‘Stack’ Nutrition Habits for Healthy Change

blog diet lifestyle nutrition Aug 05, 2021

Change is hard. Particularly when we need to make changes to what and how we are eating. Part of what makes these changes so challenging is that we have huge links from our food choices and habits to our family, our culture, and our sense of comfort and safety. When we get ‘advice’ about how to reach our health goals by making nutritional changes, well, I can hear the alarm bells from here!

Changes to how we nourish ourselves must be adopted slowly and carefully.

For best success, our new habits must be small and attached to our current daily habits so that our new behaviours are simpler to adopt and to maintain. 

In his book ‘Atomic Habits’, James Clear talks about habit stacking. He points out that, when we connect established habits to new ones, it's not as tough to create change. We can access the strong neural connections already in place to introduce new behaviours.

In our newest course, ‘Nutrition Counselling for Kinesiologists’, we talked about some of the simplest but most effective habits to stack on to other habits during our day:

  1. Add a glass of room temperature water with a squeeze of lemon as a first step in the kitchen each morning. Sip this water as you feed your pets and put on the kettle or tinker with the coffee maker.
  2. End your meals with something sweet or decadent like a date or two to three squares of dark chocolate. Brush your teeth after each meal so that you feel like you are ‘finished’ eating.
  3. Eat your entire meal without interruption or distraction. Focus on your food rather than sitting in front of your laptop or scrolling IG with your phone. Finish eating within 20 minutes or so, instead of dragging out your meal over the next hour as you work.
  4. Set a reminder in your phone to prompt you to have your meals at regular times. Eat two to three meals each day and avoid snacks. Try to fast for 12 to 16 hours between dinner and your breakfast the next day. This is easy to do if you finish your dinner by 7 PM and have your breakfast the next day around 7 AM. Gradually push your breakfast a little later each week.
  5. Draft a weekly menu and stick with the same online food order each week for convenience. Shop in person once a week for your meal ‘add-ons’ that will give you some much-needed daily variety.
  6. Choose two days each week to set aside one hour to prep simple meals. Oven baking on sheet pans will make this easy. Consider BBQing extra meat, fish and poultry. Make double batches of smoothies. Create mixed salads with chopped veggies, lentils, chickpeas and beans. Toss the greens in when you are ready to eat. 
  7. Use  glass containers for creating ready to eat freezer meals. After you turn on the dishwasher every evening, take out frozen containers of the next day’s dinner and put them in the fridge before bed, so they’ll be ready for the next day. 

A little extra prep and planning time will make it easier to create new ‘stackable’ habits. You’ll feel organized and not overwhelmed. Your body and mind (and your family) will thank you!

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