July 29, 2014
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Weight Management

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8 bad eating habits to break

Do you overdress? In pursuit of flavour, we often drown our foods in "extras" like sauces, dressings, and mayo-infused spreads. Condiments and salad dressings often contain loads of calories, fat, sugar, and sodium. But the full bad-for-you potential of condiments hides behind food label servings sizes. Take mayonnaise, for instance. In a recommended serving size of 1 teaspoon, you'd consume 10 g of fat, 90 calories, and 90 mg of sodium. But who uses just one teaspoon? One tablespoon of soy sauce adds up to almost half of your recommended sodium for the day, while one ounce of ketchup costs you 6 g of sugar.

Do you go too gung-ho? Ready, set, eat well! And they're off - stocking up bushels-full of salad greens, boxes of grainy and good-for-you nutrition bars, and dozens of those tiny three-scoop yogurt cups! It would seem like getting a running start would be a good idea, but the hardcore approach can easily backfire. Ideally, nutrition should be integrated into your lifestyle as an asset, not a stressor. Instead of going full-board right away, make one small adjustment at a time (like banishing the salt shaker to the back of the cupboard, swapping pop for water, or adding breakfast to your day), and practice it until it's practically a habit. Then add a new adjustment.

Do you speed-eat? Wolfing down your food is a bad habit for a few reasons. First off, speed-eating can muck up your digestion. Secondly, when you eat quickly, you effectively cut off the flow of appetite-monitoring hormones that tell your body whether you're full or still hungry. Before you tuck in to your next meal, take a few breaths and look at your food. Take one reasonably-sized bite at a time, giving yourself time to chew and swallow it before aiming your fork for the next. Don't be in such a rush, and you'll be amazed by how satisfied you can feel - even if you've eaten less than you normally would.

Do you dine while distracted? Yes, we're busy people. Thus, we mindlessly munch while watching TV or browsing blogs and while commuting via car or on foot. This kind of mechanical eating takes away much of the sensory pleasure of food. And multitasking also means we're more prone to overeating and ignoring our bodies' signals of satiety. Set aside time to simply eat - to allow our palates to savour the tastes and textures before we gulp it down into digestive oblivion.

Do you clear your plate? Perhaps it's a side effect of speed-eating. Perhaps it's that frugal "waste-not, want-not" mentality. Perhaps it's "leftover" from childhood when a parent told you to clean your plate. Whatever the reason, many of us hesitate to leave a meal unfinished. That wouldn't be so bad if we didn't suffer such portion distortion. First, recognize the distinction between a serving size (a specific, measured amount of food) and portion size (the amount of food you allow yourself). North Americans have been allowing themselves more and more food per portion lately. You can shrink your portions by using smaller plates and practicing portion control. Next, to dole out healthful and filling portions, fill half of your plate with vegetables and the other half with equal parts lean protein and whole grains.

Do you invite temptation? Tempting, fatty, salty treats rarely go to waste. A bag of potato chips will be eaten before they go stale. A box of two-bite brownies will be devoured. It's been proven time and again that we will eat what we see in front of us. With this in mind, put healthy foods front and centre (e.g., fruits, vegetables, low-fat yogurt and cheese, whole-grain breads, crackers, or pitas) and don't buy the bad stuff that tempts you! An occasional indulgence is perfectly healthy - just stash it somewhere not so easy to access.

Do you skip meals? You set yourself up for trouble when you skip breakfast or work straight through your lunch. Delaying meals and ignoring hunger often leads to overeating or opting for whatever food is closest to your mouth, regardless of how nutritious it is (see the previous tip!). Make sure to eat breakfast regularly to lower your cholesterol (a heart disease risk) and your risk of developing insulin resistance (a diabetes risk).

Do you eat empty calories? Certain types of food offer little in the way of nutritional value or fill-you-up satisfaction. In fact, some calories are just plain empty, like those in sugary soft drinks. Opt for nutritionally "dense" foods, the kinds that will fill you up for fewer calories - fibre-filled fruits, vegetables, and whole grains; or high-protein and low-fat dairy, eggs, or beans. Instead of spreading fatty butter on bread, try topping your toast with almond butter and thin banana slices.

Amy Toffelmire


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