Improving Your Eating Habits

Written by LUNA® brand food and fitness ambassador, Andy Arnold. Andy is a social media influencer, writer, blogger, student, mother, and aspiring registered dietitian. She is passionate about leading a healthy, balanced lifestyle through nutrition and exercise with the goal of inspiring others to do the same.

The ideas and suggestions written below are provided for general educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice or care. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health provider before beginning any physical fitness or health and nutrition related activity.

Assess your current eating habits to create awareness and reveal areas that you can improve on to develop a healthy diet.

To understand your current eating habits and where you’d like to improve, try reflecting on your entire diet. Bring awareness to what you are eating, when you are eating, how much you are eating, and why you are eating. Then, make it a habit to ask yourself how you feel before, during, and after you eat. By creating this sort of self-dialogue, you might surprise yourself with how easy it is to identify areas you could improve on and start a healthier diet.

Developing healthy long-term habits when it comes to eating is far more impactful than any short-term diet. We all strive for balance. We want to enjoy our relationship with food. And we all want to live happy and healthy lives, right?

Here are some helpful questions and ideas to bring awareness and get closer to finding what works for you:

What am I currently eating?

  • How many servings of fruit do I eat a day?
  • How many servings of vegetables do I eat a day?
  • How much of my carbohydrate intake is from whole grains?
  • How much protein do I eat a day?
  • Is the fat in my diet mostly trans and saturated fat or monounsaturated and polyunsaturated?
  • How many times a week do I eat out?
  • How many of my meals are prepared at home?
  • How many times a day do I drink sugary drinks (soda, juice drinks, or sweetened coffee)?
  • How many times a day do I eat foods with added sugars, without other important nutrients (cakes, cookies, or ice cream)?
  • What is my alcohol consumption per week?
  • Be aware of portion sizes and know that you don’t always have to eat everything on your plate.
  • Eat slowly and without distractions (turn off the TV, computer, phone).
  • Eat when you are hungry; stop when you are full.
  • Plan out your meals, or meal prep for the week if you’re a busy bee.
  • Acknowledge the healthy changes you are making and give yourself credit for doing a great job.
  • Progress over perfection.
  • Habits take time to develop, just like results — be patient and don’t give up!

Healthy Eating Tips

The first and most important step to understand is that small changes add up. Slowly build new or better habits to prevent overwhelming yourself with making several changes all at once.

What should I focus on?

How do I improve?

  • Look at what small things you could improve on — filling half your plate with fruits/vegetables or drinking more water instead of soda.
  • Eat when you’re hungry (true stomach hunger) and stop when you’re comfortably full — allow your body’s natural hunger and satiety cues to guide you.
  • Choose nutrient dense foods that are rich in vitamins, minerals, complex carbohydrates, lean and plant-based proteins, and healthy unsaturated fats.
  • Make healthier swaps — more complex carbohydrates vs. refined carbohydrates and added sugars (i.e., more whole wheat bread, less white bread) or LUNA® bar vs. a candy bar. LUNA® whole nutrition bars include complex carbohydrates from rolled oats and are a good source of protein.
  • Understanding that the amount of calories/energy you need is based on your age, gender, body composition, activity level, goals.4

What should I eat?

  • A healthy plate: ½ produce, ¼ lean and plant-based proteins, ¼ whole grains, and dollop of healthy, unsaturated fats.
  • When planning a meal, focus on the type of carbohydrate and not on the amount. Some sources of carbohydrates — like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans — offer important vitamins, minerals, fiber, and plant nutrients for health.3
  • Aim to fill half of your plate with whole fruits and vegetables — focus on variety and color to ensure you get a balanced mix of nutrients and lots of fiber.
  • Get your protein from sources such as fish, lean meat and poultry, eggs, dairy products, tofu, beans, and nuts.
  • Consume healthy fats like monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats — found in olive oil, avocados, fish, nuts, and seeds — while limiting saturated fats and trans fats.
  • More water and less beverages that contain added sugar.

How much should I eat?

  • Carbohydrates are our body’s preferred source of fuel and should be the foundation of our diet. Women should aim for 1.5–2 cups of fruit, 2.5 cups of vegetables, and at least 25 grams of fiber a day.
  • Those participating in vigorous exercise may have higher carbohydrate needs to help fuel their performance.1
  • The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight for adults. Athletes needs are higher, with 1.2–2.0 grams per kilogram of body weight.2
  • Experts recommend that adults focus on healthy unsaturated fats and consume 20% to 35% of total calories from this nutrient each day.4
  • Dietary guidelines recommend limiting to one alcoholic beverage for women and two for men a day (1 drink = 12 ounces beer/wine cooler, 5 ounces wine, or 1.5 ounces distilled spirits).

The most important thing to understand in building healthier eating habits is that perfection is not necessary. Small incremental adjustments are all you need! You are a work in progress and will continue to be for years to come. Don’t feel the need to reach your destination right away.

By assessing your current eating habits, you will create an awareness you might not have had before. From there, decide what is working and what is not. Make changes that make sense to your lifestyle. Allow yourself to make mistakes. And most importantly, have fun with it! None of this has to come with a negative undertone. As you develop healthier eating habits, you will feel better, and your success and happiness will build upon itself.

References

  1. All about the Vegetable Group. (2018, January 04). Retrieved August 2, 2018, from https://www.choosemyplate.gov/...
  2. Caspero, A. (2017, July 17). Protein and the Athlete — How Much Do You Need? Retrieved August 4, 2018, from https://www.eatright.org/fitne...
  3. Healthy Eating Plate & Healthy Eating Pyramid. (2017, August 24). Retrieved August 4, 2018, from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/n...
  4. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. December 2015. Available at http://health.gov/dietaryguide...