Most of my clients know the healthy eating drill pretty well: keep your fats down, eat plenty of fruits and veggies, make most of your grains “whole” and focus on low-fat protein. But many of them have adopted some eating habits that they truly believe are healthy. And I have to spend some time trying to convince them otherwise. These eating habits sound like they’re healthy, but they really end up being less so when they’re put into practice. Are your eating habits as healthy as you think they are?
Question Your Eating Habits
• Do you skip breakfast thinking it will save you calories? I’m always surprised at how many people believe that skipping breakfast is a healthy habit—and think it’s a sure thing when it comes to calorie control. There are so many good reasons to eat something in the morning. For one thing, studies have shown that those who practice the breakfast habit are more likely to keep their weight under control. A well planned breakfast highlights foods we don’t often get the rest of the day—like high fiber cereals and calcium-rich dairy products. If you can’t face a full meal in the morning, at least aim for a shot of protein from a smoothie or a carton of yogurt.
• Do you avoid keeping food in the house because you’re afraid you’ll eat it? Not keeping food around only makes sense if you normally stash stuff you shouldn’t be eating. But a well stocked freezer, refrigerator and pantry can actually be your best ally when it comes to eating well. When you’ve got foods like shrimp and veggies in the freezer, beans and whole grains in the pantry, and fruits, salad greens and low-fat dairy foods in the fridge, you’re never at a loss for a healthy meal or snack. Not keeping foods around the house can backfire. When hunger strikes, you may wind up grabbing the first thing you can get your hands on from your corner quick market or the drive-thru.
• Do you only shop at the health food store? It’s a common trap. Many people figure that anything they buy at the health food store is good for them, but it just isn’t so. There are plenty of high sugar, high fat items lurking on the shelves and plenty of ‘healthy’ snack foods that can take a big bite out of your calorie budget. Are organic potato chips or sodas made with ‘all natural’ sweeteners really any better for you than the regular stuff? Don’t let the health halo fool you. Sticking with minimally processed foods is the best way to go, no matter where you shop.
• Do you avoid snacking? Plenty of my clients believe that snacking is a bad habit. And for many of them it probably is, because their snacking habits usually revolve around chips, soda, cookies and ice cream. But healthy, well planned snacks serve a couple of purposes. When you eat frequently during the day, you’ll avoid getting overly hungry at mealtimes and reduce the risk of overeating when you do finally sit down. When you eat more often, it’s easier to work more healthy foods into your day. When you think snacks, think fruit, a handful of nuts, a protein bar, some low-fat cheese and whole grain crackers or some raw veggies dipped in hummus.
By Susan Bowerman, M.S., RD, CSSD, CSOWM, FAND – Senior Director, Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training