• twiter
  • Facebook
  • Whatsapp
  • Copy

How to eat: Healthy eating habits

4 healthy eating habits for you to include

The Whole Truth Team
5 min read • 
14 September 2023

Just like life, your food deserves a philosophy. We think a lot about life. Or, to be more precise, about how to live it. But we don’t think about healthy eating habits.

Whether it’s just a pursuit of happiness or a journey to fulfilling your purpose. Whether it’s about living in the present or living for others. Or it’s about what you do today, or about what you achieve before you die.

Whatever is your take, I’d argue you’ve spent considerable time thinking of ‘How to Live’. It’s only recently, that food, life’s fuel, has started receiving similar treatment. In a way, Paleo and Keto and Vegan are to food, what Stoicism and Existentialism are to live. A way to eat. A formalized philosophy of food.

Unfortunately though, since Food-Philosophy is in its nascent years, it’s nowhere near as nuanced as its life counterparts. Also, since it’s so underdeveloped (we haven’t really found our Freuds and Jungs yet) it allows novices like me to take a shot at it. Now, philosophy isn’t the subject of a 6-minute article. Not when one has spent 15 years discovering it (and has still just scratched the surface). But I thought, let me try and shine a bit of the light I’ve gathered.

This week, allow me to take you 30,000 ft up, and give you a bird’s eye view of how I see food. A small glimpse, a sneak-peek, into my food philosophy, and its three basic tenets.

Here are my healthy eating habits: 

1. Eat Consciously

I was home last week. I knew there’d be Poori (deep-fried wheat bread) & Aloo (Potato) for lunch and heavy, Indian sweets after dinner. So I fasted during the day. Broke the fast with a small salad. And then enjoyed small portions of all these things that I so dearly love to eat.

As you’ll notice, it all started, not with knowledge, but with intent. And you can’t intend subconsciously. The single biggest, most profound change you can make to your eating habits today into healthy eating habits is to start eating consciously. Don’t let another drop of beverage or morsel of food enter your tummy, without you noticing.

Yes, it’s that simple.

Just notice. No need to act. Just observe what you’re consuming. Observe what it’s made of and how it makes you feel. Don’t be lost in conversation as that cookie sneaks into your body alongside that coffee. Or be lost in your phone screen as that small, mayo-laden side salad enters your tummy alongside that sandwich. Don’t be on auto-pilot mode as your hand rises involuntarily and orders a Coke to go with your fries.

Get that coke. Have that cookie. Just do it consciously.

Here’s an exercise to improve your eating habits and make them healthy eating habits. 

Think back to yesterday. Can you recall everything you ate? Everything? Including the few sips of a friend’s coffee and a bite of chocolate post-dinner?

Make sure that no day passes when the answer to that question is No.

2. Know Your Why

As you start observing what you eat, start asking yourself this question. Why did I eat this? Was it for its nutritional benefits? Or was it for taste? Was it for how it makes me feel (Ice-cream=Happy; Coffee=Up)? Or was it because I was famished?

Consider this. You’re at a movie, and they’re serving coke, popcorn, sweet corn, and hot dogs at the counter. You’re sure Coke is bad, and you couldn’t care less for hot dogs or popcorn. But what about that sweet corn — should you have it? It looks healthy. Maybe ask them to go easy on the butter. That should seal it. Right?

Wrong questions. Instead, ask this. Why do you want that cup of sweet corn? Is it because you’d skipped lunch, and hence are famished? Is it because you love sweet corn? Or is it because it’s a eating habit? You always get something to nibble on at the movies.

Only someone who is eating consciously can even get to this question. And the beauty of questions, is they get you answers. And tough answers, unlike tough questions, can’t be ignored. Now that you know why you want this food, you can start answering whether you should have it. Whether it’s beneficial, or detrimental to your health goals. Whether it is ‘Healthy’. These tough questions can help you develop healthy eating habits. 

This is where I have a simple rule. Nutrition trumps Taste. Calories trump Everything. It’s fun. Food is for the tummy. But more often than not, we let the tongue decide what gets in there. The tongue, which has no stake in Health. The tongue just salivates at the sight of sugary carbs and unhealthy fats. It’s like making Deadpool the gatekeeper of Asgard.

Here’s a simple 80:20 that I apply. 

What is the 80-20 rule in diet? 

80% of the time, I eat for nutrition. I eat to meet my protein carb or fiber goals. 20% of the times (that’s roughly 1 meal in 2 days), I allow myself to eat for taste. 

Two things to note here.

1. That nutrition and taste aren’t at loggerheads. In fact, over the years, they’ve become quite synonymous with me. So when I state this 80:20, I mean food eaten primarily for taste vs. nutrition. Deserts would be a good example of the former. 

2. None of what I said applies if you’re not meeting a base condition. You must keep it under your calorie limit. The most nutritious salad is a NO if you’re working with a caloric limit and it pushes you beyond. I meet so many people who tell me that they’ve left sweets, stopped having rice, and switched to healthy alternatives, and yet they can’t seem to lose weight. If that’s your story too, then count your calories. I’d bet you’re ‘healthy-eating’ your way past your quota.

3. Don’t Eat What You Don’t Know

Do you really know what you’re eating? Do you know your food? Or are you eating out of a habit? When you start eating consciously, and when you start trying to figure out the nutritional benefits of the food you’re putting inside your stomach, you’ll be hit with a very harsh realization.

We barely know our food. 

What constitutes that Chicken Tikka Masala you ate the other day? That chocolate-flavored, natural-sounding, healthy protein bar you picked, has something called ‘Dark Compound. What exactly is this Dark Compound? That ‘no-sugar-added’ juice you drank instead of cola, how do they make it so consistently sweet? And what on earth, will someone please tell me, is Red Velvet? Once I started researching my food, I realized that outside of what I made myself, I barely knew what I was consuming.

How could I gauge the nutritional benefits, and how could I count my calories, if I didn’t even know what constituted my food? It was a debilitating discovery. And every time I turned a pack to read its (deliberately) obfuscated list of ingredients and nutritional information, the paralysis grew. So I pledged. As far as possible I wouldn’t eat anything I couldn’t, at least, de-construct into its constituent elements I know it sounds like an extreme, harsh rule. Don’t worry; start with a middle path.

4. Less Is More

Start by rejecting foods that have too many ingredients. The lesser the number of ingredients in a food, the easier it is to understand, and in my experience, the more nutritive it usually is. If you see your mom or grandmom’s cooking, you’ll notice this philosophy isn’t anything new. Spices and condiments apart, our elders have been cooking and eating with this minimalist philosophy, forever. Just a handful of good quality, nutritious ingredients, cooked slowly and spiced to perfection. That’s the picture of good food.

Note: If you pull this philosophy to the extreme, you’ll end up with raw foods. Singular items like raw veggies and fruits and nuts and meats that don’t have any constituent elements. Maximize these.

To end with where we started Eating consciously is how health starts. 

It’s this one behavior that separates the ‘Fit’ from the ‘I wish I was Fit’. For the first 18 years of my life, I don’t remember ever thinking about what I was putting inside my body. What went into my tummy was, at best, decided by my tongue. And at worst, by nothing at all. Now that I’ve spent the last 16 years correcting that, I’ve re-discovered my food. And fallen in love with it all over again. 

When I ate whatever I felt like, whenever I felt like it, I’d stop appreciating my food. Sounds counter-intuitive, but the un-constrained abundance of anything, makes it lose its charm. It’s meaning. Its special-ness. Its value. Eat consciously, with intelligent, self-applied constraints, and I guarantee you’ll enjoy your food more than you do today. 

  • twiter
  • Facebook
  • Whatsapp
  • Copy