Consider the last time you opened the fridge, looked inside for three minutes, and then realized you were standing in front of an open fridge. “That’s a habit because you’re doing it out of routine,” says strength and conditioning expert, Abe Maynard (@abemaynard). “When unmanaged, these habits have the potential to ruin our hard work despite our best efforts,” he notes. But, when controlled, nutritional habits can help you manage your weight, build muscle, and enhance overall wellbeing.
Here, Maynard’s 5 tips for developing healthy nutrition habits:
1. Start with 1
Instead of trying to overall your entire diet, pick one meal that you can improve, says Maynard. If you’re usually starving at breakfast and love your go-to, but lunch is something you care less about, start there. Or maybe breakfast is the meal that you usually just throw together (or grab and go) so you’re open to change there more-so than dinner which you look forward to all day. Whatever meal or snack you decide to start with, from there you can identify how you will improve it. “For example, adding a handful of spinach to your smoothie or a half avocado to your eggs will help you consume more nutrient dense whole foods in a day,” says Maynard. “Once you build confidence in your ability to change your habit, then you can aim to swap processed foods for whole foods.” Looking for breakfast, lunch, and dinner ideas? Get your digital copy of the HFP cookbook.
2. Make swaps, not cuts
“This swapping is a key component to building habits as it doesn’t impact your pre-existing schedule and meal timing,” says Maynard. So if your nightly beer (or three) is the habit you’re trying to improve upon, you could swap it for a homemade mocktail [HFP likes Seedlip] or favorite tea. If you’re trying to eat less sugar, you could replace your afternoon cookies with a protein-rich (no-sugar-added) Greek yogurt with a few mashed up raspberries and chia seeds for a more filling but just as satisfying snack.
3. Allow for mistakes
“The best way to make a habit stick is to roll with the resistance that you experience through the process,” says Maynard. “Allow yourself the freedom to make mistakes as you perfect your new routine.”
4. Write it all down
“My clients have found success with journaling their habit consistency,” says Maynard. HFP likes this habit-tracking journal from James Clear. You can also get apps, like Way of Life, to track habits regularly.
5. Set your reminders
“Setting an alarm to put your shoes by the door might be the habit that helps you build consistency with running,” says Maynard. “Similarly, taking the salmon out of the freezer the night before might be the habit that drives your goal of cooking more meals at home.” Consider the habits you’re trying to form, and then the things that you can do to make them harder to abandon.