Research shows couples may be more likely to gain weight than singles. Accredited Practicing Dietitian Hannah Ovens-Henig explores how to create healthier habits together.

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There are many perks to being in a relationship – a guaranteed new year’s kiss, someone to vent to after a rough week, and a plus one to bring along to those awkward family gatherings.

Skip past the initial dating phase, and suddenly your Friday nights now involve trackpants and snuggling on the couch with a good movie and pizza. Contentment has kicked in. But can falling into the comfort of a relationship be negatively impacting your health?

Research suggests that those in romantic relationships may be more likely to gain weight than their single counterparts. For example, a large Australian study published in PLoS ONE in 2018 found that couples were less likely to be within a normal weight range than singles.

Couples tend to adopt similar health habits – for better or for worse. Larger portions sizes, eating out or ordering takeaway more frequently, watching more TV, skipping the gym to spend more time together and drinking more alcohol are a handful of the common ways healthy habits can slip.

Any of these sound familiar? Don’t stress – coupling up doesn’t need to kill your healthy habits. And with a partner in crime to motivate you, creating a healthier lifestyle can be easier than you think.

Here are some simple steps to get set on the right path.

Meal plan

I know, you’d rather spend your time doing anything but deciding what’s on the menu for the week ahead. But meal planning is essential for preventing poor food choices. Taking the time to come up with recipes and do a bulk grocery shop saves time during the week and means you’re less likely to get takeaway on the way home.

If you’re struggling to find recipes, you could try one of the many popular services that now deliver pre-prepped ingredients. It will take the hard work out of meal times and give you new ideas.

MORE: Meal planning made easy

Heat things up in the kitchen

You’re more likely to eat better when cooking at home. Portion sizes can be more controlled and you’re more aware of ingredients used.

But healthy eating doesn’t have to mean a sudden switch to zucchini noodles topped with tofu and hemp seeds. If it’s too much of a change, it’s likely to end up in an emergency UberEats order. As a start, keep it simple by making healthy tweaks to familiar meals you both already enjoy. Try adding some more veggies into tomato based sauces, swapping white for wholegrain options or using marinated grilled chicken instead of schnitzels.

Eat at the table

When the dining table is covered in bills and laundry, you wind up eating on the couch or in front of the TV – which isn’t great for mindful eating. Studies have shown that when we’re distracted while eating, we tend to eat more, and more quickly. This can leave us feeling less satisfied and reaching for the snacks later. So ditch the screen time, set the table and take advantage of having company to eat with. This will be better not only for your health, but for your relationship too.

MORE: How to eat mindfully

Cut the takeaway

We’ve all fallen into the mid-week dinner blues. With many apps making it so easy to get food delivered straight to your door, the temptation to order in can be high. Try to use the 20/80 rule – 20% takeaway and 80% home cooked meals. Takeaway doesn’t have to be all bad. Simple tweaks to your order like an extra salad, grilled fish options or thin crust pizza can make a big difference.

Make an exercise date

Skipping your 7am spin class for a sleep-in with someone next to you in bed sounds reasonable, right? Try to break the habit of dodging the gym by making your partner a workout buddy. If the gym isn’t your thing, suggest active dates. Try something fun like a scenic hike, or simply a bike ride to the local park.

MORE: Find free fitness activities near you with Medibank Free + Active

Tap into your competitive side

A little competition never hurt anyone. One idea is to use the free step counter on your smart phone to track your steps. Whoever achieves the most steps each week gets a reward – massage perhaps?

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