How many bad habits do you have?
In the never-ending quest to squeeze into last year's jeans with minimal discomfort (and tears), you've probably developed a whole arsenal of healthy weapons, like regularly weighing yourself and eating more baby carrots than you can count. But chances are, you've got a couple of habits lurking around that aren't doing you—or your weight—any favors.
Here's how to break free from your 10 most common bad eating habits—and make those jeans looser for life.
|1. Your night's not complete without a couple glasses of wine|
While the health benefits of red wine are for real, it's not likely the first thing on your mind when you pour yourself a glass at the end of a nutty day. And before you know it, the scale creeps up. "It's not that a little wine is bad, but a lot of it can add up to extra calories," says Amy Goodson, MS, RD, board-certified in sports dietetics and the Dallas Cowboys' sport dietician. Just a 5-ounce serving of red wine contains 125 calories. An easy fix: Buy smaller glasses, suggests Goodson. "The smaller the glass, the less wine you drink." (And instead of using wine to unwind, try these two-minute stress solutions.)
|2. You use artificial sweeteners in everything|
If you think sweetness doesn't count as long as it's calorie-free, you may want to reconsider. A recent article published in the journal Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism links artificially sweetened products with obesity, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome—the same health issues associated with sugar-laden foods. "The only way to really get off artificial sweeteners is to either use less or learn to like things less sweet," says Goodson. Try using one less packet each time you flavor your coffee, oatmeal, etc., and gradually substitute honey or agave nectar.
|3. You always salt before you taste|
If you reach for the salt shaker before you even take a bite, it's time to slow down. A teaspoon of salt contains 2,300 mg of sodium, the limit healthy adults should take in for an entire day (1,500 mg for those with high blood pressure). Plus, canned foods, fast food, and condiments also typically contain high levels of salt, making it ridiculously easy to exceed the limit. "It's so important to taste your food before adding extra flavor to it," says Keri Gans, MS, RD, CDN, New York-based nutritionist and author of The Small Change Diet. "You may be surprised how much little actually needs to be added, if any at all." Try herbs or lemon juice—or simply retrain your tastebuds by quitting added salt cold turkey, says Gans.
|4. You never drink water|
Let's face it, within the beverage world, water's not very enticing. But even slight dehydration can make your workout feel harder, not to mention lead to other unenjoyable issues like fatigue, dry skin, and constipation. Getting in eight or more glasses a day is easier if you drink every time you eat and when you work out, says Goodson. "You need about half your body weight in ounces of fluid," she says. For example, a 140-pound person needs about 70 ounces of fluid plus any amount sweated out during exercise. (Keep your water interesting with these 25 fantastic sassy water recipes.)
|5. You never plan your meals|
Trying to configure a healthy meal when you're hungry and want something now isn't the best approach. The saying, "if you fail to plan, you plan to fail" is so true, says Gans. "Plan your meals for the week on Sunday. Keeping a well-stocked kitchen is the first step toward developing healthy eating habits." Gans recommends keeping the following items on hand for quick meals: whole grains, beans, jarred tomato sauce (no added sugar), frozen veggies, eggs, yogurt, high-fiber cereal, fruit, and chicken breasts.
|6. You always eat while doing something else|
It's easy to lose track of how much you've eaten when you're not focused on the food in front of you. Instead of snacking while standing in the kitchen or while watching TV, prepare a healthy snack and then sit down, says Goodson. "Choose a protein like Greek yogurt and berries, a few whole wheat crackers with a little peanut butter or a string cheese and a few grapes. Then pick it all up and walk out of the kitchen with ONLY your snack."
|7. You skip meals when you know you're going to eat something indulgent|
Starving yourself all day in preparation for a party at night isn't a good way to save calories and will more than likely backfire. "Skipping meals is a sure way to wind up overeating, no matter how well intended," says Gans. "So that indulgence you planned now becomes a whole lot more calories than you might have ever thought." Instead, stick to your regular eating schedule. You can still indulge but will be less likely to overdo it, says Gans.
|8. You eat, eat, and eat on days when you work out|
If weight loss is your goal, counteracting every workout with a meal of equal caloric value puts the kibosh on results. "Exercise burns calories and makes you hungry," says Goodson. "To avoid eating enough to make up for it, combat workout hunger by eating nutrient-rich foods that make you feel full, such as those high in fiber, protein, and healthy fat." High-fiber grains and vegetables fill you up with few calories. Protein and healthy fat slow down digestion so they get you full faster and keep you full longer. (These 20 perfect workout snacks will keep you nice and full.)
|9. You eat well during the week, but take the weekends off|
Eating healthy during the week doesn't give you carte blanche for weekend calorie splurges. "Unfortunately, taking the weekends off is total sabotage for all your good efforts during the week, especially if you were hoping to lose weight," says Gans. Your better bet? "Stay consistent on weekends if you want to continue to see results." Instead of going hog wild, splurge on one portion-controlled treat, such as a small pastry from a local bakery. Or reward your hard work during the weekday with a massage, a new lipstick, or cute workout clothes.
|10. You're a follower, not a leader|
If you let others lead when you order for lunch, you may end up eating many more calories than you counted on. Instead of always going with the flow when your friends and co-workers place food orders, sometimes it pays to be more "difficult," says Gans. "Just because everyone wants the pepperoni pizza for lunch, suggest topping it with veggies instead, and add a large mixed green salad to the order. This way, you can eat one slice less, as you fill up on the veggies." Your co-workers may even follow suit.