If we didn't already feel like full-fledged adults in our 20s, the big 3-0 certainly brings the weight of adulthood into focus. While our 20s are a time for figuring out who we are and who we want to be, our 30s are when we cultivate our best selves—moving forward with the lessons learned and habits instilled from the time prior. In addition to (at least) feeling wiser and more seasoned at life, we experience changes in our bodies as we grow out of our 20s and into our thirties, and the diet habits we formed before these changes hit can greatly affect our health and how we age.
"In your late 20s, people start to see their metabolic rate decline for the first time," says Candice Seti, PsyD, CPT, CNN of The Weight Loss Therapist. "That's because you are no longer growing and building bones, and your production of human growth hormone starts to decline." In turn, once you turn 30, you can't necessarily eat the way you used to without seeing an impact on your body. As our metabolisms slow down, "fat storage speeds up," says Amy Lee, MD, a chief medical officer and a manager of wellness blog Nucific. "We have to start watching what we eat more." Seti and Lee shared their top suggested diet habits to establish before age 30.
Keep scrolling to study up on the diet habits to establish before your 30th birthday.
"Moving toward more of a clean-eating lifestyle, where you focus on real foods and shy away from chemicals and processing, can help our bodies as we age in a multitude of ways," Seti says. "As people rid their bodies of refined, processed, and chemical-laden foods, they report having more energy, fewer aches and pains, and better sleep. Clearer skin and improved mood are also frequently reported."
Cook Your Own Meals
Learning to cook is an essential life skill. Not only will it save you money, but it's also the only way you can control what is in your food, notes Lee, who cooks most of her own meals herself.
Practice Mindful Eating
"In today's fast-paced society, we are significantly more likely to engage in mindless eating, which is usually what we are doing when we are eating in the car, in front of the TV, in a meeting, or simply in a hurry," Seti says. "The problem with mindless eating is that we lose our connection to our food and thus also miss out on the enjoyment that comes with eating, nourishing our bodies, and satiating ourselves."
Seti notes that when she asks clients what they ate that day, they often have to think about it or can't remember, simply because we've become so disconnected from our eating. This disconnect leads us to miss those feelings of fulfillment or nourishment when we eat, and "as a result, we often end up eating more!"
"Mindful eating is a path back to enjoying eating and building a healthy relationship with food," Seti says. "Mindful eating allows us to appreciate our meals, enjoy the tastes, textures, and complexities of our food, and take time out to be grateful for the nourishment. This enjoyment and gratitude help us take control and power away from food and cravings so that food becomes a healthy part of our lives instead of a harmful one."
Lee says that by far, the most important diet habit you can make to optimize your health is cutting sugar. "Get as close as you can to zero added sugar in your diet—stop drinking sodas, juices, and adding sugar to coffee. "
While our 20s saw nights of binge drinking and learning just how our bodies process alcohol, our 30s are a time for smarter choices when it comes to drinking. "As you enter your 30s, your body's tendency toward insulin resistance, fatty liver, and a pre-diabetic increase dramatically," warns Lee. "And alcohol and sugar are two of the biggest contributing factors to this because of how they affect your body's chemistry and hormones."
Become a Regular Water Drinker
You've been told time and time again how important it is to stay hydrated throughout the day, and yet we still fail to drink the proper amount of water. Not only is this not doing any favors for your beauty game, but it's also hurting how your body properly functions, leading to fatigue and weight gain.
"One of the functions that are slowed down with dehydration is the body's fat-burning system," Seti says. "However, when your body is well hydrated and functioning appropriately, your metabolic rate will increase, which helps you burn more calories and feel more energized." The difference is actually alarming. Seti says that when your body is fully hydrated, your calorie burn rate can increase by as much as 30%. "In addition, for most people, the initial feelings of thirst and hunger are indistinguishable in our bodies," she says. "So we often misinterpret thirst as hunger and eat when we are thirsty." Drinking water regularly helps to avoid these potential problems by keeping you properly hydrated and also helps keep your stomach full, keeping you from overeating at meal times or giving in to pesky cravings.
Take Care of Your Muscles
While not necessarily a diet habit, how you take care of your muscles directly affects your metabolism and how your body uses food as fuel. Establishing an exercise routine you'll follow consistently is crucial. "You want to drill these habits in before life becomes too hectic," Lee says. "The older you get, the more excuses you have to opt for convenience and comfort over health." Additionally, the younger you commit to regular exercise, the better off you'll be later in life. "We start losing muscle in our thirties, which decreases strength and increases the amount of time it takes to recover from [physically exerting ourselves]," Lee says. "This can be offset through regular exercise, which strengthens muscle and prevents muscle loss."
Looking for more ways to ready for the next decade? Check out five fitness habits to establish before you turn 30.