And, even though you know you should have had some oatmeal (or at least a piece of fruit) in the morning, instead, you run out the door and end up at your favorite coffee shop to buy a super-duper coffee latte loaded with sugar. Or, maybe you are morning soda drinker and just can’t stop.
We all struggle with bad eating habits. Here’s the question: Which ones are causing the most harm and should be changed right away, and which ones can you gradually ease into reversing them into healthy eating routines?
Mindless Eating: This is one of the most common habits that contributes to weight gain and poor nutrient consumption. It starts at a very young age when toddlers are just too busy to focus on meal time. So, we put them in front of the TV or iPad to watch their favorite cartoon in order to settle them down just long enough to eat their meal. As we grow into adults, we turn this into a daily routine. Using TV trays of all styles to match our décor, we set ourselves up to make sure we can enjoy our meals in front of the tube.
When in restaurants, we resort to our phones as a form of entertainment while we wait for the food. But, when it arrives, if we are in the middle of an enticing article, well, then we must finish it while we eat, right? This is a habit that must be dumped right away. It only leads to overconsumption of calories, missed body cues for “fullness,” missed opportunity for interaction with other humans, and the list goes on. With your little ones, start them off right and dump the cartoons. For adults, simply follow this rule: eat at the dinner table with NO electronics.
It's more than okay to indulge in popcorn for family movie night, or have a bag of peanuts during a baseball game. But, remember, these are special activities, not daily routines.
Skipping Breakfast: Over the years as a nutritionist, I have heard numerous excuses as to why this happens: lack of time in the morning, not feeling hungry, not being a big fan of breakfast foods... just to name a few. Unfortunately, skipping breakfast means you just missed a great opportunity to meet your daily needs for fruits, vegetables, protein and so on.
You have also deprived your body of much needed energy to jump start your day; which is why you run for coffee. Eating breakfast is a habit you can ease into. It's nearly impossible to go from no breakfast straight to an egg and spinach omelet with a side of fruit and a cup of Oats Banana Smoothie (recipe below). But, you can certainly start with just eating one banana in the first 30 minutes of the day.
Just one piece of fruit and a tall glass of water is a great start.
Stick to it for a good two weeks until you're ready to start adding in some protein and veggies to complete your breakfast. Have a final goal in mind and give yourself 6-9 weeks to get there. Once you do, you will never look back. Your day will be significantly more productive after a nutritious breakfast.
Eating While Driving: Do you take breakfast with you on the road? Or, grab a bag of chips to keep yourself awake while driving home from work? Eating while driving is a habit you must kick to the curb, pronto. It's just not safe to begin with; but, more importantly, it breaks that golden rule of “pay attention to what you are eating.” How can you do that and drive at the same time?
Also, while driving we are more likely to eat “junk” foods and forget about portion sizes. It may be challenging to break the routine of grab-and-go, but it must be done. Also, think about the examples you are setting for your kids sitting in the back seat or for all the young drivers around you. It could be matter of life.
Sweet Snacking: Drinking soda and/or snacking on candy bars is a habit you don’t really know how you acquired, but now you've become dependent on it. This snacking routine is one to dump and never look back. The damage the sugar in the soda does to your body has been described over and over by the medical community; even those with artificial sweeteners are not in the clear.
Drinking diet sodas comes with its own set of issues, including the cumulative effect of artificial sweeteners, food dyes and excess caffeine. Having a candy bar or treat every once in a while is one thing, but habitually reaching for a Snickers bar mid-afternoon can be a scary routine that your body will not survive, unscathed, in the long run. Increased risk for obesity is obvious, but also it could lead to diabetes, heart disease and even cancers.
Substitute your sodas with water. Infusing water with fresh fruit is lots of fun to experiment with for a variety of flavors. You can also drink herbal teas infused with fruit. Just don’t switch bad for worse by adding sweet tea or fruit punch to your menu. Snack on fruits and veggies and leave the candy for a celebration or special event only.
Salt Before You Taste: Does your salt shaker stay right next to your stove top? If you prepare your recipes with a pinch of salt before even tasting first, you are a victim of the “too much salt” habit. This is one to break over time.
You don’t have to throw away your salt shaker all together.
Instead, make sure you always taste your food before adding any salt at all, while cooking or at the table. With time, explore the use of flavor-packed spices and herbs like oregano, paprika, parsley, black pepper and decrease the salt you use all together. Regardless of your high sodium risk for heart disease or hypertension, it's always a good idea to keep your salt intake in check.
Well, I hope these tips will help you start your path to a healthier life right away. Remember, you have the power to change your life, and you can do it. We are always here to inspire and help you along the way.
Eat well and stay well,
Oats Banana Smoothie
1 Frozen Banana
½ cup Rolled oats
1 tbsp Sunflower Seed or Peanut Butter
2 Tbsp Chia, flex seed or hemp hearts
Blend and enjoy!