These 5 eating habits are sabotaging your diet

These 5 eating habits are sabotaging your diet

We all develop certain eating habits, many of them healthy, such as choosing whole grain over refined, eating vegetables at every meal and planning meals in advance.

Some habits though, ones you might not even be aware of, can deprive your diet of vital nutrients and protective antioxidants. Others can propel you to overeat.

The good news: Reflecting on your usual diet can help you uncover those habits and swap them out for healthier ones.

If improving your eating habits is a goal this year, assess your usual diet by keeping a food diary for one week.

Write down the foods you eat, the time of day you consumed them and portion sizes. Include beverages, sweeteners and condiments.

Identify eating habits you think are undermining your diet. Then create a plan to replace them with new habits that support your healthy eating goals.

Don’t try to change too much at once, though.

To make change stick for the long term, gradually incorporate new habits. Let your brain adapt to one at a time.

Consider the following eating habits and their better-for-you replacements. Recognize any?

Grazing your way to bedtime

There’s nothing wrong with eating a healthy snack after dinner, especially if you feel hungry. But depending on what – and how much – you eat, nighttime snacking can lead to unwanted weight gain.

Research also suggests that eating close to bedtime can worsen glucose tolerance and slow down fat-burning.

To break a nighttime snacking habit, first consider why you snack after dinner. Hunger, boredom, stress, feeling tired? The new habit you build will depend on your answer.

If it’s not about hunger, brush your teeth right after dinner to dampen the desire to eat. Replace food with a low- or no-calorie hot beverage such as green tea, herbal tea or sodium-reduced chicken or vegetable broth.

If a craving hits, distract yourself by doing something else for 30 minutes. If the craving hasn’t passed, choose a small nutritious snack that won’t spike your blood sugar (e.g., nuts, yogurt, berries, celery with peanut butter).

Eating while doing something else

Eating a meal while watching TV, reading the newspaper, checking e-mails or driving takes your attention away from the foods you are eating.

Distracted eating can lead to overeating by making you less focused on the amount of food you’ve eaten and your body’s hunger cues.

Reserve the kitchen or dining room table for meals and put away electronic devices.

Pay attention to the fact you are eating. Doing so, research suggests, can help you eat less not only at your meal, but also later on.

Avoiding fruit because it has sugar

Just because fruit contains sugar doesn’t mean it’s a dietary no-no. Naturally occurring sugar in whole fruit comes with filling fibre, vitamins (e.g., vitamin C, B6, folate), minerals (e.g., potassium, magnesium, manganese) and plenty of protective phytochemicals

A diet higher in fruit is thought to guard against heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, cataract and macular degeneration. In Canada, a low fruit intake is among the top five leading preventable causes of cancer.

Include two to three servings of whole fruit in your daily diet. Limit fruit juice though, which lacks fibre and is a concentrated source of free sugars.

Drinking your calories

It’s not just the desserts and second helpings that add surplus calories to meals. What you drink with your meal can contribute, too.

Consider that 12 ounces of fruit juice delivers roughly 170 calories and 38 g of free sugar (9.5 teaspoons worth). Ditto for sugary soft drinks. A 16-ounce Starbuck’s Oat Latte will add 190 calories to your breakfast or midday snack.

Liquid calories don’t put the brakes on our appetite the way calories from solid foods do. As a result, we typically don’t adjust for them by eating less food.

Replace caloric beverages, especially sugary ones, with plain water or unsweetened tea or coffee. Milk and unsweetened non-dairy milks are other options that supply nutrients you might not get from other foods (e.g., protein, calcium, vitamin D, B12).

Eating salad to get all your veggies

Don’t get me wrong. A leafy green salad is good for you – it’s brimming with beta carotene and brain-friendly lutein.

If salad is your go-to vegetable however, you’re missing out on many other protective phytochemicals, and certain vitamins, too.

Make a point of eating a variety of colourful vegetables each day – green, orange, red, purple, white – to increase your intake of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant phytochemicals.

And don’t wait until dinner. Make vegetables the focus of every meal.

Leslie Beck, a Toronto-based private practice dietitian, is director of food and nutrition at Medcan. Follow her on Twitter @LeslieBeckRD