ADVICE

10-minute health habits that will change your life

Reviewed by our expert panel
10-minute health habits that will change your life

The trick to sustaining healthy lifestyle changes is to make them small and regular. You can make a huge difference to your health with these five 10-minute habits.

1. Sit down to eat

Whether it’s gulping down breakfast on your morning commute or squeezing in lunch between meetings, eating on the run is an easy way to save time. But setting aside 10 minutes to properly sit and eat a meal brings loads of health perks.

By giving your full attention to what’s on your plate, you’re able to focus on the taste, texture and aroma of food, and be more in tune with your hunger and fullness cues. You’ll also feel more satisfied and be less likely to overeat.

Food is much more than just body fuel. It brings people together and increases social connectedness, which is good for our mental health. By eating on the run, we miss out on this special opportunity.

Sitting down to eat may also help slow digestion and keep you feeling full for longer. Here’s to pencilling in a proper lunch break – even if it’s only for 10 minutes!

2. Pack your snacks

When you’re hungry and hurried, it’s easy to turn to quick bites like biscuits, muffins and chips. In fact, 35 per cent of the average adult’s daily kilojoule intake comes from high-fat, high-sugar ‘discretionary’ foods like these.

But if you set aside just 10 minutes a day to pack your bag with snacks that focus on the core food groups – fruit, veg, dairy, nuts and whole grains – your body will love you for it. Try these snack suggestions:

  • Fresh seasonal fruit, such as apples, mandarins, bananas and pears
  • Raw vegetable sticks with a healthy dip like hoummos
  • Plain reduced-fat yoghurt with fresh berries
  • A glass of reduced-fat milk
  • Wholegrain crackers topped with reduced-fat cheese
  • Air-popped popcorn
  • Wholegrain toast with peanut butter
  • A small can of tuna
  • A handful of unsalted nuts
  • A low-sugar, high-fibre muesli bar.

3. Fill up your fruit bowl

How often do you open your fridge or pantry in search of a snack, but aren’t quite sure what you’d like? We have a solution! It’s called ‘food nudging’.

Research indicates that when you put food in easy-to-reach locations, you can ‘nudge’ yourself to make healthier choices. A 2016 review of scientific studies revealed changing the location of food positively influenced people’s eating habits.

Supermarkets are wise to this already, of course, but you can do your own food nudging at home. Start by putting healthy food in easy-to-reach spots. A well-stocked fruit bowl on the kitchen counter makes it easy to grab a healthy snack at home, or while you’re rushing out the door.

Alternatively, chop up fruit and raw vegies and store them in transparent containers at eye level in the fridge. Finally, keep treat foods like chocolate towards the back of the cupboard – out of sight is out of mind!

4. Write a grocery list

How often have you ducked into the shops for milk and bread and come out with an armful of groceries?

A grocery list is not just the best way to save time and money at the supermarket. A US study found people who always use a checklist have a healthier weight, even when shopping in places with less-healthy options.

It makes sense that a list can counteract some of the clever marketing and other influences shouting at you in-store. Yes, we’re looking at you, half-price chocolate blocks and sweet bags at the end of the aisles!

Start by planning out a typical week of meals, for example, meat-free Monday, spag bol Tuesday and so on. Next, group foods by category. List all of your fresh fruit and veg together to help you remember food items, and to save you doubling back in-store for missed items. Finally, keep your list in a central place, such as on the fridge, so your family can add to it as needed. Happy, healthy shopping!

5. Prep your breakfast

Mornings are a rush, with more than half of all Aussies skipping breakfast at least once a week. For a head start, get into a habit of prepping your brekkie the night before. It might be as simple as portioning breakfast cereal into a bowl or putting it in a zip-lock bag ready to take with you to work.

Try cutting up fresh fruit or making a batch of nourishing Bircher muesli overnight oats. You could even whip up some mini frittatas for a savoury start to your day.

Eating breakfast has big nutritional perks: it helps stabilise blood glucose levels, regulates appetite and prevents overeating for the rest of the day. Research shows people who skip breakfast have less nutritious diets and are more likely to be overweight. Just 10 minutes the night before can help you get your breakfast sorted – and you can enjoy a few more winks of sleep the next morning!

First published: Jan 2022
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