The 52 habits of balance

Part 2: eat

Last week I introduced you to the 15 habits that make up the think element of balance.

This time I’m going to give you a taste (pun very much intended) of the food and drink habits that I work on with my clients, highlighting seven I’d term ‘big rocks’, major behaviours to focus on. Some of them are about things you might want to do more often, whilst others are about things to consider doing less frequently.

Nothing is considered ‘good’ or ‘bad’, only better or worse. No foods are banned and you certainly shouldn’t feel guilty if you’re not perfectly balanced for all of the habits…very few people are (myself included).

So let’s go, score each habit and then afterwards, pick one that you feel you can work on to improve your balance.

Eat final.png

Habit 1: Get your 5-a-day

Whilst there’s debate about how many portions of fruit and veg you should have, there’s good evidence that your health improves the more you get. Aim for a minimum of five portions a day, and get a good variety of types and colours over time.


1 point if you rarely eat fruit or veg at present

3 points if you often get close or sometimes you get your five, sometimes you don’t

5 points if you’re diet is always the colours of the rainbow

Habit 2: Go nuts and get a little seedy

Nuts shutterstock_72899227.jpg

Nuts and seeds provide a wealth of nutrients; protein, fibre and a wide range of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Recommendations suggest we should have at least 1-2 handfuls every day.


1 point if you rarely eat nuts or seeds at present

3 points if you do so occasionally

5 points if nuts and seeds are a staple in your diet

Habit 3: Get the oh so mega Omega3

Oily fish shutterstock_287132042.jpg

The essential fats found in high quantities in oily fish as well as flax and chia seeds, walnuts and soya beans, are as their name suggests, vital to your health. Healthy fats help to strengthen your immune system, prevent inflammation and help your brain to function at its best. We should aim to get at least 2 portions of fish every week with at least one of them being an oily fish like salmon, mackerel, herring or sardines.


1 point if you rarely eat fish, seeds or soya produce

3 points if you get one portion a week or don’t consistently have two

5 points if you regularly have two or more portions of fish a week or get your Omega 3 from alternative sources

Habit 4: Munch your wholegrains

Healthy carbohydrates shutterstock_126705143.jpg

Providing you with slow-release energy and plenty of fibre, wholegrains have been shown to keep your heart healthy, lower your cholesterol, look after your digestive system and help with weight management. An easy way to ensure you get the right amount is to aim for 6-8 cupped handfuls each day. That can include breakfast cereals, bread, rice, pasta, couscous, quinoa and other grains.


1 point if you rarely consume wholegrains

3 points if you have better and worse days or you have some every day but don’t hit the required portions

5 points if you regularly get your 6-8 portions a day

Habit 5: Daily dairy & alternatives


You’ll get plenty fo great things from dairy or alternatives like soya and alternative milks; protein, healthy fats, vitamin D, calcium and lots of other micronutrients. Research links them to better weight management, healthier bones and teeth, lower blood pressure and gut health. Aim for 3 portions a day, with a portion of milk or yoghurt the size of a clenched fist, and cheese equivalent to two thumbs.


1 point if you rarely get your daily dairy

3 points if you get some or hit your 3 portions on a few days each week

5 points if you’re king or queen of the dairy (or alternatives)

Habit 6: Hydrate and feel great

We all know we need to drink enough water. It makes up around half of your body and you’ll find it in every cell you possess. Figures vary on how much you need, with the average being around 1.6 litres for women and 2 litres for men, but food can contribute and exercise, age and environment can affect your needs. The easiest way to know you’re well hydrated is to check your pee colour. It should be light or straw-coloured; if it’s darker that suggests you’re dehydrated.


1 point if you know you don’t drink enough and your pee looks like Guinness

3 points if sometimes you’re well hydrated but not always

5 points if your water-bottle is like an extension of your arm

Habit 7: Alcohol

Alcoholic drinks shutterstock_81949795.jpg

Some studies suggest that in small quantities there may well be cardiovascular health benefits but there’s much debate about this. What we do know for sure is that there’s no harm in not drinking and there’s definitely harm from having too much. A few years ago the guidelines were altered to be a maximum of 14 units per week for men and women, spread over the week with a few drink-free days.

14 units is roughly:

• 6 small glasses of wine

• 6 pints of standard strength beer

• 5 pints of standard strength cider

• 14 single shots of spirits


1 point if you are often over the 14 units per week, tend to drink lots in one go or rarely have drink-free days

3 points if you have better and worse weeks

5 points if you consistently meet the guidelines

How did you do?

Add up your scores, what was your total?

7-16: Out of balance at the moment

17-26: On the way to balance

27-35: Well balanced

Whatever you scored, if you feel there’s room for improvement and you’d like to do something about it, write down your answers to the following questions…

1) What is the one habit you’d like to work on?

2) What could you do to achieve that? List all the ideas you can think of, no matter what they are.

3) Pick your favourite three methods and number them 1, 2 and 3 in order of preference. This week, try method 1 and see how it goes. If it works then great, if it doesn’t, you have a ready-made back-up plan.

You know me by now; change is challenging and it requires a little effort on our part. Just by working through this you’ve shown you want to do something so good work. Give it a go and slowly work towards a better balance for you, it’s all about turning those behaviours into habits over time.