How to Develop a Healthy Eating Habit

Dr. Purushothaman
October 15, 2013

Bad Eating Habits
Webster's Dictionary defines a habit as "a pattern of behaviour acquired through frequent repetition." In other words, a particular action or practice becomes established as a habit after prolonged repetition. It is a course of action that becomes engrained in the mind, in the way a path in a wood forms when people regularly walk along the same beaten track.
Bad eating habits develop in the same way and for most adults the difficulty they experience in kicking the habits stems from the fact that these began when they were children and have been part of their lifestyle for many years.
Healthy Eating as a Way of Life
The same is true when it comes to eating for good health. Just as one cannot become fit by doing exercises only now and again - to become fit one has to exercise regularly and to become an athlete, exercise has to be a way of life, similarly, we can never develop a healthy eating habit only by occasionally eating healthy food. Eating healthy food also has to become a way of life. However, the first step in developing a healthy eating habit is to educate ourselves about the nutritional aspects of the food we eat, in order that we may distinguish the good from the bad. A basic understanding of the nutritional value of food is essential if we want to learn how to eat for good health.
Why do we eat food?
We eat food because our physical bodies require proper nutrition to function. The importance of correct nutrition can be seen in the various ailments that can result from under nourishment or unbalanced diets. Good diets provide balanced nutrition which reduces cholesterol, blood pressure, and helps with weight control. And to function properly, the body must have the correct combination of the following nutrients.
Carbohydrates - these are the primary source of energy for the body. The body converts carbohydrates to glucose which is used immediately as fuel for the body or stored and used later. However, too much glucose is not good as it is stored as fat.
There are two types of carbohydrates - simple and complex. Sugars are simple carbohydrates. Starches and fibres are complex carbohydrates. Examples of each type include bread, potatoes, pasta and broccoli, apples and bananas, respectively.
Proteins - these are used to build muscles and other tissues. They also function in the creation of hormones. Like carbohydrates, excess protein is stored as fat. There are two main sources of protein - meat and vegetables. However, one should not rely too much on meat as a source of protein because animal protein is high in saturated fat, which can cause cholesterol.
Fat - contrary to popular belief, fat is actually a nutrient that the body needs. The issue is the type of fat. There are two kinds of fat - saturated and unsaturated. Saturated fats are the unwanted variety that can cause cholesterol, whilst unsaturated fats are desirable and healthy. Saturated fats are found in animal products such as butter, cheese, whole milk, ice cream, cream, and fatty meats. Examples of unsaturated fats include fish, olive, sunflower, corn and soybean oils.
Vitamins - these mainly work to maintain the body's energy levels in the performance of tasks. Some vitamins also help to prevent disease. For example, vitamins A, C, and E, also called antioxidants, help reduce the risk of coronary artery disease by preventing build-up on the artery walls. Vitamin B-1 is needed for digestion and proper nervous system function, Vitamin B-2 is used for normal cell growth, whilst Vitamin B-3 helps to detoxify your body. Folic acid assists with the production of red blood cells. Vitamin D assists with the absorption of calcium and Vitamin K helps blood clot to clot.
Minerals and trace elements - these help variously in many of the body's processes. Minerals like chlorine help make digestive juices whilst Phosphorus helps build strong bones. Both can be found in the foods we consume. Trace elements are required only in minute amounts and Salt is another nutrient the body needs, although more than 2400 milligrams per day should not be consumed, as it can raise blood pressure.
From the foregoing, it goes without saying that balanced nutrition is the basis of a healthy diet. Armed with a basic understanding of the nutritional value of the food we eat, we are in a position to follow certain guidelines in our endeavor to develop healthy eating habits.

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