Setting up a healthy eating environment at home can do a lot for your wellbeing, and of course, your health.
A lot of our eating habits and food choices are subconsciously determined by our environment, and science has proven it!
If you feel like you’re always looking for food in the kitchen, or meal times are a frenzied blur, this article is for you.
If not, have a scroll through to see if there are any bits you’ve missed out, in creating a healthy eating environment at home. I believe some of these tips would also improve your dining experience at meal times!
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1. Declutter your dining table
During meal times, transform your dining table into a spot for food and for eating—nothing else.
If space is tight at home and your dining table doubles up as a work table, make sure you tidy it up before a meal.
When you have non-food items on the table, they become distractions that draw your mind towards them, even if subconsciously. They prevent you from paying full attention to the food in front of you.
At meals, you should be focusing on the taste of your food and how it’s making you feel. Does your food taste warm and hearty, or cool and crisp?
Is it making you feel satisfied because it’s the ideal meal for the diet you’re on, or are you feeling loved because it’s your favourite dish?
It’s just like when you’re watching a movie. You want to be entirely focused on the movie and engrossed in it, to get the most out of it. Similarly, allow yourself to enjoy your food at meal times by giving it some space.
2. Place only healthy snacks in sight
For the two to three months after Chinese New Year, I’m always guilty of snacking on biscuits and chips that are sitting on the shelf behind our dining table. My peak snacking times tend to happen in the moments after dinner, as my mouth craves something sweet.
Moral of the story? These snacks tempt you because they are very much visible. Remember: out of sight, out of mind.
It’s fine to have some snacks lying around for kids in the house (especially the big kids), just make sure they’re healthy ones!
My favourites are nuts (p.s. they help reduce cholesterol), dried fruit mixes, grain crackers, or even muesli!
They can be stored in glass jars, with stickers on them of recommended serving sizes. This helps make sure you don’t overeat them. One or two tablespoons at a time is a good snack portion.
These snacks are a great opportunity for you to meet your requirements for often forgotten food types such as fruits, nuts, and grains, which are an essential part of a healthy diet! They are high in fibre, which helps prevent chronic diseases.
By having them in sight and easily accessible, you immediately create a healthy eating environment.
3. Create the right mood at meal times
Recently, I’ve become quite a big fan of setting the right atmosphere for different occasions.
When we dine out at fancy restaurants, we allow ourselves to be pampered with soft music and floral scents.
Why can’t we do that at home too? Let every meal time be a treat to ourselves. It can be especially soothing at dinner after a long and tiring day. It doesn’t take long at all if you have to have the systems up in place.
I have my trusty and nifty speaker that I easily link up to Spotify on my phone for jazz, classical, or soft pop while we eat.
My dad would drip some essential oils (lavender is calming, lemongrass invigorating) into our oil burner during meal times. I even know of a family that makes an event of lighting a candle at dinner time (the kids fight over it!)
If you want, you can lay out placemats too. I used them now and find that plastic ones can be easily rinsed after meals.
These small acts truly set the mood for a proper meal that you and your family enjoy.
Meals are no longer rushed through, under-appreciated, and forgotten.
Get members of your family to help with different tasks and it would barely be a chore! It’s a great habit to start with kids, as a little bonding activity for the family every day.
4. Hydrate yourself as you eat
Place a jug of water on the table at the start of your meal.
It may be filled with iced water, plain soda water, sparkling water, or warm water, whichever you prefer! If time permits, you can even prepare some plain tea or fruit-infused water.
Some people need drinks at meals to cut the taste of food in their mouth. That’s why having calorie-free water around is always a good idea. It helps prevent the temptation to reach out for a sugary beverage.
Furthermore, drinking water between bites helps pace your speed of eating. This prevents you from subconsciously overeating, which leads to weight gain.
5. Always have spare food containers at home
Unless the primary cook in your family has excellent forecasting, there’s a good chance that there will be more food than needed on the dinner table.
It is ideal to cook just the right portion for everyone to prevent over-eating.
However, that’s not always realistic or easy to estimate, what with people in the family running late from a meeting, or feeling ravenous after school.
Some easy solutions can help make sure you and your family don’t eat more than what your body needs.
- Use common serving spoons during dinner.
- Have food containers on hand, to pack food that can’t be finished at dinner time.
The serving spoons ensure that there’s no double-dipping, for the sake of food safety. This way, food may be packed and kept for another day. Click here to find out how long you can keep different foods for.
Healthy eating is not just about the food that is placed before you, but the systems that you have in place to create a healthy eating environment.
These tips may not seem like much by themselves, but if you faithfully employ these methods, you will improve your meal experience and eating behaviour in time to come.