Whether you overslept for work, forgot you had an appointment or the boss is breathing down your neck, mornings can be hard, even if you’re a morning person. And that can make staying on track with nutrition and fitness even more difficult. Despite good intentions like trying to incorporate exercise that can help with weight loss or drinking enough water, people often lose sight of their wellness goals before the lunch bell has rung.
“Traditionally, here in America, our breakfasts are very carbohydrate-heavy and carbohydrates trigger us to want more of them,” said LeAnn Rychlik, MS, RD, a senior clinical dietitian of cardiology at Baylor Scott & White Health in Texas. “So, we’re eating cereal, waffles or pancakes with syrup and those are rapidly absorbed, leaving us hungry in an hour or two.”
Instead, Rychlik promotes eating a balance of protein, carbohydrates and healthy fat, which can help sustain us longer.
According to nutritionists and experts, here are other ways you might be sabotaging your healthy eating goals.
That smoothie or favorite coffee drink might be satisfying in the moment, but depending on what you order, you could be filling up on unnecessary calories and sugar. In fact, a mocha coffee drink could potentially contain up to 500 calories, the equivalent of a fast food burger, and certain smoothies are worse than that. A strawberry banana smoothie offered by one national juice bar chain contains a whopping 850 calories.
Between smartphones, television and computers, it seems like everyone’s multitasking during mealtime. While it probably doesn’t seem like a big deal, a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that when people don’t pay attention to what they’re eating, they tend to consume more. According to Harvard Health, mindful, focused eating can reduce calorie intake and help with making better eating choices.
Drinking enough water is an important part of a healthy diet. Like the old adage, the average adult should drink around 8 cups a day. While the jury is still out on claims that drinking water first thing in the morning contributes to better skin and improved mental performance, its health benefits, like regulating body temperature and promoting heart health, are undeniable. It’s also important in the morning for rehydrating from the night before.
Since it’s the first meal of the day, it’s tempting to fill up on one of your favorite iconic breakfast dishes. While some studies suggest that it’s beneficial to eat your biggest meal of the day in the morning, it’s important to not go overboard. Feasting on brunch and eating too much in one sitting can stretch your stomach and result in drowsiness, fatigue, heartburn and bloating. According to Dana Hunnes, a senior dietitian at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, a good start to the day includes getting enough water, fiber and protein.
You might want to reconsider staying up until 2 a.m. to binge-watch your favorite show. Not only does lack of sleep leave you feeling completely exhausted the next day, but it also contributes to a number of other issues including a higher risk of weight gain and obesity. According to the National Sleep Foundation, when our bodies are sleep-deprived, the result is a higher-than-normal craving for sweets like cookies and desserts, as well as other snack foods.
It takes bodies almost 20 minutes to register feeling full, so rushing a meal increases the chance of adding unneeded calories. To help curb eating in a rush, try taking smaller bites, setting a timer for 20 minutes and using the whole time to eat or using chopsticks.
“You’re always going to get more calories and even more sodium when you’re eating out, especially at fast food places,” said Audra Wilson, RD, LD, a bariatric dietitian at Northwestern Medicine Metabolic Health and Surgical Weight Loss Center at Delnor Hospital. “If you want to save money and time, you could prepare breakfast meals on the weekend for the week or have some grab-and-go options like yogurt or hard-boiled eggs, some fruit, or protein shakes that are much healthier.”
For many people, lunch is their first meal of the day. Famished by noon, it’s easy to fall prey to overeating or picking up fast food. Before heading to work, take time to pack a healthy lunch to stay in control of what you’re eating and how much. If making lunch isn’t possible, identify various healthy lunch options in the area and say “no” when coworkers order a pie from their favorite pizza chain.
Low-carb diets may be trendy these days, but carbs are actually essential. A good source of energy, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that carbohydrates make up 45% to 65% of diets. What matters is choosing carbs wisely, then balancing them by adding protein and healthy fats. When eating carbs, Wilson suggests choosing whole grains over refined grains like white flour, white rice and sugar. And instead of eating too many carbs, incorporate them sparingly.
It’s hard to skip your favorite dessert, but it’s important to keep temptations at bay. “Don’t keep stuff in direct view. Keep it in opaque containers that are out of your line of sight when you open cabinets and refrigerators. But maybe make it a thing where if you go out, you could have it,” Wilson said.
It’s also important to not deprive yourself completely. “Telling yourself that you can’t have the specific things, that’s going to be all you want,” she added. “So letting yourself have a little latitude with not being perfect and choosing the healthier option 80% of the time.”
When it comes to diet, one size doesn’t fit all. However, studies suggest that most people can benefit from adding protein to their morning meal instead of waiting until dinner because it helps them feel full longer into the day.
According to Rychlik, good proteins include hard-boiled eggs, low-fat stick cheese, low-sugar Greek yogurt and protein shakes. Peanut butter is also a good source of protein, said Rychlik, who encourages thinking outside the box. “Some people may not need a traditional breakfast,” she said. “It could be leftovers from the night before.”
There’s a lot of debate over the first meal of the day. Some studies offer reasons why you might not want to skip breakfast, while others say that not eating it can benefit weight loss by reducing the total number of calories consumed in a day. According to Rychlik, fasting can be a good thing as long as it’s mindful.
“Often when people skip breakfast it tends to just merely shift their eating into late in the night, which is problematic,” said Rychlik, who explained that eating late results in not having a morning appetite, starting the process all over again.
To weigh or not to weigh? One study published by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests that weighing yourself daily can lead to better weight control. But other studies discourage it because daily weigh-ins can lead to body image issues.
“Weighing is an important piece for people tracking if they’re wanting to lose weight,” Rychlik said. “People generally seem to get frustrated with daily weighing, so I generally recommend at least once a week, but write it down so you can really monitor progress.”
When it’s already been a stressful day by 10 a.m., it’s tempting to grab a bag of chips or a candy bar. There are a lot of scary ways stress can affect your body, so it’s important to be aware of what’s triggering some sudden eating.
“If you know you’re eating for a stressful reason, try and choose something that’s a little bit healthier, or if you just want to give in to it, at least portioning it; so not eating the cookies out of the bag or the chips out of the bag,” Rychlik said.
If you feel stress eating coming on, try incorporating some of these foods that are best for weight loss.
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