Good Eating Habits for 2020: 5 Lessons I’ve Learned

When I was 18, my eating habits were far from healthy. Underweight and carrying around brain fog, digestive issues, and food sensitivities, I had no idea where to start.

Nine years passed, and I’ve finally discovered how to cure these ailments (“cure” is a tricky word–you could say I found ways to not have them flare up and live a bit more).

But eating healthy isn’t something that came naturally to me. Most of my learnings were from failing at my eating habits. And, in this new decade, I’d like to spare you from those same stumbles.

So, here are 5 important lessons I’ve learned so you can achieve better eating habits in 2020.

1. Drink More Water

a woman drinking water as a good eating habit

It’s simple. We’re made up of 70% water, yet we prefer to drink milk, soda, and beer. Water can just be… boring. So boring in fact, that 43% of Americans don’t get enough. [1] But there are so many health benefits to being hydrated.

Water, according to the CDC,

  • Keeps your temperature normal
  • Lubricates and cushions joints
  • Protects your spinal cord and other sensitive tissues
  • Gets rid of wastes through urination, perspiration, and bowel movements

How Much Water Do I Need?

As a general rule, most sources suggest eight 8-ounce glasses of water[2].

A simple way to achieve this is by using a 32 fluid ounce reusable bottle and drink two fills (this is what I do).

As with everything with health, we tend to overcomplicate things. So, to keep it simple, here are 3 tips I use to make sure I get enough water throughout my day.

  1. Buy a water bottle
  2. Add lemon in your water
  3. Filter water to improve the taste

Buying a refillable water bottle will not only keep water available to you but can also measure how much you’re drinking and save plastic bottles. And if you’re like me and maybe don’t want to do it for you, then do it to save your money and the ocean.

But a benefit of water that’s less commonly discussed is that water helps digest foods. So next time you sit down after a home-cooked meal, don’t forget that tall glass of water. And speaking of home-cooked meals.

2. Cook at Home More Often

spaghetti on a plate and fork

We all know the benefits of cooking at home,

  • Healthier foods
  • Saves money
  • Quality time with friends or family
  • Develop a skill
  • Experience different cultures through their food

So why don’t we do it more?

Well, here are some excuses I’ve used in the past:

  • No time
  • Too expensive
  • Too lazy

But as you already know, these are empty excuses. There is time. Cooking is less expensive. And laziness isn’t a great excuse to let health get out of wack.

Excuses can come in other forms too. Like, “I don’t like going to the grocery store” or “I don’t know how to cook”.

And I get it–grocery stores can be crowded and confusing messes and cooking can be intimidating.

But, if you’re interested in developing good eating habits in 2020, cooking at home is essential. Unless you have a private chef/health coach cooking for you, chances are eating out most days of the week is sabotaging your health (and money).

How to Start Cooking at Home More

taking baked chicken, potatoes, and green beans out of an oven. Home cooked meals are one of the best eating habits.

You can start cooking at home more often by first taking it slow. Instead of trying to cook every meal every day, aim for cooking 1-2 days per week. Find a recipe you enjoy (and more importantly–one that makes you feel good).

Then, once you have that down, make slightly bigger batches to spread leftovers into the week. Lastly, over the next 2-4 weeks casually increase it to 3-4 days a week.

To recap,

  • Cook 1-2 days per week
  • Find a tasty, healthy recipe
  • Increase the quantity of food
  • Over the next 2-4 weeks, slowly increase how often you cook to 3-4 days per week

Take each point one at a time, and in no time, you’ll be cooking healthy meals you (and your body) love, and saving loads of money this year (I save an average of $600 a month in food costs by cooking at home).

While cooking at home can be one of the most important parts of maintaining good eating habits in 2020, planning your meals can take it one step further.

3. Plan Your Meals

a template for a weekly healthy meal plan, a staple for good eating habits.

Meal planning, meal prepping, recipe scheduling, you can call this anything you’d like. As long as you take away the main purpose–to keep you on track.

Good eating habits don’t just happen, they’re intentional and most importantly–they’re something to build on. Whether your 2020 goal is to lose weight, eat cleaner, or just have fun cooking, consistently planning meals is one of the best ways forward.

Which is why it’s important to know how to sort out the myths that we often hear.

Meal Planning Myths

myths spelled out with blocks

Like anything in the health world, meal planning is a saturated space. It’s easy to see 10 different guides and overcomplicate it. So, to help reduce the clutter, here are 5 meal prep myths.

5 Meal Prep Myths:

  1. Meal prep on the same day of the week
  2. Devote a lot of time (slow-cookers for the win)
  3. Only make chicken, broccoli, and rice
  4. Make what others in the household like
  5. Never eat out again

Aside from these myths, there are some good pieces of info out there to help with your healthy eating habits in 2020. Here are 5 common meal prep tips I’ve come across and use.

5 Meal Prep Tips:

  1. Have a budget
  2. Make something without a ton of flavors or spices (it can get tiring after a couple of days)
  3. Have enough Tupperware
  4. Make it fun and cook with a friend or family member
  5. Cook two different meals (so you can stagger the days you eat them)

There are many rules and myths that people invent to better their meal plans. But that’s just it–it’s their plan. Not yours. So, don’t be afraid to get some ideas from others, but also try your own approach to meal planning.


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4. Consider Skipping Breakfast

a man sipping tea
How I feel when I skip breakfast and finally get my morning tea

But wait, breakfast is the most important meal of the day, right?

That’s what I was told when I was in elementary school and had a bowl of sugary cereal every morning. So it’s no surprise I proceeded to get sick and tired 2 hours in.

Most people that I talk to about breakfast have similar stories, “I can’t eat breakfast“, “I try to eat breakfast, but I feel sick“, or “I feel like I’m forcing myself to eat in the morning”.

Don’t get me wrong, breakfast has some of the most delicious foods out there. And if you love breakfast and it doesn’t bother you, then feel free to tune to the next section.

But, like me, if breakfast does bother you, then it may be helpful to understand a bit more about why.

Why Breakfast Makes You Feel Sick

a man with an upset stomach

Calling in a sugary airstrike of pancakes, croissants, and cereal on your digestive system first thing in the morning doesn’t sound like a good idea, but it’s how many of us were raised.

We wouldn’t eat an ice cream sundae for breakfast (although that does sound good), so what makes these other sweets okay?

As you might have guessed–having dessert for breakfast doesn’t make for a good eating habit. It also makes sense that large amounts of sugar in the morning can cause an upset stomach. However, that’s not the only thing that can cause nausea in the morning.

Here are some other reasons why you might be feeling sick after breakfast.

  • Eating too big of dinner, too close to bedtime
  • Holding stress/anxiety about the day
  • Or simply–you’re not actually hungry

The problem is, when you’re not used to skipping breakfast, nausea can occur and make you feel like you have no choice but to eat breakfast. However, if you’re like me, then nausea can happen even with breakfast.

So, what can you do?

Intermittent Fasting

a notepad with "intermittent fasting" on it. Intermittent fasting is one of the best eating habits to utilize.

You have to push through and let your body adapt.

Intermittent fasting, or IF, is a fancy way of saying “skipping breakfast”.

The main idea is to allow 16 hours between your last meal of the day and your first meal. This is commonly known as the 16:8 rule (16 hours of fasting and 8 hours to eat).

So, fasting could be between 8 pm to 12 pm, or 6 pm to 10 am, and so on.

That way your digestive system can take a break, and divert more energy to the rest of your body (hello all-day energy).

While you’re fasting, drinks like coffee and tea (and of course–water) are okay as they don’t jumpstart your digestive system in the same way as food.

But even healthy snacks like dark chocolate, nuts, and berries will keep your gut going, just like coal to a fire.

How to Start Intermittent Fasting

a starting line

If you’re interested in trying out intermittent fasting, it can be hard to start. Spoiler: you’re going to feel hungry before bed and before lunch.

So it’s important to not let those cravings sabotage you and your good eating habits. I’ve had this happen multiple times over the years, but I found ways to get back on the intermittent fasting horse.

5 Tips I Use to Intermittently Fast:

  1. Make sure dinner keeps you satiated
  2. Low-carb, high-fat foods do help but aren’t required (they keep you full longer)
  3. Drink water or tea when you get hungry (use herbal tea if you want to skip the caffeine)
  4. Get a good night’s sleep
  5. Practice ways to resist office donuts

Intermittent fasting has helped manage my energy throughout the day, but I also had some unexpected benefits. Here are 3 that I found.

  • Increased confidence (if I can conquer hunger and cravings, the rest is easy)
  • Less stress (planning three meals is tough. Two is much more manageable)
  • Saves money

Intermittent Fasting Benefits

Aside from my personal experience, there is good evidence that intermittent fasting can help weight loss and the reduction of some diseases[3].

But there’s another reason why intermittent fasting has been getting more popular. Other than being a great eating habit with healthy benefits, there’s evidence to suggest it extends lifespan.

an old woman smiling
There’s evidence that intermittent fasting can increase lifespan

“Low-energy conditions such as dietary restriction and intermittent fasting have previously been shown to promote healthy aging. Understanding why this is the case is a crucial step toward being able to harness the benefits therapeutically.”

The Harvard Gazette

This might get a tad complex, so feel free to skip to the next paragraph.
The way I see it–since our bodies are comprised of cells, and cells process nutrients from food and serve the body by dividing, then increasing our food increases cell division. And since there’s a limited amount of divisions before our cells’ DNA begins to fall apart, we age faster.

By limiting the amount of food we eat (intermittent fasting), we are giving our bodies, and therefore our cells a break from processing and transporting all of the nutrients, vitamins, toxins, and anything else that comes from our food. So, the theory is: the less we eat, the longer we live.

Even the ancient Greek philosopher, Plato, said,

I fast for greater physical and mental efficiency

Plato

Following a 16:8 intermittent fasting schedule has been transformative for myself and others, but there’s another habit that can take it one step further.

5. Don’t Eat 2 Hours Before Bedtime

a man watching a movie and snacking on popcorn doesn't make for a good eating habit

Just like you, dinner is one of my favorite meals of the day. There’s just so many options and everything is so tasty–especially after a rough day at work.

But eating within 2 hours of bedtime can cause several issues such as:

  • Stomach aches
  • Acid reflux
  • Heartburn
  • Sleep issues
  • Morning nausea

So, there’s a lot to be gained from spacing food and bedtime apart. But how can you ignore the hunger pains at night?

How to Not Get Hungry at Night

a woman looking for a late night snack in the fridge

I had a problem with eating late at night. I knew it was a bad habit, but I didn’t know where to start. Over the years, I found ways to combat the late-night cravings that were sabotaging my healthy eating habits.

So, borrowing from the prior section, here are some tips I found to snuff out my nighttime hunger.

3 Tips I Use to Reduce Nighttime Cravings:

  1. Have a dinner that makes you full (lean on the healthier side)
  2. Low-carb, high-fat foods can help
  3. Drink water or tea when you feel hungry

Just like any good eating habit, these will take time. Take it slow and choose one to focus on over 1-2 weeks. Once you have that down, add on one more.

Remember, these are healthy eating habits, not quick ways to lose weight. You will see and feel progress as long as you understand you’re playing the long-game.

A chalkboard sign for healthy eating habits. "Don't make resolutions, create habits".

Want some easy and healthy dinner recipes? Check out this video by HealthNut Nutrition.

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