Redesigning Dietary Habits

Published with Good Morning Guru.

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So many of the dietary choices we make are simply due to habits. Although some habits may naturally be beneficial – like packing a nutritious lunch for work every day – many simply don’t serve us.

Interestingly, we tend to easily adopt others’ eating habits, for example, when we’re eating with others we tend to match both their eating pace and their portion sizes. If someone decides to spring for a dessert or extra drink, we’re likely to go along with it. If we’re constantly having meals with others’, we slowly begin to take on their habits as our own.

Meal time is such an important opportunity to connect with our loved ones, so this is something we should all be able to enjoy, but becoming aware of our habits and how they may be affected by others can be empowering and allow us to better make choices that work for us.

Have you heard the phrase, “You are the company you keep?” When it comes to eating habits, this is especially applicable – you essentially take on your friends’ and family members’ eating habits.

I’m a firm believer in following a diet that you enjoy, but we don’t want that to come at the cost of our health. So although, it’s great to give yourself the flexibility to indulge if that’s what you’re feeling at that moment, knowing how affected our diet is by those around us, can help us to make mindful and deliberate dietary choices where we can enjoy our food without constantly getting swept up in others’ habits.

This information helps to give you back some of the power in these decisions – allowing you to mindfully and consciously opt for a certain food rather than having it simply because someone else is having it.

Tricks to help you naturally default to more nutritious options:

  • Keep a few nutritious, plant-based cookbooks on hand – seeing these as you cook may help to inspire you and create an environment that subtly nudges you to wholesome meals
  • Consider following your favorite chefs, nutritionists, or food bloggers who create dishes that you think look not only delicious, but nourishing – although it’s digital, these personalities become part of your network and your overall food environment, so what you see when you’re scrolling through Instagram may have more influence over your food choices than you think. Similarly, you may want to unfollow accounts that might be nudging you in the other direction.
  • Chat with your partner, roommate, or family member – whoever you share the majority of your meals with. This may seem silly, but it’s a great opportunity to talk about your shared food environment and explore the habits that may or may not be working for each of you and how your food environment is contributing to them.
  • Order first – if you’re out to eat, you can help set the tone by ordering foods that you know will make you feel well.
  • Keep fruits and vegetables in sight and ready to eat. The easier our fruit and veggie options are, the more likely we are to choose them.

On the flip side, this concept suggests that our healthy choices might help to inspire others to adopt our more nutritious options. So keeping doing your thing!