Picture: File Building a good eating habit doesn’t happen overnight!

We all know how hard it is to avoid cupcakes at the office. We also know that polishing off a slab of chocolate after dinner isn’t ideal, and that building a good eating habit doesn’t happen overnight!


Registered Dietician at Virgin Active South Africa, Sandi van Zyl, says that making a long‐lasting and positive behavioural change with food requires the right knowledge and a good routine.  Once you’re comfortable with your eating habits, you will then have the confidence to add some flexibility and spontaneity to the mix.


Sandi offers five basic tips to develop healthy habits that will stick:


  1. Begin with one significant change

Do a recon of your existing eating habits and highlight just one significant change that you could make, such as reducing the amount of sugar you consume daily. Work on that first, with achievable goals, and then it will become easier to make other, bolder changes to your diet.


  1. Don’t deprive yourself

Depriving yourself entirely of certain foods is likely to result in over-indulgence in the long-term.  The key is moderation.  Enjoy certain ‘treat’ items occasionally rather than removing them altogether.


  1. Maintain portion control when eating out

Don’t arrive at a restaurant hungry. Perhaps have some fruit beforehand and, where possible, decide what you’re going to order ahead of the time.  Remember to drink plenty of water during the meal and, if the portions are super-sized, ask for a doggy-bag or consider sharing with a friend. 


  1. Don’t skip meals

Research shows that eating a good breakfast in the morning is likely to prevent you from over-indulging later in the day.  By skipping meals, you end up being ravenous when you do finally sit down to eat, resulting in large portion sizes and spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels which, in turn, could increase your risk of developing diabetes and other conditions. The key is to eat small, regular meals, with the right combination of unrefined carbohydrates, lean protein and healthy fats. 


  1. Remove temptation

Most people experience a craving in response to low blood sugar levels and that drives a temptation to indulge.  The best step is to avoid getting into a situation where your blood sugar levels drop too low but the next best thing is to not stock ‘treat’ foods at home which will force you to use a healthier option to meet your craving.