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How to develop healthy eating habits

At one stage or another, the majority of us will have fallen into unhealthy eating habits - whether it’s comfort eating, ordering a takeaway because we’re too tired to cook, grabbing fast food on the go or just reaching for the biscuits because they’re there. We might even do it without thinking sometimes. While the odd bit of fast food or the occasional sugary treat isn’t the end of the world, developing and maintaining healthy eating habits can help us install positive food behaviours and discourage falling back into old unhealthy habits. In this article, we’ll explore some of the ways you can develop healthy eating habits, such as keeping a food diary and reducing portion size.

How to build healthy eating habits

There are a number of great ways to build and maintain healthy eating habits. Let’s explore a few examples:

1. Make meals more fun

If you think healthy eating is all about eating uninspiring salads and drinking nothing but water, it’s time to dispel that myth. With so many great resources and recipes available, you don’t have to compromise on taste and flavour, but you can explore different ways to create the perfect healthy meal or spice up some old favourites. Why not check out our How to eat healthy article for more inspiration? You can also download the Easy Meals app to discover healthier versions of foods you love.

2. Eat breakfast every morning

We’ve all heard the old saying ‘breakfast is the most important meal of the day’ - so why is it frequently the most skipped meal of the day? Eating a healthy breakfast provides vital nutrients your body needs for energy to get you through the day. Eating a healthy breakfast speeds up metabolism, which helps with weight management. There is also evidence to suggest people who enjoy a healthy breakfast in the morning are less likely to snack or graze throughout the day.

3. Keep a food diary

Keep a food journal of what you eat and drink every day – meals, snacks and everything else! This will help you acknowledge and take accountability for what you’re eating – but be honest with yourself and don’t be tempted to leave anything out. Consider also making a note of how much salt, sugar or saturated fats you’re consuming, and record how you felt before, during, and after you’ve eaten each snack or meal.

4. Get portion size right

A well-balanced diet is not only about eating the right types of food, but the right amount too. Eating too little of any of the major food groups can be as bad for you as eating too much. We dig a little deeper into this in our article How to measure portion sizes. Evidence has also demonstrated that over the years, portion and plate sizes have increased dramatically. One tip to consider is ensuring you don’t overload your plate with food, or you could even try eating from a smaller plate which can help trick your brain into thinking you’re full. The NHS Eatwell Guide demonstrates how much we should be eating overall from each food group.

5. Create a strict grocery shopping list (and stick to it)

It’s one thing to make a shopping list featuring nothing but healthy food items - it’s another thing to stick to it and not be tempted by the sugary treats, junk food or processed foods on supermarket aisles during our weekly shop.

Keeping your home free of treats and snacks reduces the risk of giving into any sugar cravings. Fill your fridge and food cupboard with healthy products containing vitamins and minerals such as fruit, nuts, vegetables and seeds. Surrounding yourself with these sorts of foods, rather than the ones you’re trying to avoid, will lead to far better eating and snacking habits. For more inspiration, take a look at our Healthy snacking article. 

What are the benefits of healthy eating habits?

Developing healthy eating habits can set you on the path to a healthier, happier you. Some of the benefits of a healthy diet include:

  • Lowers risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes and chronic diseases such as cancer
  • Better sleeping patterns
  • May help you live longer
  • Helps to maintain a healthy weight
  • Helps to boost immunity
  • Improved mental health 
  • Keeps skin, teeth, and eyes healthy.
  • Supports a healthy digestive system function
  • More energy throughout the day leading to increased physical activity

How can parents encourage healthy eating habits

Developing healthy eating habits as adults is a challenge in itself, but how do we also install these habits in children? This can be a challenging task, particularly with younger children who are generally fussy eaters, but it’s important to persevere. The habits you encourage in your children now will likely stay with them into adulthood. 

Here are some strategies you may wish to try with your little ones.

Get them cooking

Many children love kitchen and cooking roleplay so why not get them in on the cooking action for real? Meals such as homemade pita bread pizza or fruit smoothies are easy to make and they will love getting all the ingredients ready and tasting the end result.

Make meals colourful

Ask them to pick their favourite fruit and vegetables and group them by colour. Then let them choose which ones they would like to eat for lunch or supper, making sure they use a different colour each mealtime. They can keep a record of which colours they eat each day and receive a different coloured sticker for each different coloured fruit or vegetable they eat.

Grow their own food

Growing a variety of fruit and vegetables at home or at an allotment is an exciting activity which teaches kids where food really comes from. Involve your little ones in planting, watering, weeding and most importantly, eating the food they’ve helped to grow. 

Sit at the table to eat

Eating at the table with the family rather than on a tray watching tv or playing on phones not only teaches good social skills, but also encourages children to eat their food more slowly and be mindful about what they’re eating. If they see adults eating healthily, they will be more inclined to do the same.

Use Reward Charts

Reward charts help to keep track of kids’ food habits and turn healthy eating into a positive and rewarding experience. Award them a gold star each time they finish their meal or try a new type of food, and set new targets for them each week. If they reach that target you could consider rewarding them with a sweet treat.

Looking for help with developing healthy eating habits?

If you’re looking for support in trying to eat more healthily, LiveWell Dorset is here to help! Our friendly team of coaches and advisers are ready to support you through your journey of leading a healthier lifestyle, helping you to stay on track and reach your personal goals. Why not give us a call to learn more about our services, or register with us today to get your journey started!


I drank too much alcohol and had unhealthy eating habits. Pastry is such a bad thing, it's all those pies, pasties and sausage rolls!

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The tailored approach LiveWell Dorset uses to come up with solutions to the things that are stopping us achieving our goals, is based upon work done by University College London developing the COM-B model of behaviour change. In this model, all behaviour is influenced by understanding a person’s capability to change, their opportunity to change and their motivation to change. By understanding which of these is the biggest barrier to change, we can tailor support accordingly. This model of behaviour change is at the centre of the support we offer, online and in person.

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