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Eating a healthy snack, such as an apple, is part of a good health routine.

Eating better is the usual first step most people take when trying to lead a healthier lifestyle, but for many, it is also the hardest. It’s also not usually a matter of knowing what to eat, but about breaking through what are considered bad, or unhealthy, eating habits. Here are a few tips to overcome some of the common habits associated with poor nutrition.

Eating too quickly. With today’s faster-paced society, eating our meals as quickly as possible is the new norm. It can take your body up to 15-20 minutes to feel full. Slow down during meal time to allow the feeling of being full to kick in and help prevent you from going back for seconds or overindulging on the first serving. Put your fork down between bites, make sure you chew and swallow before the next bite, or have a conversation with someone between bites to draw out the time you spend at the table.

Boredom eating. Agree with yourself to avoid the kitchen when you’re bored. You could also find a task that keeps you busy or distracts you other than watching TV or reading. Do something that gets your body moving instead. You should also stop and ask yourself if you’re actually hungry. In some cases where you feel hungry, you may actually be thirsty. Try a glass of water first. If you’re still hungry after a few minutes, choose a piece of fruit or a lean protein to have rather than chips or cookies.

Relying on the drive-thru. Feeling strapped for time can put healthy eating low in priority, which opens the door for convenient food options that are often loaded with bad fats, sodium and added sugars. Try spending a couple hours a week to plan and prepare your meals as this can save you time, money, and calories. If you don’t have the time to cook at home, look up the nutrition information ahead of time to try and make the best choice you can.

Stress related eating. Eating can provide a sense of immediate gratification that many people seek when they’re under a lot of stress. Instead of using food to fill this need, find a healthy alternative that can provide the same sense of pleasure. Try deep breathing exercises, going for a walk, or having a hot cup of tea to help bring your body back to balance and to destress.

All or nothing mindset. One “unhealthy” food choice doesn’t have to ruin the rest of your day or healthy eating efforts. Eating better is not about perfecting every food choice you make, but making better choices a majority of the time. Don’t beat yourself up for having a cupcake, supplement that with determination to balance it out at your next meal instead.

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Erica Hall is an ACE Certified Health Coach, and a Wellness Coach at UnityPoint Health-Trinity.

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