10 Healthy Eating Habits That Work, According To Science
Science can tell us a lot about everything including nutrition, health and fitness! Sometimes we believe all the clever media and marketing that is pumped out consistently by people or companies selling their shakes, pills, juicers and so on. Whatever advice or coaching I give to my clients will have been based around facts or research studies, stuff that actually works! Here are 10 healthy eating habits backed up by science…
- Eat Food You Enjoy – Many people think that the easiest way to lose weight is to cut out foods that you overindulge in. This restrictive way of eating has a short-term effect and can lead you down the path of a ‘binge-restrict cycle’. Lisa Sasson, a New York University nutrition professor, told ‘Business Insider’ in 2015. “If you pick a diet with foods you don’t like, you’re doomed to fail,” Food is a pleasurable experience; if you cut out all the foods you like, you probably won’t stick to your plan. And as studies continue to show, coming up with an eating regimen you can stick with consistently is critical.
- Portion Size Is Key – Eating mindfully is one of the most powerful and effective ways of changing body composition, especially weight loss. By consciously thinking about portion sizes, eating slowly and stopping when you feel satisfied, you will be well on the way to a leaner healthier body. Of course you need to practice these skills daily which then form habits and consistency is the key. In the same study by Sasson , she said that regardless of whether they’re in the group assigned to a special diet, most people in taking part in studies lose weight by eating mindfully and thinking about their portion sizes. Portion sizes in general have been rising since the 1970’s so eating mindfully and being aware of your own portion sizes is a very effective way of avoiding overeating.
- Skip lunchtime cafés and restaurants and pack your own lunch – Portion sizes in restaurants around the world and especially in the west have increased as much as 3 times in the past 20 years. Because of this our sense of portion sizes is becoming distorted and what we think is the norm. Elizabeth G. Nabel, director of NIH’s National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (USA),writes. “One way to keep calories in check is to keep food portions no larger than the size of your fist,” This is a very effective way of meal planning and calories counting without having to weigh, measure or record. If you are trying to control your portion sizes, then it is better to avoid restaurants or cafes and prep and pack you own lunch as most restaurants will give you way more calories than you need.
- Stick with lean protein and high fibre foods – Eating both protein and fibre will help keep you feeling full. Protein helps with muscle maintenance and growth whilst fibre helps with digestive health. Highly processed foods like chocolate, biscuits, microwave meals etc. are not only low in good protein and fibre but also have little nutritious value, are high in salt and saturated fats. These types of foods are “readily absorbable,” Sasson said. This is why you don’t usually feel full after eating a bag of crisps or sugary snacks. Compare that to how you feel after eating a baked potato, a high fibre food. Psychologists at the University of Sussex reviewed weight-loss studies that focused on protein, fibre and fullness. They concluded that these foods should be included in weight-loss or nutrition plans as feeling full can help to prevent over eating which is obviously a big part of weight loss or trying to improve your body composition.
- Go Mediterranean – Olive oil, fresh veg, fish, healthy salads….Yes please! Recent studies have shown the benefits of a Mediterranean style diet are many. It has long been thought that this Mediterranean-style diet is on the whole a healthy diet making for a longer than average life expectancy in this part of the world. Now there is some science to back this up. Some studies show a Mediterranean diet may help to reduce the risk of heart disease and improve memory function. Another study found a link between this way of eating and a lower risk of breast cancer in older women.
- Beware of the calories in beverages – Sometimes plain water can seem a little bland or boring but be careful of juices, fizzy drinks, coffee shop drinks. In a study of 173 obese women ages 25 to 50, researchers found that swapping out sweetened beverages with plain water was linked with weight loss, without exercise and diet in the mix,
- Flexibility is key – Sasson says that having a way of eating that is both flexible and varied is key. By having different options, ‘go to’ meals and snacks it make it easier to fit healthy eating into your day and lifestyle. If you have a diet that is rigid or has the same few meals day in and out you would probably get bored pretty quickly and slip back into your old ways.Sasson says having an eating plan with flexibility is key. Weight Watchers, for example, allows for a variety of different meal types. Having options for what you can eat can makes it easier to build that into your life, as opposed to a diet that sticks to the same five meals every week. A study by doctors and dieticians of diets at Tufts University looked at 160 overweight people ages 22 to 72 on the diets over a one-year period. It found that those people who stuck to diets including variety and allow flexibility, reduced their risk of heart problems compared to those who didn’t or couldn’t stick to diets.
- Gut instinct… bacteria – Your stomach is full of living microbes called microbiome and they all play a vital role in digestion. After a recent study in Sweden researchers came up with a mathematical formula to help find an eating plan based specifically on your individual microbiome. The authors of this study also found evidence that these specific plans could help weight loss and possibly prevent certain diseases. Although very interesting, this type of research is still very new so be wary of diets that promote some kind of magical formula for your gut health, or anything else. To improve your gut microbiome and eat healthy as a whole, eat a variety of vegetables, dairy, chicken, fish, eggs and healthy fats oils, as suggested in this same study.
- Getting a good night’s sleep could be better than late-night exercise – Feeling tired and fatigued can lead to cravings so be aware. There has been some research using ‘FMRI’ (functional magnetic resonance imaging), scanning the brains of 25 men and women of average body weight. They each looked at images of delectable but fatty junk food and recorded the responses after a week of 9 hours sleep and a week of 4 hours sleep. When the participants were well rested their brains didn’t react nearly as much as when they were lacking sleep or feeling fatigued. So the study suggests that when we feel tired or lack energy our subconscious brain is much more attracted to fatty foods to give us energy.
- Try to eat breakfast – You have heard the saying ‘breakfast is the most important meal of the day’, this may be true. There is evidence to suggest that by eating a meal early in your day can help rev-up your metabolism. This is the process by which your body breaks down food and turns it into energy. There has been a lot debates about this topic, especially on performance of children that have or haven’t had breakfast. A study published this July didn’t find any effects on cognitive performance of kids that ate breakfast and those that didn’t. However by eating a good breakfast you will provide the body with nutrients and fuel for the day. Choose morning meals high in protein and complex carbs but low in sugar and salt.
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