Nutrition 9 Nutritional Habits to Leave You Feeling Better

When it comes to improving nutritional habits, it is all about breaking those old habits and replacing them with new ones.

I have outlined 9 new habits that should form the base of your nutrition plan. Initially they will become a part of your thought process when it comes to planning meals etc. However, with consistency they will soon become a second nature.

nutritional habits

1. Eat lean protein with every meal or snack

It’s critical to eat some lean protein with every meal. Typically, we recommend that women get 20–30g protein per meal (depending on your weight goals) and men get 40–60g protein per meal. By doing this, you’ll be sure to stimulate your metabolism, improve your muscle mass, muscle recovery, and reduce your overall body fat. Keep in mind that protein is not limited to just breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Include protein dense foods in your snacks to.

Lean protein examples

  • Lean meats (ground beef, chicken, turkey, venison)
  • Fish (salmon, tuna, cod)
  • Eggs (egg whites, occasional whole eggs)
  • Low fat dairy (cottage cheese, yoghurt, part skim cheese)
  • Vegan protein (quinoa)
  • Milk protein supplements

2. Eat vegetables with every meal or snack

Research has demonstrated that in addition to the micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) packed into vegetables, there are also important plant chemicals (phytochemicals) that are essential for optimal physiological functioning. Eat starchy carbohydrates (including simple sugars, sports drinks, bread, rice, pasta, potatoes etc.) during and within the few hours after exercise only.

Only eat starchy carbs after exercise

Your body’s carbohydrate tolerance is best during and immediately after exercise. Thus, the majority of your daily carbohydrate energy should come during these times. Stick with fruit and vegetables for the rest of the day as they contain more fibre with a higher micronutrient/ macronutrient ratio, producing a smaller insulin response and better-managed blood sugar.

Carb – simple sugars (eat only during and after exercise – if at all!)

  • Sports and recovery drinks, breakfast cereal, fizzy drinks, fruit juice, table sugar

Carb – starchy foods (eat soon after exercise)

  • Bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, oats, cereal, grains (wheat, rye etc)

Carb – fruit and vegetables (eat with every meal)

  • Leafy greens, carrots, tomatoes, broccoli, oranges, avocado, berries

3. Eat healthy fats daily

About 30% of your diet should come from fats – not much less, not much more. However, special care should be made to ensure that this intake is balanced between saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat. A goal of 1/3 saturated, 1/3 monounsaturated, and 1/3 polyunsaturated fat is recommended. By balancing out your fat intake, health, body composition and performance can be optimized.

However, that looks more complicated than it actually is. Eating this way is easier than many of you might think. Just focus on adding the healthy monounsaturated fats (such as extra virgin olive oil) and omega 3 fats, found in oily fish like salmon and tuna. By doing this, you will definitely make your diet more nutritional and healthy!

Foods rich in saturated fats:

  • Red meat, dairy, butter, coconut oil, palm oil

Foods rich in monounsaturated fats:

  • Olive oil, almonds, brazil nuts, avocado

Foods rich in polyunsaturated fats:

  • Flax seeds/oil, oily fish, walnuts

4. Don’t drink more than 0 calories

Water is an essential nutrient with benefits including hydration, digestion, recovery and energy. Fruit juice, fizzy drinks and other sugary beverages should be removed from the diet. While many people believe that fruit juice is a healthy alternative to fizzy drinks, they can have virtually no nutritional value and are no substitute for actual fruit and vegetables.

In general, 2–3 litres of water per day is recommended, which may vary depending on body size. Water is found in all of our body’s cells and is essential for optimum health and fat loss. As little as a 1–3% drop in the bodies fluid can cause a reduction in both aerobic and muscular performance.

The kidneys can’t function properly without water, putting stress on the liver. The liver metabolises fat to use for energy, but when under stress less fat is used and instead stored. Keeping hydrated will burn more fat for energy. However, it is important to know that over hydration can result in kidney problems.

Hydration tips

  • Drink 250ml before each meal to suppress hunger, making you feel fuller
  • Drink at least 500ml of water during intense exercise sessions
  • Have a water bottle or flask with you at work
  • Add lemon to water (enzymes in the lemon aid liver production)
  • Eat plenty of fruit and veg, they contain water and vital vitamins and minerals

5. Eat ‘real food’ where possible

Your food intake should come from high quality whole food sources that conform to the other 9 habits listed. While there are times when liquid nutritional supplements and protein bars are useful (during and immediately after exercise, as well as when travelling), your daily dietary intake should be composed of whole, largely unprocessed foods. When it comes to vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals, no pills can come close to what fruit and vegetables contain.

Prioritize extra servings of fruit and vegetables over supplements.

Example of real foods: Chicken breast with new potatoes and broccoli

Example of processed foods: Chicken nuggets and chips

6. Plan ahead and prepare meals

Many people say that being organized is the key to maintaining a healthy diet. Even with the best intentions, healthy habits can fall by the wayside if you don’t think about what you want to eat, in advance. Leaving it to the last minute can mean you resort to unhealthy snacks or convenience food, packed with refined sugars and salt. The best way to avoid this is to prepare your food in advance. At least plan out your meals and do your good shop according to this plan.

You should come up with a food preparation strategy that works for you. This may involve batch-cooking meals on Sunday for the following days or getting up 30 minutes earlier and preparing food for the rest of the day.

7. Eat a wide variety of foods

We, as humans, can get stuck in ruts, and end up eating similar meals. By eating a varied diet, and incorporating a rainbow of fruit and vegetables into your meals, you can access a wide array of antioxidants and nutrients, that you can only access by varying the contents of your fridge.

8. Balance is key

An important thing to remember is this: your diet doesn’t have to be perfect and fully nutritional 100% of the time. Food should be an enjoyable and sociable experience, so the occasional treat is perfectly normal. Problems arise when treats become more common than healthy alternatives. So as long as you are ensuring you eat well for the majority of the week, a weekend treat is allowed.

9. In a nut shell…

When it’s time to plan, prepare, or order food consult  to make sure you’re sticking to your habits. Each time you refer back to the following points you’ll reinforce this new and better way of thinking about food and building a nutritional meal plan. Eventually you won’t even need it to refer back to them. Your habits will have been changed – for life!

Extra tips on improving nutritional habits

When did you last eat?

If it’s been longer than 3–4 hours, eat as soon as possible.

Where is the lean protein?

Are you about to eat at least 1 serving of lean protein? (One serving is 20–30g for women and 40–60g for men).

Where are the vegetables?

Are you about to eat at least 1–2 servings? Prepare them any way you like, but

eat them with every meal (one serving is about 1⁄2 cup of vegetables).

Where are the carbs?

If you haven’t just exercised put down the pasta, bread, rice and other starchy carbs in favour of a double serving of fruit and vegetables. If you have just exercised, a mix of carb sources is fine.

Where are your fats coming from?

You need some fat from animal foods, olive oil, mixed nuts and flax seeds/flax seed oil. Spread them throughout the day.

Have you eaten enough healthy fats?

30% of your diet should come from fats.

Are you drinking water or green tea?

Avoid the calorie containing drinks; send back the fizzy drink, fruit juice and anything else with more than 0 calories.

Are you breaking the 10% rule?

Are you breaking any of the rules above? If so, count this as part of your 10% and get back on track with your very next meal.

What do you think?