to a decrease or elimination of sugar you may temporarily experience a more depressed mood, light-headedness or dizzy spells, fatigue, nausea and concentration challenges. These uncomfortable symptoms of sugar withdrawal, for most people, last a few days to a couple of weeks. The great news is that once you overcome this hurdle, many of your old temptations wont taste as good anymore as they will be too sweet, so you are also unlikely to continue craving them!

10 Ways to Conquer Sugar Cravings

  1. Stay hydrated by drinking lots of water
  2. Read labels for added sugar and choose unsweetened natural snacks, such as nuts or berries
  3. Ask yourself if you hungry or stretching for an after-dinner treat as a habit before you eat something
  4. Cut back on sugar incrementally, giving yourself time to adjust and better manage withdrawal symptoms
  5. Exercise to help combat stress levels, because stress can cause you to crave sweet foods
  6. Make sure you get enough good quality sleep
  7. Don’t go grocery shopping when you hungry and write up a shopping list before you head out
  8. Figure out what time during the day you crave sugar most and have water or a healthier snack on hand
  9. Reflect on what triggers your sugar cravings and when cravings strike, think through what’s causing the emotional craving for something sweet
  10. Increasing your intake of high fibre and protein rich foods can assist with warding off sugar cravings

Keeping Your Good Habits

An excellent way to stay motivated and focused on a lifestyle change, such as starting to eat more healthily, is by partnering with a life coach. If you enjoy inspiring people towards achieving their goals then becoming a life coach could be very satisfying career for you. SACAP offers a range of coaching courses, all accredited by the International Coach Federation (ICF) and aligned with COMENSA. For more information, enquire now.

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