Healthy Eating for Your Active Lifestyle

Does this sound like you?

I usually:

  • Skip breakfast
  • Sit at my desk and nibble all day
  • Eat unhealthy snacks while watching my favourite television show
  • Pick up a coffee at the drive-through every morning
  • Eat while preparing food

Nurture Good Habits


Why do you make the food choices you do? It’s habit. If you have some unhealthy habits, you can develop new ones and move toward a healthier eating pattern. All it takes is one change at a time!

Eating habits play a crucial role in making food and eating decisions. While some habits are good, others may require improvement. Take the Assess Your Eating Habits quiz to rate your current eating habits.

Do you have room for improvement? Follow these three steps to help you make changes:

  • Reflect: consider both good and bad eating habits
  • Replace: change the habits that need improving
  • Reinforce: maintain your new eating habits

Reflect

Eighty-six percent of Canadians rate their eating habits as excellent, very good or good according to the last Tracking Nutrition Trends Survey. However, information from Statistics Canada reveals that half of adult Canadians do not eat the recommended daily servings of vegetables and fruit and that over two-thirds are not getting enough milk products as compared to Canada’s Food Guide recommendations.

This begs the question, do Canadians truly know what it means to have healthy eating habits?

Where you are starting from? The Assess Your Eating Habits quiz is an excellent way to identify your good habits and those you can improve. Keeping track of your food intake can also help.

The Dietitians of Canada EATracker is an excellent tool you can use to keep track of your daily food intake. EATracker allows you to input the foods you eat and provides feedback on whether or not you meet recommendations for energy and nutrients. The feedback is specific for your age, gender, height, weight and activity level. Once you have identified your eating habits, move to the replace step.

Replace

Choose one habit to work on at a time. Trying to overhaul your entire eating pattern at once is a recipe for disaster. This mindset can lead to feeling discouraged and can prevent you from making lasting changes.

Where do I start?

  • Use the results from the Assess Your Eating Habits quiz to guide your goal setting.
  • Start small. Pick one habit you’d like to improve (e.g. eat at regular times, add an extra serving of fruit per day).
  • Write a SMART goal (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time oriented) to change your eating habit.
  • Include the actions you will take to meet your goal.

Write a SMART goal

For example, if you typically skip breakfast, make that your habit to improve.

My goal: To eat breakfast regularly to improve my well-being. Specific: I will eat breakfast seven days a week.

Measurable: I will place a checkmark on my calendar on the days I eat breakfast.

Attainable: I will plan breakfast the evening before by choosing from my list of quick and easy breakfast ideas.

Realistic: I will eat before 10:00 a.m. every morning.

Time Oriented: In four weeks, I will be eating breakfast every morning.

Actions to help achieve my goal:

  • Tape a list of healthy breakfast ideas to the fridge.
  • Grocery shop for healthy breakfast items and ingredients every week.
  • Put out items like a bowl and a cereal box to help remind me to eat breakfast in the morning.
  • Set my alarm 15 minutes earlier so I have time to eat breakfast.

It takes 21 days to form a new habit

Alberta Milk Registered Dietitian Jaclyn Chute says, “In a society that demands immediate results and quick fixes, it is small and sustainable changes that have the greatest long-term impact on your health. Remember, it takes 21 days to form a new habit, so be patient with the process. Notice all the benefits of your new lifestyle such as feeling better and having more energy.”

Reinforce

New habits do not develop overnight. Be patient and realize that practising new habits becomes easier with time. Celebrate your successes along the way. Do something special to recognize and reward yourself for the changes you have made. If you experience a setback or revert to an old habit, stop and consider the reason for what happened. Ask, “What changes can I make to be more successful in the future?” Then, move forward. Once you’ve reached your goal and integrated it into your lifestyle, you can start on a new goal. Use the three Rs—reflect, replace and reinforce—to support your journey toward a healthier lifestyle.

Article revised December 2014

Jaclyn Chute

Registered Dietitian

Jaclyn (BSc, RD) is a registered dietitian and nutrition educator at Alberta Milk. Integrating the science of nutrition with the taste of great food is her passion, whether at work or in her kitchen.

Article posted on October 4, 2010



Active Tip
Try to commit to a reasonable fitness goal you can handle with long term benefits. Walking the dog three times per week or a 30-minute activity at lunch are examples.

The expert says

“In a society that demands immediate results and quick fixes, it is small and sustainable changes that have the greatest long-term impact on your health. Remember, it takes 21 days to form a new habit, so be patient with the process. Notice all the benefits of your new lifestyle such as feeling better and having more energy.” Jaclyn Chute, Registered Dietitian