12 bad health habits and how to fix them

Here's how to kick bad-health habits for good.

By Amberly McAteer

Bad health habits: 1-3
This story was originally titled "12 Bad Health Habits and How to Fix Them" in the June 2009 issue. Subscribe to Canadian Living today and never miss an issue!

We all know about the bad habits we have that can cause serious health problems – such as smoking, eating junk food and living a sedentary lifestyle. But what about the ones that seem insignificant, yet may cause health issues down the road? Here's how to kick them for good. 

1. Skipping breakfast
Time is tight in the morning, and grabbing just a coffee for breakfast seems like the only option.

The effects: If you skip breakfast your system will slow down to conserve energy and store calories; this will affect your metabolism and your ability to concentrate, says Gloria Tsang, a registered dietitian from Vancouver and the founder of nutrition website HealthCastle.com. You'll likely overcompensate by eating more at lunch. What's more, studies in the American Journal of Epidemiology show that breakfast-skippers are more likely to be not just overweight, but obese.

The fix: Eat within two hours of waking up. The key to a proper breakfast is balancing protein, fat and carbohydrates. Sound complicated? It's not. Pack a breakfast such as whole grain bread with low-fat cheese to eat once you arrive at the office. Some whole grain cereal or oatmeal waffles will also do the trick.

2. Eating your kids' leftovers
When your kids leave the table, they're full and their plates are half-empty. They're only leftovers, you think – so you finish them off.

The effects: Eating just an extra 100 calories (half a cup of macaroni and cheese) with each weekday dinner means you'll put on a pound of fat in seven weeks.

The fix: Eat only what's on your plate. "And don't heap food on your plate – or your kids' plates, either," Tsang says. Learn to recognize the feeling of being full and then stop eating. As soon as everyone is full, pack the leftovers in containers for lunches.

3. Drinking alcohol excessively

Wine helps you to relax, and you enjoy it with dinner at the end of a busy day.

The effects: "Drinking a glass of wine – even two on occasion – is just fine," Tsang says. But, she warns, alcohol packs about 120 calories in every five-ounce (150 millilitre) glass, without providing any nutrients.

The fix: Have a glass of water before each alcoholic drink, so you're not looking to alcohol to quench thirst. Find other relaxing ways of rewarding yourself, such as taking a bath or reading a good book before bed, and limit your wine intake to a maximum of one glass a day.

Page 1 of 4 – More solutions to your bad health habits on page 2!

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