7 Surprising Secrets of Healthy Eaters

Emulate the healthiest eaters by building these into your life.

Updated on September 21, 2023

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While our eating habits are influenced by biology and genetics, they're also shaped by factors largely within our control, including our relationships with friends and family, our finances, and even our sense of purpose in life.

Read on to learn about seven social- and purpose-driven factors that are related to establishing—and sticking to—a healthy diet. Hint: They have nothing to do with what—or how much—you eat!

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An encouraging person

Whether it's a mentor, a coach or your best friend, if someone is cheering you on, you have a pretty good chance of accomplishing your goals. That goes for maintaining a nutritious diet, too. 

Multiple studies have found that coaching—whether in person or over the phone—is an effective tool in helping people lose weight. Coaches promote healthy eating and keep people accountable for their actions.

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A positive support system

People with positive energy from friends and family in their lives generally get a boost in terms of healthy living and eating. That could be because a supportive social network is crucial to our diets, as well as our overall well-being. Research shows high-quality bonds promote healthy behaviors, like eating well and exercising, and inspire feelings of purpose and meaning, which are linked to lower risk of disease.

Studies have found the opposite, as well. Isolated people—those who lack consistent contact with family and friends—tend to eat worse than those with a thriving social life. They're at greater risk for heart disease and cancer, among other life-threatening conditions.

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Reaching your goals

Having a sense of agency or efficacy—the ability to set goals and achieve them, while maintaining a sense of purpose—is crucial to our well-being. Finding meaning in our lives may inspire positive behaviors like healthy eating and exercise, and can help reduce the risk of dementia, cardiovascular disease, and stroke. Ultimately, it can add years to your life, too.

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Learning something daily

Another big influencer of healthy eating? Embracing new adventures and exploring the world around you. That natural curiosity—that hunger for exploration and knowledge—could apply to trying new foods, too.

Natural inquisitiveness helps in other ways, as well. In older adults, curiosity is linked to healthier central nervous systems. Plus, it's thought that learning a new skill can help keep your mind sharp as you age. 

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A good primary partner relationship

A solid connection to one person in your life can be a big factor in healthy eating. It's well documented that our partners influence what, how much, and under what circumstances we nosh. The quality of that relationship is also a key factor in overall health. Having a supportive and empathetic partner can reduce stress, lower the risk of depression, and cardiovascular disease, and help you live longer.  

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An inspiring leader

If you've ever had a truly inspirational leader or mentor, you know it can change your whole outlook. Good leaders make people happier, more engaged, more productive and even better eaters. 

This is evident in even the youngest Americans. Good teachers in school—ones who actively help introduce kids to healthy eating and model good mealtime behavior—can have lasting effects on their students' diets and overall well-being.

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Enough money

When it comes to a good diet, money almost always matters. Study after study confirms that higher-income people often have better access to nutritious foods like fresh produce, lean meats, and whole grains. Given the choice, they're likelier than those with a lower income to pick healthier foods, too.

Of course, there are ways to eat well on a budget. Learn about nine healthy hacks to save money and start boosting your healthy food budget today. 

Slideshow sources open slideshow sources

Delerue Matos, A., Barbosa, F., Cunha, C. et al. Social isolation, physical inactivity and inadequate diet among European middle-aged and older adults. BMC Public Health 21, 924 (2021).
Hämmig O. Health risks associated with social isolation in general and in young, middle and old age [published correction appears in PLoS One. 2019 Aug 29;14(8):e0222124]. PLoS One. 2019;14(7):e0219663. Published 2019 Jul 18. 
Conklin AI, Forouhi NG, Surtees P, Khaw KT, Wareham NJ, Monsivais P. Social relationships and healthful dietary behaviour: evidence from over-50s in the EPIC cohort, UK. Soc Sci Med. 2014;100(100):167-175. 

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