Healthy snacks cereal

To The People Who Want Better Eating Habits – Here’s How.

How often do we hear it, right? ‘The diet starts tomorrow.’ Well, tomorrow will always be tomorrow, unless we start making it today; but to quote Simon Sinek – ‘the hardest part is starting’. Changing unhealthy eating habits seems to be a Herculean task for many, especially when there are so many misconceptions around it!

From equating healthy food to ‘rabbit food’, to having unrealistic fitness goals (not everyone has a thigh gap guys! For some women, it’s structurally impossible when we all have different body types), eating healthy seems like an overwhelming task. Especially when we’re surrounded by all the delicious Malaysian food.
Here’s the thing though – things like char kuey teow, nasi lemak, or even banana fritters, aren’t necessarily unhealthy. I’d like to believe that ‘eating healthy’ comes from doing everything in moderation. Of course, we all know we can’t eat fried food every day, but neither would you be incredibly fit and healthy if all you ate were carrot sticks and lettuce; balance is key!

That said, there are a few important pointers to keep in mind when you want to start eating healthier:


1. Whole Food > Processed Food

fresh food in grocer


The key is to always try your best to choose whole food instead of processed. Stay away from boxed food and quick instant meals, and stick to grocery shopping in the fresh foods aisle. Fast food (literally) is available there too! Fruits only need a quick wash, and they even sell prepared boxed salad for you to grab and go. All whole foods are packed with nutrients kept intact without high heat processing. Even if you can’t have your entire meal with just fresh foods, maybe add in fruits and raw veggies to your meals as a side dish! It’s a good start.

Why? Not only are whole foods healthier, but they also keep you full longer.


2. Cut down on sugar

sugar and iced coffee on a table flatlay

Maybe not go cold turkey if you can’t, but just a ‘kurang manis, boss!’ is a step in the right direction. Over time, you will realize that as you consume less sugar, you’ll begin to crave less sugar as well.


3. Read up on useful information

Knowing what to eat when you’re eating clean is easier when you’re well-informed about the types of healthy options at different types of eateries. That way, even if you’re pressed for time and have no choice but to go to the mamak, it’s not impossible to eat healthy there! All you have to do is spend a little time reading up on what’s available there. For example, you could opt for tosai or chapati instead or roti canai, as roti canai is fried in far more oil compared to the former two. Go for ‘teh O’ instead of teh tarik – less milk, fewer calories! Choose soup-based meals instead of fried. If you’re really craving that plate of mee goreng, split your meal with someone else; and after that craving is fixed, snack on fruits later on to fill your tummy.


4. Be vigilant

Let me just repeat myself: whole foods are amazing. They are nutrient-dense but calorie-light, which means they don’t bomb your whole day’s calorie intake, but still, keep you full. Here, let me better illustrate this:

bagel on a plate
Image source: Dailymail

This plate of bagel amounts up to 200 calories – but who only eats up to half a bagel and calls it a meal, am I right?
broccoli in a bowl
This huge serving of broccoli? Also 200 calories, and I’m sure most of us here will feel full by the end of the first stalk.

We’re not asking you to diligently count your calories. The point is, if we do not take care and be vigilant, we can easily overeat by 2000 calories in a day, when a day’s worth of calorie intake for an active adult is about 1,600 to 2,400 calories. In comparison, it is really hard to overeat on whole foods, because they are made to be so nutrient-dense, we feel full long before we manage to overeat on them.


5. Drink more water

person drinking water

Of course, the last thing we can do is to drink more water! Many times when we feel hungry, it is us simply being thirsty; but our brains are scrambling the signals and we just end up eating more when we really should be drinking more. Insufficient water has a major effect on energy levels and brain function, so be sure to constantly hydrate yourself; plus, it’s also great for boosting your metabolic rate!

Now, if you’re one who really hates the taste of plain water, infuse your water with fruits or cucumbers to enhance the taste! Cucumbers, citrus fruits and berries are popular choices, but you can use any combination of fruits that suit your fancy. If you’re just forgetful and can’t remember to drink the water if the bottle isn’t right in front of you, you can try setting alarms as a reminder throughout the day until it becomes a habit.
At the end of the day, do not expect the change to come fast. According to psychologist Jeremy Dean, it takes around 21 to 66 days for something to become a habit for an average person. While it starts off steep at the beginning – push on! Over time, you’ll see great progress, the results will motivate you to keep going, and eventually, healthy eating will feel more like a lifestyle instead of a chore.

All the best!

Teacher by day, dancer by night, Crystal holds equal passion in both her hobby and her day job, and seeks to impart a difference to the lives of her students. Left to her own devices, she cooks up a mean meal, and enjoys eating it just as much.

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