Just to be clear up front, don’t take these healthy eating habits as gospel. We are all unique and have our own needs. However, these are some of the eating habits that have helped me feel strong and healthy. And perhaps they can serve you well too.
Check out the list below, and if inspired, perhaps try adding one of them to your healthy eating habits list. If you do, let me know in the comments.
Without further ado, here are 14 healthy eating habits that keep me feeling good. Enjoy!
1. Eating natural over processed foods
If I had to recommend one of the best healthy eating habits to work on, it would definitely be to avoid processed foods. When you do this, you change a lot of things, including eating more natural and eating less sugar.
When I go shopping, I tend to avoid processed foods. I go for as natural as possible, and don’t visit many of the inner isles that include packaged foods with all kinds of added ingredients to help make them last longer.
I basically make sure that the ingredient list on the foods I choose are 5 ingredients or less. And… that they are ‘real food’ ingredients and not weird chemical words and numbers.
Here is a post on 5 Ways to Read Labels for Healthier Eating to help you out.
This means I avoid things like cereals, biscuits, readymade sauces and dressings, sweets, soft drinks etc
Don’t get me wrong though… I’m not saying never eat sugar or cookies or cereals again… I enjoy my chocolate and pastries and ice-cream… I just don’t make it a regular thing or part of my normal weekly shopping. AND, when I do decide to ‘go there’, I am very intentional and always go for quality over quantity.
Here are some examples:
Instead of cereals, that often contain all kinds of additives and sugars, I opt for whole oats. And instead of sweets I may get some amazing cherries. Instead of bad-quality milk chocolate, I may get some quality 75% dark chocolate. And instead of packets of cookies at the supermarket, I’d rather go to the bakery and get something freshly made and extra special.
So it’s not about a restriction mindset. It’s more about shifting towards healthy and better quality products over time.
Do you struggle with this? Are there some processed foods that you just couldn’t imagine replacing?
If so, share a comment below or send me an email and I’ll see if I can help you find a healthier alternative.
2. Drinking mostly water, black coffee and tea
Healthy eating habits definitely includes what I drink.
And when it comes to what I drink, I generally keep to water, tea and coffee. And when celebrating, I may have even have a glass of vino or tequila 🙂
I personally avoid things like soft drinks, energy drinks and even alcohol. But I don’t adopt a heavy restriction mindset about it . I just know that when I stick to water, black coffee and tea, I feel my best. And I try to stick to that. But, if I really feel like something else, I go for it and enjoy the moment all the same.
Something I have cut out is drinking fruit juice. And sure, some freshly squeezed juice is great. But, fruit juice also contains sugar. And when you’re drinking it, without the fibre from a real piece of fruit, it’s actually quite a hit of sugar for the body. So, instead of fruit juice, I stick to water and instead enjoy whole fruit instead – that way I get more essential nutrients, all the healthy fibre, and the sugar is realised slower into my system.
I love fruit, so this gives me more opportunities to enjoy fruit by EATING it instead of DRINKING it! And, eating whole fruits instead of drinking fruit juice feels much more wholesome and nutritious. And another thing – Not having fruit juice in the house encourages me to drink lots more water. So there are many pluses 🙂
When it comes to coffee and tea, years ago I went on a clean eating detox, and I cut out dairy and sugar for 60 days. I used to drink tea with milk, and coffee with milk and sugar. After 60 days of not having milk and sugar in either, I struggled to go back. I’d gotten used to drinking tea and coffee black, and when I added milk and sugar, I didn’t enjoy it as much anymore.
This was an amazing experiment, as I experienced my tastebuds changing and my body adapting. I never thought I’d prefer black coffee or black tea, but now it’s genuinely my preference.
And that’s the thing… if you want to make changes, just remember that it’s a journey and a process. It takes time and it’s healthy to show yourself kindness and compassion along the way. Make small little changes, one by one. Give yourself time to adjust.
3. Minimising dairy and sticking to FULL fat
Dairy is a debated topic, and there is not real right or wrong way. Remember, we are bio-individual, and what works for me, may not work for you.
Personally, I prefer to only have dairy in the form of cheese and yogurt. I don’t eat a lot of cheese, but when I do I like exploring different kinds, especially in Italy. When it comes to yogurt, I also don’t eat much of it, perhaps 1 or 2 times a week. And when I do, it’s always plain and full-fat.
For some reason Milk doesn’t agree with me as much. Like I mentioned above, I used to drink milk in my tea and coffee, always. Then, after 60 days of eliminating it, I just felt better. And my coffee and tea tastes cleaner and more refreshing. I sometimes have drinks like Golden Milk, but then I used an alternative like Goat Milk, Coconut Milk or Oat Milk.
Interesting fact: My dad, who is a scientist and allergic to dairy, recently told me that Goat’s Milk is closer to human milk than cow’s milk. And for that reason it can have less of an unnatural impact on the body. This was fascinating!
I actually like this new balance, where I cut out milk and keep my dairy intake to cheese and full-fat yogurt. It’s actually quite incredible how much protein some cheeses have – Like Grana Padano which has about 38g of protein per 100g. That is a great source of protein, and tasty on all kinds of dishes. One of my favourite recipes is scrambled eggs with Grana Padano mixed in – so good!
So, when it comes to dairy, see what works for you.
Overall though, I’d personally always recommend full fat too. As someone who eats as ‘natural’ as possible, I find full fat a much better option. Often times when they remove the fat, that break up the natural structure and have to add in other things. And these additives can often be sugar!
Fat has gotten such a bad wrap over the years, and companies have maximised on this ‘fear of fat’ with their ‘fat-free’ and ‘low-fat’ products. It’s crazy because fat isn’t a bad guy, and our body needs it to function, just like it needs carbs or proteins.
When shopping for dairy, I encourage you to be curious and look at the nutrition labels of the low fat, fat free and full fat milks and yogurts. And instead of basing your decisions on ‘fat content’, look at things like ‘sugar content’ and ‘protein content’. Also look at the ingredients list. And instead of avoiding fat, seek to reduce your sugar and other chemical ingredients, and increase metrics like protein – Base your decisions on how wholesome and nutritious is it, instead of how fattening you think it is.
4. Building a better relationship with refined sugar
Sugar is often spoken about in the media. And yes, cutting refined sugars out of your diet is going to have health benefits… BUT, it’s important to not develop an obsessed or restrictive mindset about it…
This is something I’ve worked on over the years. And I’ve moved from obsessing about it, to finding a very healthy balance. One where my diet doesn’t generally contain it, but I do enjoy ‘indulging’ so to speak. But it’s in a healthy way – I love every moment of it!
A big thing though to consider… Just by cutting out processed foods, you’ll likely cut out so much sugar! It’s unbelievable how much sugar they add to products like cereals and readymade sauces! Personally, I think it’s a waste… Instead of eating sugar through your cereals and readymade sauces, avoid those processed foods. And instead, get your sugar fix from an amazing gelato or homemade batch of cookies or something!
After doing the 60 day cleanse and not eating any refined sugars – during that time, my tastebuds totally changed. After the challenge, as ‘a reward’, I bought myself my favourite chocolate at the time, a Snickers Bar. And when I took that first bite after 60 days, I couldn’t believe how disgustingly sweet it tasted – it tasted so artificial and nasty, that I struggled to swallow that bite, and gave the rest of the bar away.
That blew my mind… How your body and tastebuds can re-calibrate and adjust to a new normal.
Maintaining a healthy mindset is so important.
Now… I’m not one to promote restriction, and I love indulging. But, that challenge inspired me to stop buying actual sugar – I stopped adding it to coffee, tea and cereals. And if I really wanted something sweet, I’d just add some honey. But the regular packets of sugar was out of the house, for good. And that was a big change that can impacted a lot and helped me find a much better balance with sugar.
When it came to sweet things like chocolates and sweets… I cut out sweets completely. I personally just think sweets are a waste of time – they’re just sugar and nothing else. I’d rather have a giant bowl of berries which contains sugar but have lots of other nutritious benefits too. When it comes to chocolate, I’ve slowly worked my way towards dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate. Now I have some chocolate every once and a while, but it’s not like before where I’d inhale a low quality bar of chocolate 4 or 5 times a night. So my sugar eating is more mindful, and focused on quality.
Don’t get me wrong, I love indulging. I enjoy a tasty gelato or some fresh Italian pastries… #nomnomnom
However, I just don’t buy sugary stuff on my weekly shops, and so sugar isn’t part of my regular eating. When I ‘indulge’ it is very intentional – I decide I want to, and I go and get something glorious, and enjoy every moment of it!
5. Eating more vegetables than fruits
Eating more fruits and veggies is one of the simples healthy eating habits to start implementing.
And while you can just keep it simple and eat more of them, there are some ways I’ve maximized on this habit.
I choose to eat much more vegetables than fruits, because veggies have tons of nutrients and far less sugar.
I’ll sometimes have a fruit in the morning, and sometimes a fruit after lunch, but that’s usually about it. And, when I eat fruits I like to mix it up – from bananas, apples, peaches, berries, grapefruit, oranges, or pears. If you’re wanting to lose a little excess weight, eating more veggies and choosing fruits that are lower in sugar are two options to try.
We eat lots of veggies.
Some of our staples include garlic, onions, carrots, green beans, broccoli, peas and spinach. I like to get as much green vegetables and cruciferous vegetables as possible, as these are some of the most nutritionally dense foods you can get. Like spinach, broccoli and cabbage.
6. Replacing salad dressing with Olive Oil and Lemon
I avoid most readymade sauces, like salad dressings. Especially the very artificial ones that contain so many additives. Some readymade sauces I’ve found to be fine, with very few and natural ingredients. Pesto is a good example of this.
But over all, over time, I’ve just transitioned to not needing or wanting readymade sauces. And keeping my eating a lot more natural and simple in flavour.
For salad dressings, I simply use Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Fresh Lemon to dress all our salads. It’s tasty and tangy and fresh and clean!
We do something similar when we eat vegetables.We simple steam our veggies, like broccoli, and then dress them in Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Fresh Lemon and Salt. So good!
I used to use readymade dressings and sauces, but over time I managed to change my tastebuds and eating style. And you can do the same if you so desire. Cutting out some of these sauces can be a great way to clean up your diet.
7. Eating breakfast every day
I often used to skip breakfast. Sometimes I’d go without anything to eat until the afternoon apart from coffee and tea.
When I intentionally started eating a nutritious breakfast every morning, I found that my hunger levels stabilised. Especially when I included whole grains into breakfast, like oats, quinoa or 100% rye bread.
While there is not ‘right way’ to eat, breakfast certainly sets the tone for the rest of the day. And it doesn’t need to be complicated. Here are some examples of our breakfasts: Cucumber & Sardines on Rye; Avocado & Lemon on Rye; Tune, Onions & Tomatoes on Rye; Fruit, Seeds & Plain Yogurt; Oats with Goat Milk, Seeds & Banana; Scrambled Eggs on Rye; and Turmeric Eggs on Rye.
If you want some breakfast inspiration, come and visit me on Instagram for some super simple recipes.
And as I mention often… this doesn’t mean I always stick to the above… Sometimes I’m out and about enjoy a pastry with a cappuccino. Oh yes! I always aim to keep on the path of eating wholesome nutritious food, but I never deny myself the pleasures of life! And with this mindset, you can start to find that personal freedom and balance with your food.
8. Putting whole grains back onto the menu
I used to be a fierce Whole30 advocate – This is a 30-day challenge where you quit processed foods, dairy, sugar, and grains. And while this challenge literally changed my life and eating habits for the better, grains are definitely a must for me.
After Whole30, and avoiding grains, I kind of stayed away from them. I had this unhealthy idea that grains were bad, and fattening. Then I studied Health Coaching, and in our Whole Grains module, I rediscovered them in a much better light.
The important thing to remember with grains is that it’s not necessarily how much you’re eating it’s about what kind of grains you’re eating. Refined grains, like white pasta and bread, offer very little nutritional benefits. Whereas whole gains, like whole grain bread,and rice, offer lots of nutritional benefits.
Re-introducing whole grains back into my eating habits was one of the best things I did. We added in whole grain rice to our stews. And we started eating oats porridge and 100% rye bread at breakfast. This was beneficial for a few reasons. Firstly, it made me feel really nicely satiated, and I’d feel well satisfied until my next meal. Secondly, it improved digestion. Thirdly, I felt like I was getting to enjoy an extra layer of food, bringing back tasty meals like avocado on toast.
Of course, each to their own, so do your own experimenting and see what works for you.
But… this doesn’t mean you can’t ever eat pasta again!?
And again… this doesn’t mean I never eat pasta or pastries… It just means that I seek to fill up on the most nutritious foods most of the time. But I always leave space to enjoy dishes I just love like pasta, pizza and pastries. I personally think it’s so important to find that freedom in your eating, where you find that balance where you can still enjoy the things you love.
Often I joke saying ‘I’ll never give up pasta and pizza’ and it’s true. I LOVE them. But, over the years, I’ve found a better balance where I may have pasta a couple times a week, instead of every day. Or I may eat smaller portions instead of piling my plate ridiculously high. Or I may eat pasta for lunch instead of late at night. I’ve found ways to shift slowly into healthy habits, with time and compassion and a lot more freedom.
9. Having soups for dinner
We’d have soups a few nights a week. but now we’ve committed to only having soups in the evening.
This has been a fabulous change, and gives our bodies a bit of a break in the evenings.
I remember back in the day, we’d have these HUGE plates of pasta in the evening… and I felt like I was going to explore… Now, after a soup, I feel satisfied, but still light. And so, when I go to bed, my body doesn’t need to digest, but can instead rest and restore. I really feel like I’m doing something good for my body with this habit.
We keep it quite simple with soups like Pea, Bacon & Rosemary Soup; Chicken & Veg Soup; Mixed Veg Soup; Curried Carrot Soup; Sardine & Tomato Soup; and others.
Another added value is that this approach also makes dinner time simple! My kinda style, simple!
10. No snacks or very healthy ones
As mentioned above, we are all different, so this is just what works for me.
I don’t like snacking, simple as that.
I find that when I snack, it just keeps that hunger going. And it never seems to switch off. Instead, I like to avoid snacking completely, and give my body a rest between my 3 meals. It personally doesn’t feel right to keep digestion going more than that.
However, years back I loved snacking. And sometimes I’d find myself going into the kitchen constantly looking for something to munch on. Often times I think it was because I was procrastinating, and other times I think I was just thirsty and didn’t realise it.
Why and how I stopped snacking...
Either way, snacking started to annoy me, becoming like this endless and unnecessary temptation and form of escapism!
So I decided to work on this and remove it. First I started by focusing on very healthy snacks, like sunflower seeds and raw carrots, to help my body find better balance and stabilise my hunger levels. Then I started drinking lots more water and herbal teas, realising that I was actually more thirsty than hungry a lot of the time. And then I looked at my 3 meals a day and started making sure I was getting a good solid healthy meal at each sitting – Particularly at breakfast, I started eating more filling foods like oats which helped keep the hunger more stable until lunch.
These 3 strategies helped me find a better balance with snacking, until eventually I stopped snacking completely.
Of course, some people like to eat many small meals a day and some love snacking. Each to their own.
For me, have 3 nutritious meals – breakfast, lunch and dinner – nourishes me. And there is no need for snacking.
How do you like to eat? Do you like to eat 3 meals and no snacking like me? Or do you like to eat smaller meals more frequently? And if you do like to snack, what are you go-to snacks?
Share in the comments, I’d love to hear!
11. Eating more seeds
I’ve always loved nuts. And as you may know, nuts are full of essential nutrients.
However, I didn’t pay as much attention to seeds. I’d get my raw nuts and wouldn’t even think think about seeds.
Then, during the time where I was trying to manage my snacking and cravings, and I was on a budget, seeds came up. Seeds were a cheaper option to nuts and they are just as nutritious. This was quite an AHA moment, and I started buying bags of sunflower seeds instead of nuts.
Then, later on, when studying health coaching, I discovered Joel Fuhrman, a doctor and best-selling author of a book called “Super Immunity“. He spoke of certain foods shown to have superpowers when it comes to boosting the immune system and protecting the body from disease.
Check out full article sharing 6 of the most powerful immune-boosting disease-fighting superfoods on the planet. You may be surprised by some of them, especially number 2!
And so, seeds became a regular on our grocery list. Mixed seeds like sunflower seeds, chia seeds, flaxseeds, sesame seeds, and pumpkin seeds.
Some of the ways I eat them: I add mixed seeds to yogurt and fruit breakfasts and to oats porridge. I soak chia seeds in water and keep them in the fridge, having a few spoons whenever I feel like it. Or I make a tasty coconut chia pudding to eat as dessert or breakfast, topped with fruit. I also add chia seeds to my yummy date ball recipe. And, more recently, my good friend did a recipe demonstration and I learnt how to make simple seed crackers!
So, if you want to give your body a boost, throw some seeds into your meals. It’s simple, cost effective, and they pack a nutritional punch!
12. Eat lots of garlic and onion (raw and cooked)
We generally cook with lots of garlic and onion.
Both garlic and onion are under-rated superfoods, and it’s so easy to just add some into your meals.
All our soups and stews start with either or both fresh onions and garlic. And they add a lovely flavour. And even with garlic, even if you just add a clove, it’s not going to overpower the meal. You’d have to add A LOT to make it super garlicky.
I’m a HUGE fan of garlic. Apart from it’s flavour, it’s got lots of nutritional benefits. And apart from adding it to soups, stews and any other savoury dishes possible, I like to eat it like a natural supplement when I feel run down. If I’m feeling worn out and like my immune system may be compromised and threatening a flu, I chop up a garlic clove into small pieces (like a pill size), and swallow it with water.
Garlic has potent medicinal properties and I truly believe us eating so much of it is partly why we almost never get sick.
Onion and Garlic are closely related, so we try to add onions in wherever possible. Apart from soups, stews and other dishes, we started also having onion for breakfast. Fresh raw onion and tomatoes chopped up and mixed with tuna on 100% rye toast. YUM!
13. Using lots of herbs and spices for flavour
When you incorporate more healthy eating habits, it doesn’t mean you need to lose flavour! You’re just re-programming your tastebuds and body to enjoy more natural flavours, instead of artificial junk.
I avoid using any readymade sauces and the more artificial ‘spice mixes’.
If you look at the ingredients of many of the readymade sauces, it’s horrifying what they add to some of them! Sugar and chemicals! Arg!
And often, even those readymade spice mixes also contain all sorts of nasty ingredients. I was at a barbecue (aka a “braai” in South Africa) a while back, and they had a ‘spice mix’ – I checked out the ingredients and was absolutely horrified at what was in there – All those nasty E-numbers and other chemical ingredients.
Instead of these packaged sauces and ‘spice mixes’ I just keep it simple. We buy plain herbs – dry and fresh – and plain spices. In terms of herbs we use a variety, with some favourites being Rosemary, Origanum, Fennel and Basil. In terms of spices, we play around with a variety. Some favourites include cumin, paprika, turmeric, black pepper and others.
Adding flavour with natural herbs and spices…
If you find food bland without adding sauces and things, but you want to make a change, start playing around.
If you’re eating some meat, rub some spices or herbs onto it before cooking it. When we eat steak, one of my favourite things to do is to add some cumin and paprika powder to it. Served with some salad (dressing in olive oil and lemon) is an amazing, simple and clean combination! Same goes for chicken, I love just putting some fresh rosemary, bay leaves or fennel seeds under the skin before grilling. Simple as that.
Another nice way to add some spice to your life is to add turmeric to your eggs. When we have our lightly fried eggs on rye, I love adding turmeric and black pepper to the eggs while they’re cooking. Eggs and turmeric is a great combination.
And then there’s chilli… anytime I can add chilli I will! Actually, in case you feel like trying it, here is a simple homemade chilli sauce recipe that you may like. It’s a top favourite on this blog!
Herbs and spices have lots of nutritional benefits, and they’re a great way to add flavour and excitement to meals without the sugar and additives.
14. Watching portions and eating more mindfully
This is one of those healthy eating habits that moves beyond what food you it. And instead looks at how you eat.
I definitely used to eat too much… My eyes were not the size of my stomach and I’d often eat the HUGEST portions and end up feeling like I was going to explode afterwards. I remember many a time lying on the coach after a GIANT plate of pasta, worrying that my stomach was actually going to explode. Seriously, sometimes I got worried! haha
And this is not about counting calories or weight food. Or developing a mindset where you worry about eating too much…
Of course you want to eat enough to give your body what it needs. But it’s about being mindful and actually enjoying your food… it’s about getting involved in your meal… And instead of waffling down your food, eating in the car or while running around, it’s about sitting down and actually enjoying your meal…
Transitioning to mindful eating…
After studying health coaching and the importance of mindful eating, I started making more of an effort here… I firstly started drinking more water so that I wouldn’t confused thirst with hunger. And then I just started dishing up a tiny bit less at a time. And then I focused on eating a lot slower. It helped putting down my knife and fork between every few bites.
I definitely noticed that, when I eat slower and more mindfully, I give my body time to take in the food and naturally ‘feel full’. Before I’d eat so fast that I would be finished eating way before my body even had a chance to signal ‘I’m full’. Now, through eating slower, I can slowly feel myself filling up. This helps me eat more intuitively and discover how much is enough.
This was a process, but over time, like with any habits, you slowly adjust.
I personally think that portions is a big one. We never want to deprive or starve ourselves, but avoiding over-eating is a great idea to explore.
Do you feel like you over-eat? And when you do, do you think that sometimes you could be mistaking thirst for hunger?
Do you practice mindful eating? If so, what works for you?
Share in the comments, I’d love to learn more about your eating habits!
What healthy eating habits do you want to incorporate into your life?
I hope that this post has inspired you to take on one or more healthy eating habits.
As I’ve said multiple times, we’re bio-individual and there is no one right way of eating. But these above habits have definitely helped me feel strong, healthy and balanced! And perhaps they’ll work well for you too… you just need to experiment and see how you feel.
AND PARTICULARLY FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO ARE HARD ON YOURSELVES… Don’t see this as a list of ‘things you need to do’. Because it’s not. These are habits that I’ve slowly built into my life over many years. And it was about going on a journey to nourish my body and find a healthy balance. A balance where I could enjoy my food with freedom and simplicity.
So, if you want to improve your eating habits, give yourself permission to take it slow. Make the journey enjoyable and full of compassion.
I’d love to know, which of the above you’re keen to add to your healthy eating habits? Share in the comments!
And, if you’re like some personalised help building healthy eating habits, feel free to click the image below to book a free one-hour health consultation with me. As a health coach, I’m here for you 🙂
Keep loving good food