Are you suffering from any of these bad nutrition habits? Read on for easy ways to get back on track with your weight-loss goals.
When it comes to nutrition, we all have certain habits that need to be broken. While some treats and indulgences are harmless in moderation, some habits can have negative effects on your general health such as weight gain, fatigue, irritability and faulty digestion.
Here are 5 of the worst nutrition habits and advice on how to break them.
1. Drinking too much coffee
A certain amount of morning java can help to boost alertness, performance and concentration. In addition to containing anti-oxidants, research also suggests coffee contains health benefits that can lower the risk of heart disease, decrease the risk of Parkinson’s disease and help prevent gallstones. But, when your body has had too much caffeine you can experience numerous ill effects such as increased in heart rate and blood pressure, the jitters and dehydration. Also, too much coffee can interfere with proper absorption and elimination and can upset optimal weight loss results.
While you do not have to retire your coffee mug completely, the key to drinking coffee is moderation. Research suggests you can safely consume one to two cups of coffee a day.
2. Eating after dinner
After a long hard day, many of us turn to snacking after dinner to soothe emotions, deal with stress or as a treat in front of the TV. Unfortunately, late-night snacking is a one-way ticket to weight gain. Ideally, after dinnertime, the kitchen should be considered closed. If you have eaten a sufficient dinner with a protein source, you should be left feeling satisfied. If you still are feeling the need to snack at night, opt for lighter calorie foods that do not create excess weight gain such as unsweetened apple sauce, a small yogurt, vegetables, soup broths or air popped pop corn.
3. Skipping breakfast
When Mom told you that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, she was right. Research suggests those who skip breakfast make poorer food choices throughout the day and tend to gain more weight then those who enjoy a healthy breakfast. While you do not have to consume a huge meal first thing in the morning, it is important to spark your metabolic engine and eat a small balanced meal in the morning hours. Natural yogurts, low fat cottage cheese, steel cut oats, fruit, whole grain bread and natural nut butters and fruit are all terrific options to start your day off on the right foot.
4. Falling prey to the afternoon slump
Is it usually the mid or late afternoon when you start to feel groggy and your craving for sweets rears its ugly head? Before you know it, you have grabbed a muffin, cookie or some other starchy carbohydrate to satisfy your hankering for refined, sugary goods. While grabbing a treat mid-day might make you feel better temporarily, you are encouraging the cycle of energy and blood sugar fluctuations, eventually causing weight gain.
Instead of grabbing a processed sweet treat, opt for natural sweets such as a handful of healthy trail mix with raisins, protein bars, fruit, yogurt, vegetables and hummus, a salted hard-cooked egg or a small piece of dark chocolate with at least a 70-per-cent cocoa.
5. Not drinking enough water
Symptoms of dehydration include fatigue, headaches, bloating and weakness, and can cause premature signs of aging. Drinking your six to eight glasses of water every day needs to become a habit. To get in the habit, put a dot on your hand as a reminder. Whenever you look at the dot, take a few sips of water. Keep your water handy at your desk, in your car or invest in a home water dispenser unit. Squeeze fresh lemon to you water for a refreshing taste and reap the benefits from its detoxifying properties.
If you identify with one of the bad habits listed above, just remember the key is moderation. Small changes such as making better choices when wanting sweets, drinking more water or eating a balanced morning meal can have positive effects on your health, weight and energy.
When writer Shana Gray's marriage ended, she thought she'd never find love again. Then, a weeklong foray into the world of online dating renewed her faith in romance—and herself.
"I'm leaving you tonight. I won't be there when you get home."
After 22 years of building a home and a family together, those were the only words Shana Gray's husband, Tim*, had left for her. His announcement—delivered by phone call while Shana was at work—came three weeks after she'd discovered he was having an affair with a mutual friend. "I had expected to be with him for the rest of my life," she says.
After Tim moved out in April 2003, Shana was ridden with insecurity. "I remember thinking that, if my ex didn't want me after 22 years, how could anyone else ever want me?" She was afraid to trust a new man after the horror stories she'd heard from her police officer ex-husband, and it didn't help matters when she watched a TV show about male stalkers one drunken night with her girlfriends. Maybe I'll just be single for the rest of my life, she thought.
Shana had been single for 18 months when one of her friends suggested she sign up for a dating site; the friend had found love online and thought Shana could do the same. But she was skeptical. At the time, there was still a stigma surrounding online dating, and Shana assumed most men trolling for women on the web were "scuzzbags." She finally agreed to log on—for a one-week trial.
Then, on Day 2, Steve* found her. Like in a cheesy '90s rom-com, his profile was titled "Looking for Ms. Right." His bio made him seem "down-to-earth and honest," so they struck up a conversation, moving quickly from chatting on the website to hour-long phone calls each evening at 10. Shana felt like she'd known him for ages.
When it came time to meet in person, they decided to grab a coffee at the mall. They had never seen pictures of each other, and Shana was scared Steve might not be physically attracted to her. "I'm a curvy girl," she says. She also had her friends on alert in case he was a creep. But when the couple embraced, there was an instant connection—and they've been together ever since.
In hindsight, Shana, now 55, realized the end of her marriage was the best thing that ever happened to her, as it made way for Steve to enter her life. A far better match for her, he's also much more supportive of her writing. She wrote and published her first novella in 2010 and has since authored several romance novels under the pen name Shana Gray. "Steve felt that I needed to have an outlet," she says. "He'd tell me, ‘You've got to follow your heart. You've got to do what you love.' "
*Names have been changed.
The Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies Credits: James Tse Source: Canadian Living Magazine: September 2015
From ultra classic to new flavour combinations, we're sharing our very favourite chocolate chip cookie recipes.
Our best-in-class take on this classic treat has a buttery flavour, a chewy centre and a subtly crisp exterior. Oh, and you can tweak the recipe to make them crisp or soft, too.
Two buttery chocolate chip cookie doughs—one with an extra hit of chocolate—are baked together to make these scrumptious cookies.
Sneaking this wholesome ancient grain into a beloved oatmeal cookie is easier than you think. With just a hint of flavour and a light crunch, it blends in with the oatmeal and adds extra nutrition to a sweet snack. The cookies will turn out little softer and cakier than usual.
Canadian Living has published many chocolate chip recipes, but founding food editor Carol Ferguson's recipe, with a punchy hit of vanilla, is the standout.
Kids of all ages will love topping these chocolate chip–studded dark chocolate cookies with even more chocolate. It's a delicious, messy good time. Drizzle the chocolate using a resealable plastic bag with one corner snipped off, or just dip a fork in the chocolate and wiggle it over the cookies for a simple and fun alternative.
A chewy, buttery centre and crisp edge make this the ultimate oatmeal cookie. Quick-cooking rolled oats are the key to the well-loved, homey texture, so be sure to avoid instant oats, which will cause the cookies to spread too much.
The buttery-rich flavour of the macadamia nuts adds to the sweetness of these easy and classic drop cookies. The dough can be portioned and frozen to thaw and bake another day, making freshly baked cookies a possibility at any time.
These blueberry-studded cookies are a staff favourite at Canadian Living headquarters. Finely ground almonds replace some of the flour in the dough, adding extra nutty flavour.
These cookies may look intricate, but they couldn't be simpler to make. To create the green centres, place a log of the mint dough over top of the chocolate dough, and roll up. So easy!
Sweet chocolate chips and crunchy toffee bits give these buttery cookies a festive touch.
Rich dark chocolate and fragrant orange zest make these cookies ultra-sophisticated. Cardamom adds an aromatic note, but if you don't have any on hand, you can simply leave it out.
This straightforward recipe for the classic cookie has been in Canadian Living's recipe archive for decades. For a larger cookie, simply double the amount of dough per cookie and increase the baking time by a couple of minutes.
You will need to make this three times in order to have enough to make the fireplace. Bake and work with one sheet at a time, while it's still warm, cutting out the pieces for the fireplace. Once cooled, these cookie sheets are too brittle to cut smoothly.
If you regularly put off exercise, always forget to floss or struggle with overeating, we have good news: health psychologists have figure out how we can retrain our brains, tricking ourselves into making healthier choices.
You've already put in a full day at work, ferried the kids to soccer, cooked dinner and made sure everyone is organized for tomorrow. Only then do you start thinking about getting in a workout. It's no wonder you decide to skip that run or Spinning class—for the third week straight. Sticking to healthy habits can be challenging, but are modern conveniences making it even harder? Michael Vallis, a registered psychologist, behaviour-change researcher and associate professor of family medicine at Dalhousie University in Halifax, thinks so.
Researchers like Vallis believe that the human brain is no longer adapted to its environment. "We are programmed through evolution to survive," says Vallis. "This means approaching pleasure, avoiding pain and saving energy where we can. But our contemporary worlds are so different that these survival instincts backfire."
We evolved to crave sweet, fatty and salty foods because these nutrients were necessary but scarce when we were hunter-gatherers. In the modern era, we're surrounded by foods high in sugar, fat and salt, plus we live more sedentary lives. It's a losing combination that helps explain increasing rates of obesity and obesity-related diseases.
But, as it turns out, there's new research in the field of health psychology that suggests we may be able to curb seemingly hardwired behaviours, often with only slight modifications to the way we think. Here's how you can trick yourself into making healthier choices.
1. The bad habit: "I often put off exercise."
You're all set to go for a run, until a friend of a friend on Facebook boasts about her much-deserved night in with a glass of wine and Netflix. Come to think of it, you've had a hard day, too. Next thing you know, you've justified skipping a workout, and you feel OK about it. Why? It's the power of social influence on the mind: One person imbibing, smoking or overeating can cause others to follow suit. Researchers have long known this chain reaction occurs in person, and a 2015 study shows that it also occurs over the Internet. Given how much time we spend online, the health ramifications could be significant.
The fix: Choose more positive online influences.
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found that, if we choose to engage in online communities that are focused on the pursuit of health goals, we may be able to harness the web and social media to help us stick to good exercise habits. For example, seeing someone else's tweet about heading to the gym can inspire you to get in your own workout. In the study, the effect was immediate and long-lasting, according to Damon Centola, the lead researcher and an associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania. Centola says simply knowing that perfect strangers are going to a yoga class motivated participants to get off the sofa. So find some virtual yea-sayers and make sure you read the feeds.
2. The bad habit: "I can't stick to my healthful eating goals."
You really want to achieve the goals you've set for yourself, you happily start planning a dietary revamp and, gung-ho, you embark—until it all fizzles out. That's because the factors that guide diet planning differ from those that guide actual diet behaviour, says Marc Kiviniemi, an associate professor of community health and health behaviour at the University of Buffalo. More specifically, his research shows that thoughts guide our planning process, but in the moment, the choice to eat ice cream or not isn't quite so logical.
The fix: Predict your feelings about food.
When planning your new eating strategy, give a lot of thought to how your feelings will factor in, says Kiviniemi. "Sit down in a quiet place and think about how you will actually feel about eating certain fruits and vegetables, for instance, and make selections in your plan based on those feelings." In other words, make sure your healthy eating plans are enjoyable. It seems intuitive, but it's not something a lot of us do, explains Kiviniemi.
3. The bad habit: "I let the little things stress me out."
Unwinding is important for your health because stress can trigger other unhealthy behaviours (think insomnia and overeating), as well as inflammation in the body, which, in turn, increases risk of other diseases. But if you get stressed just trying to figure out how to change the stressors in your life, it's time for a new outlook.
The fix: Tweak your perspective.
The answer may be as simple as changing the way you feel about stressful everyday events, like a bad meeting at work. This may sound difficult, but a few tricks—including questioning whether the event is a threat and what the consequences may be, and being proactive and taking action to alleviate the situation if it's within your control—can effectively help you become more resilient to stress, says Nancy Sin, a health psychologist at Pennsylvania State University. If you can't control the stressor, managing your emotions—by talking to supportive loved ones or taking part in stress-relieving activities—is key, adds Sin. Her research has found that people with positive emotional stress reactions (happiness, calmness, confidence or enthusiasm) tend to have lower inflammation than people with negative stress reactions (irritability, shame, anger, sadness or frustration).
4. The bad habit: "I never remember to floss."
Most of us probably don't mind flossing—it's not as strenuous as doing 30 minutes of exercise or as disappointing as refusing dessert. But if you didn't get into this healthy habit as a kid, it can be difficult to incorporate into your routine as an adult.
The fix: Use a memory trick.
A 2012 study out of the United Kingdom revealed how an "implementation intention," a sort of goal-setting strategy and memory booster, can lead to more flossing. Explicitly think about when you would be most likely to floss (like when you're brushing your teeth before bed), then use a cue within that event to signal action. For example, "After I brush my teeth at night, when I put down my toothbrush, I will floss." This trick works because you're integrating a new health behaviour into an existing routine, which beats trying to make more radical changes that might not be sustainable over time, explains researcher Benjamin Gardner. By the way, you can apply this strategy to any health change.
5. The bad habit: "I constantly nitpick my appearance."
Having a negative inner voice can impact your self-esteem, confidence and, ultimately, health behaviours. After all, if you'll always have a flabby stomach, why bother doing sit-ups?
The fix: Talk to yourself the way you'd talk to a friend about her looks.
A 2014 study on self-compassion found that, despite the barrage of pressures to be perfect, women who are highly self-compassionate "tend to think about their own imperfections in an accepting and patient way, without beating themselves up about them or dwelling on them," says lead researcher Allison Kelly, an assistant psychology professor at the University of Waterloo. So how can you learn from these self-loving women? "When you're feeling upset about your body, try to get into a compassionate mindset—one that you would take on with a friend—and respond to your own struggles as you would to her," says Kelly. Also try to think of ways you can be more accepting of your body. For instance, instead of struggling to fit into clothes that are too tight, buy a garment that makes you look and feel great.
6. The bad habit: "I continue eating, even after I'm stuffed."
We've all had moments when we've eaten more than we should. If you're an emotional overeater, however, it could be because you're allowing all the other times you've overindulged to trap you into making the same mistake. "Thinking about failures puts people in a negative mood, which makes them want to indulge in order to repair the bad mood," explains Hristina Nikolova, an assistant professor of marketing at Boston College.
The fix: Remind yourself of times when you had stellar self-control.
Nikolova published a study in 2015 that found not only is it easier to have self-control when remembering past successes, but the quicker you recall those successes, the more likely you are to exhibit that same behaviour. "When the recall of successes is easy, people believe they are really good at self-control, and they then act consistently with their good self-control by exhibiting restraint in the present," explains Nikolova. So make a list of two moments you're proud of and keep them on standby for any given moment that demands self-control.
7. The bad habit: "I slouch."
As long as poor posture doesn't give you back pain, what's the problem? Well, psychologists have proven there is a direct link between how tall and proud we stand and how relaxed and in control we are on the inside. It's called embodied cognition, and it indicates how at peace we are.
The fix: Fake it till you feel it.
Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist and associate professor at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., has conducted research indicating that body language influences hormones that boost confidence (testosterone) and reduce stress (cortisol), as well as emotions and behaviours. That means you may feel more in control when you remember to stand up straight and use open body language, like keeping your arms uncrossed. So set an alarm on your phone for periodic posture-check reminders.