Breaking bad eating habits can be tough. Most people want to lose weight or at least live healthier. Deciding to do so can be difficult enough, but actually going through with it can be even tougher. One of the biggest hurdles is the lifestyle change that comes with no longer being able to eat anything you want whenever you’d like. It’s a discipline that few of us are accustomed to, and many of us don’t enjoy. Still, it’s one that has to be tackled if you hope to accomplish your goals. Habits are habits for a reason – they’re routine and easy to fall victim to. As difficult as changing those bad habits may be, it’s practically unavoidable if you’re trying to improve your health and lose weight.
Blount Memorial registered dietitian Angie Tillman says while changing habits isn’t easy, doing so can have powerful effects on your health. “Rather than focus on what you’re giving up when you begin a diet plan, I like to focus on the positive steps you can take to ‘crowd out’ your bad habits,” she said. “The important thing to remember, particularly if you’re trying to break multiple habits, is that you shouldn’t take on too much at one time. You have to pace yourself by focusing on one small change at a time. This is the most-effective way to produce true behavior changes,” she explained. “Once you have that first positive new habit in place, you can shift focus to the next one on the list,” she added.
Tillman says there are three very common bad habits that all of us can break if we want to try to be healthier. “The first bad habit to focus on changing is not eating enough protein,” Tillman said. “It is easy to eat three meals a day and two or three snacks that are primarily carbohydrate. For example, a bowl of cereal for breakfast, pretzels or chips for a snack, baked potato for lunch, and a big bowl of pasta for dinner. Most people who eat primarily carbohydrate-heavy meals find themselves feeling hungry quickly after eating and are more likely to overeat. Try adding plenty of protein to each meal and to your snacks to steady blood glucose and appetite. Some examples of protein foods include adding eggs to breakfast; Greek yogurt or cottage cheese as a snack; and grilled chicken, tuna, or salmon to lunch and dinner,” she said.
“Fast food also is an extremely common bad habit that we all could and should try to break,” Tillman said. “When possible, you should try to prepare your own meals. You can do this either a few days in advance if you’re a good planner, or the same day if you have the time. If simply have to resort to eating fast food, try to remember to choose ‘healthier’ convenience options such as canned tuna or salmon, pre-washed and pre-chopped fruits and vegetables, and rotisserie chicken with pre-washed salad greens,” she said. “The trick here is to plan ahead,” she added.
Finally, Tillman says that the old standby of cutting out sodas and high-calorie drinks is a step to take if we want to eat healthier. “With sodas and sugary drinks, you can try to gradually decrease your consumption or simply quit cold turkey,” she said. “You’ll have to figure out which of these methods works best for you, and much of it will depend on how frequently you drank them before. For instance, if you had several sodas a day, quitting cold turkey may not be the best approach. Try to seek out healthier alternatives, such as flavored sparkling waters or water with fresh fruits or cucumber added,” she said. “These are not easy things to change, but just changing one bad eating habit can have a profound effect on your health goals,” she added.