20 Ways to Improve Your Eating Habits Slideshow
March 22, 2012
Do It: Drink Water
Start the day off right by drinking a glass of water as soon as you wake up. Glassman suggests adding a slice of lemon for flavor because it will also help detoxify the liver, which plays a key role in our long-term health by metabolizing the foods we consume. Why water? As she explains, since our bodies are 50 to 70 percent water, the most common reason that people are sluggish in the afternoon is due to dehydration. So, not only start the morning with water but continue to drink it throughout the day. As Nestle says, water gets her vote over sugary drinks: "Don't drink your calories!" Keeping a reusable water bottle at work will help to ensure a constant supply is there as needed.
Do It: Switch to Green Tea
For coffee lovers, this might be a hard one, but perhaps swapping the afternoon cup of joe for green tea can be a healthier option for that caffeine fix. Glassman points out that green tea is rich in antioxidants called catechins, which may trigger weight loss by stimulating the body to burn calories and decrease body fat. However, Glassman says that green tea should be purchased in small quantities and stored in its original packaging, away from direct light because "studies have found that green tea bags can lose up to 32 percent of their antioxidant power in six months."
Do It: Eat Breakfast
Glassman stands by the adage that breakfast is the most important meal of the day because she claims that adolescents and teens who eat breakfast daily do better in school, have overall healthier diets, and are more likely to be physically active and able to maintain a healthy body weight and normal cholesterol levels. Plus, breakfast can jump-start your metabolism. The problem is that many people, like Marion Nestle, arent hungry in the morning. Nestle says, "Oh dear. Im not a breakfast eater. I dont start feeling hungry until about 11 or later. If you are hungry in the morning, by all means eat breakfast but make it a good one."
Check out these healthy and easy breakfast ideas.
Do It: Snack Smart — If You Must at All
Snacking, like most food-based decisions, is about making smart choices. As Nestle says, "Try not to snack, but if you must, snack smartly on fruits, vegetables, and nuts." Glassman adds that a handful of raw, unsalted seeds and nuts (in calorie-controlled portions) like walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, pecans, and pistachios, can't hurt because they all contain heart-healthy fats. Plus, they are a good source of vitamin E, protein, magnesium, calcium, and potassium. To avoid oversnacking, she recommends measuring out small portions and placing them in zip-close bags to avoid any temptation to keep nibbling.
Do It: Start Listening to Your Body
When the afternoon rolls around, it's tempting to seek out the bowl of M&Ms and candy down the hall, but is it hunger calling or just boredom? Glassman notes that we often mistake thirst for hunger, so have that glass of water first and then reassess how you're feeling. Ask yourself, "What are you in the mood for?" and "Is your body hungry?" Noticing your body's reactions to these questions will help to keep you in touch with your bodys hunger and craving levels. Instead of continuing to eat food to the point of feeling overstuffed and ill, learn to recognize when your body is satisfied.
Do It: Add Vegetables or Greens to Every Meal
The curly fries and thick-cut wedges look tempting on the plate, but as Glassman suggested earlier, choosing a salad or vegetables instead is a better choice. Or, start the meal with vegetables and a salad just make sure that it's not being topped with extra unnecessary calories like creamy salad dressings or cheeses. Nestle offers that it might be a good idea to try incorporating vegetables in the dishes you're making at home. If pasta is on the menu, add some broccoli or other greens to it to make it healthier.
Do It: Choose Lean Proteins
It keeps coming back to making the right choices: While eating more vegetables and greens is a high priority, picking the healthiest proteins also matters. Glassman says that lean choices that are "rich sources of protein and are either lower in calories and fat and/or excellent sources of omega-3s." Examples she offers are meats like beef tenderloin, bison, skinless chicken breast, ostrich, pork tenderloin, or turkey breast. For fish and seafood, she says to look for cod, shrimp, sea bass, scallops, wild salmon, tuna, halibut, flounder, and mussels.
Do It: Eat More Whole Foods
Glassman explains that the idea behind whole foods is to ideally eliminate as many packaged foods as possible from your diet and choose ones with as few ingredients listed as possible. For example, "it's not just the vitamin C in an orange that contributes to our health, so you can't eat a pack of fruit snacks fortified with vitamin C and think you're getting the same benefits. There is a whole group of phytochemicals, fiber, and substances that scientist haven't even discovered yet that all work together in a whole orange to improve our health."
Do It: Eat a Variety of Nutrient-Rich Foods and a Balanced Diet
"This is standard boring nutritionists' advice from me, too," says Nestle. "I have an easier translation: eat plenty of vegetables and don't eat too much junk food." Glassman stresses that variety and balance are very important in a diet because of all the different nutrients the body needs, and it's impossible to get all of them from the same foods, even if they are healthy ones.
Do It: Cook More at Home and Ahead of Time
Nestle recommends learning how to cook and prepare meals quickly. As she says, "It’s not hard to cook something from scratch in the time it takes to heat up frozen meals or those stored in the refrigerator." Glassman suggests spending a few hours on the weekend to make meals and snacks for the week to make up for the work days when schedules are more hectic. These healthy meals can be brought to work for lunch or quickly heated up after work for dinner.
Lose It: Drinking Soda — This Means Diet, Too!
Marion Nestle already shared her opinion on sugary drinks (don't drink your calories), but Glassman weighs in as well: "Diet soda is not only bad for your waistline, but it may be damaging to your health." She goes on to explain that a recent study presented at the American Stroke Association followed 2,500 New Yorkers who drank diet soda every day, and found that these individuals had a 61 percent higher risk of vascular problems, including stroke and heart attack, than those who did not consume diet drinks. As alternatives, she suggests sodium-free seltzer water with sliced fruit like orange, lemon, or lime because it has zero calories and the fizz people like without the artificial ingredients.
Lose It: Using Artificial Sweeteners
Speaking of artificial sweeteners, Glassman adds it onto the list of habits to lose. Instead, try small portions of the real thing like honey or agave, or even sweet spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, or vanilla. Why? Glassman explains that artificial sweeteners may actually make people more prone to overindulge and crave sweet foods. "When you consume them, your body expects calories to follow the sweetness. When those calories dont come, it goes looking for them later (aka 'I just have to have something sweet after dinner!')" She also cites a study from the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health in 2008 that showed that artificial sweeteners not only lead to weight gain, but also cause damage to beneficial microflora in the gut.
Lose It: Unnecessary Snacking
"Eat meals, not snacks," says Marion Nestle. Glassman points out that snacking is the easiest way to oversnack or overeat. Portion control and paying attention to serving sizes is a key method to maintaining and sustaining weight loss. If you don't feel satisfied by your meal, instead of increasing the amount of caloric foods from the meal, eat more vegetables and greens to fill you up.
Lose It: Emotional Snacking
The great thing about food is that it is such a source of pleasure for people, and as Marion Nestle says, "for some people, the only pleasure." But after long days or during bouts of boredom, it's easy to munch away on snacks or down an entire chocolate bar, which clearly isnt good for anyone. Nestle suggests going for a walk when feeling down instead of turning to food to improve your mood. Plus, by becoming more aware of how your mood affects what you eat, youll be better able to control it the next time you're feeling that way. Instead of judging yourself or feeling angry, just notice what happened and make a mental note to watch for it next time.
Lose It: Completely Letting Go of Healthy Eating Habits During the Weekends
As Nestle stresses, it's the word completely that needs to be paid attention to indulgences can be fine in moderation. Glassman adds that it's important to remember that every meal is an opportunity to eat well. So taking each meal for what it is and not getting hung up on a "bad" meal is essential to not getting thrown off. There's always another chance to feed your body good foods, but this isnt an excuse to throw caution to the wind. As she says, "When you do indulge in a special treat, make it a conscious indulgence, something you love."
Lose It: Juicing — For More Than a Few Days
As Nestle explains, any severe diet is OK for a few days, but it goes with saying that it’s not a long-term solution for losing weight. Glassman adds that juicing may contribute to quick weight-loss and juice cleanses do encourage people to increase their daily intake of fruits, vegetables, and water while limiting caffeine and alcohol, but there are some drawbacks… She says to take note when you’re juice cleaning just to lose weight. "You may shed pounds (and maybe way too quickly), but they can come back just as fast. Also, the juices lack many essential nutrients (proteins and healthy fats) and electrolytes that our bodies need to function during the day."
Lose It: Mindless Eating
We've all done it before: sat in front of the TV or the computer while eating a snack. Suddenly, our hand reaches the bottom of an empty bowl "Did I finish it already?!" Glassman explains that when the mind is focusing on something else, were not paying attention to how much were eating or how our body feels. This can lead to overeating and even missing the joy of eating. Though eating too quickly may get thrown in this category, and in some cases it is a result of mindless eating, or even emotional eating, Nestle says, "I'm a fast eater myself, so I can't do this one, but I think I have plenty of appreciation for great food. It works for some people and is good for them."
Lose It: Skipping Meals
As Nestle says, "Starvation is not good for health." Glassman expands to add that when you skip meals, your body is denied needed calories, which provide the energy our cells need to operate at optimal level.
Lose It: Eating on the Go and Convenience Foods
When on the road or in a pinch, buying packaged and processed foods is an easy choice. But what comes with that? Empty nutrients, unpronounceable ingredients, and tons of preservatives, says Glassman. Instead, plan ahead of the week on the weekend or keep healthy snacks on hand. She suggests nuts, fiber crackers, natural peanut butter to spread on apples or bananas, trail mix (better homemade and without candy), or healthy nutrition bars like Kind.
Lose It: Going Food Shopping Without a List
If this happens, it often results in a grocery cart full of unneeded foods and unhealthy snacks, plus a large bill. As Glassman says, when you don’t have a plan of attack, it’s easy to get lost in the grocery store and wind up spending more money than planned on. With that said, go in with a plan and buy what you came for. Avoid the center aisles of the market, which usually contain processed foods, unless you’re looking for something on your list like brown rice or whole-grain pasta or canned tomatoes.