9 Bad Eating Habits To Avoid

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Do you find yourself skipping breakfast, only to grab a bagel and pieces of chocolate from your co-worker’s desk once you get to the office? Does the vending machine call your name daily at precisely 3 p.m.? And what about all those extra nibbles that go unaccounted for throughout the day?

These habits may seem innocuous enough, but over time, they’re much more detrimental to your health and waistline than you think. It’s tough to detach from behaviors that have been developed over years, but the truth is this: “Breaking bad eating habits is manageable,” says nutritionist John Bonham, author of “Eat Right or Don’t Eat At All”.

The first step to breaking your bad eating habit (like breaking all other bad habits) is recognizing your bad habits and having the desire to change them.

Here are the eight most common eating mistakes, plus tips for overcoming them once and for all.

1. Skipping Breakfast

This might seem like a calorie-saving idea, but really it’s just an invitation to eat more at lunchtime. Breakfast provides fuel to move through the day, and when you have a well-balanced breakfast (like a whole grain carb with a little fat and protein), your blood sugar levels will be more stable, and you’ll feel energized instead of tired and cranky.

The solution: Breakfast is something you can think about ahead of time. Stock up on easy grab-and-go foods like Greek yogurt, almond butter on whole grain bread, oatmeal, or whole grain waffles topped with cottage cheese. And if you don’t feel ready for food first thing in the morning, eat at the first opportunity that feels comfortable. This could be late morning, which will help you to eat less later when mealtime rolls around. Breakfast doesn’t have to be first thing when you wake up, just the first meal you eat.

2. Snacking throughout the day

Do you snack while doing simultaneous activities, such as opening your mail, sending texts or watching TV? Multi-tasking while eating takes away from the pleasure of every bite, and detracts from your ability to realize that you are getting full.

The solution: The problem is not necessarily the food itself, but how much you’re having. By putting snacks in a small bag, bowl or plate, you become more aware of what (and how much) you’re consuming. Make your own 100-calorie pack by putting healthy foods, like nuts, trail mix, fruit or veggies in zippered bags. These types of foods will keep you energized through the day, unlike the highly-processed packaged snacks you get at the store.

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3. Eating when feeling stressed or overwhelmed

Poor food choices that seem comforting during a stressful or emotional moment can easily lead to discomfort later on. If it makes you feel guilty or bloated, then it is not a comfort food.

The solution: Keep a food journal. Putting thoughts and actions down on paper helps things become less hypothetical and more real. Write about your feelings in relation to the food choices you made that day. Do you see a pattern? This practice can help you eat more mindfully, identify trigger points during stressful moments and understand how your feelings impact eating habits.

4. Eating just before bedtime

Usually, bedtime snacking occurs out of habit, not hunger. Even after a big dinner, many people find comfort in sitting on the couch and watching TV while having a snack. However, it’s the worst time of day to load up on calories, since you’re using the least amount of energy at night.

The solution: To curb excessive snacking at night, try planning a healthy snack in advance, like a yogurt with a small serving of cereal. You can even put the snack on your kitchen counter so your choice is right in front of you, and you’ll be more likely to keep your portions in check and less likely to venture off course. Why? Taking away the spontaneity of a snack makes it less exciting — and you may end up skipping it all together.

5. Irregular Food Shopping

People say they don’t have enough time to properly food shop, so they whisk in and out of the store and don’t pay attention to what they are buying.

The solution: This daunting task can be made easier with a plan. Look at food labels and develop a “safe list” of healthy staple foods that are easy to cook. This initial legwork will make life easier later, because you’ll be prepared with choices you can feel good about.

6. Setting Unrealistic Goals

Aiming to lose 10 pounds by next Saturday for a high school reunion is like a self-fulfilling prophecy saying, “I knew I couldn’t do it,” since setting unrealistic goals often leads to fad diets or failure. The most important thing is not about how much or how quickly you can lose weight, but about how long you can keep it off.

The solution: Set realistic, obtainable objectives. After all, it takes about 21 tries to change a habit. The closer you follow a plan you can live with, the more likely it is you will stick with it. Figure out how you can make changes that will work for you, and recognize what your trigger points are. Then, work on one thing at a time, not five. Remember: Dieting success is not a rollercoaster ride; losing three pounds and never gaining it back is better than losing 20 pounds and gaining it all back. If you need a sensible program to get started, check out this whole-foods approach to dieting, which not only effectively helps with weight loss but makes you healthier in the long-run.

7. Snacking right before dinner

It’s easy to zone out and eat a snack while deciding what to have for dinner, or to go a little overboard with taste-testing food as you cook. However, food that never reaches the plate and goes straight to your mouth may not register as consumption in your mind — yet your body will certainly feel it!

The solution: Satisfy that pre-dinner hunger with something less caloric and hold out for the real meal. Chew gum while you cook, or eat your salad then instead of having it with your dinner. Before you put something in your mouth, always stop and ask yourself if the food is more important than losing weight or getting healthier. Most likely it won’t be.

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8. Drinking Soda

Liquid calories count! A can of soda is essentially a can of water with 10 packets of sugar. Think you’re in the clear by drinking diet? Not exactly. Diet sodas get you hooked on an intense sweetness, which can lead to consuming extra calories — usually chocolate or candy — later on.

The solution: If you drink several sodas a day, switch every other glass to a club soda or sparkling water with lime, lemon or a splash of 100% fruit juice. The refreshing flavor of those more hydrating beverages may become more attractive than the super-sweet, artificially colored and flavored types that don’t provide the same benefits. Water helps transfer nutrients to cells, curbs appetite, aids digestion, helps prevent constipation and helps supply a sense of satiety.

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9. Watching TV while eating a meal

A study published in the journal Psychological Science finds people eating or drinking while mentally distracted (like watching tv) require greater concentrations of sweetness, sourness, or saltiness to feel satisfied. A slightly sweet dish may be delicious when you’re concentrating on each bite, but it tastes bland if you’re eating while your attention is divided. Distracted eaters also do not pay close attention to how much they have eaten -a double whammy!

The solution: Make it a point to eat with your family at the dining table and engage in daily conversations rather than watch tv. If you live be yourself, carve an area in the kitchen, sit and make it a point to finish your dinner and have your dishes washed before leaving.

 

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