Habits can be your best friend when it comes to healthy living. Think of the ones that were drilled into us as kids–like brushing your teeth or eating veggies. In our adult lives, creating a routine around eating well and exercising often undoubtedly increases its effectiveness. But are all the habits you’ve come to keep actually healthy? You may want to think it over. In fact, many “healthy” things you think are helping you could actually be setting you back. Check this list for 10 “Healthy” Habits You Need to Rethink
If you’re looking to lose weight and boost your metabolism, you need to “stroke the fire” every few hours. Since your stomach is empty and primed for food after a good night’s sleep and an eight to ten hour fast, breakfast is crucial to supplying your body with steady energy. For the perfect morning meal, try balancing protein with carbs and good fats, like a smashed avocado and egg on a slice of whole wheat toast. You can even boil eggs in advance and keep them on hand so breakfast is a breeze. If you’re leaving the house in a hurry, bring some protein rich snacks like nuts with you so you won’t be starving by lunchtime.
Mindlessly Munching Protein Bars
It’s true that protein is good for you. It fuels your muscles and major body functions and also keeps your hunger under control throughout the day. However, protein bars, depending on the brand, can be far from the best sources of protein. Most contain enough sugar to rival a candy bar, along with a host of other preservatives and carbs. Learn to read your labels and know what to look for. As a general rule, only pick bars with over 10 grams of protein and less than 10 grams of sugar. Make sure you are familiar with most of the ingredients listed and keep the total calorie count under 200.
Sure, calories matter when it comes to being healthy and staying fit, but there’s more to the story than the old “calories in vs calories out” adage. First, more research has shown that the content and quality of food matters more than the calories it contains. Therefore, 100 calories of fish and 100 calories of chocolate cake do not serve your body in the same way. While it’s good to stay in the know of the general calorie counts in most foods, don’t get caught in the nitty-gritty. As long as you choose healthy, natural foods over highly processed ones, your calories will keep in check.
Going Overboard at Happy Hour
Most fit, healthy conscious people I meet still like to go out for a drink from time to time. And why not? Some alcohol, like red wine, has been proven beneficial to overall health. But be careful what you order. Most mixed cocktails, like margaritas, daiquiris, or even sangria, are loaded with liqueurs and syrups that not only affect your waistline but inevitably, your hangover. Go for light cocktails that are made of club soda, which will keep you hydrated while you imbibe. Or skip the cocktails altogether and instead sip on high-quality alcohol on the rocks with a squeeze of lime.
Long Cardio Sessions
Many gym-goers believe that longer and sweatier is always better, but that’s not always the case. Some studies suggest that cardio loses it effectiveness after 30-40 minutes, especially if you’re maintaining a steady pace on the treadmill or elliptical. Instead, wake up your muscles with bursts of high energy intervals, like sprints. For an extra challenge, try reducing your recovery time after each interval, so your workout finishes on your toughest stretch. Also, complement your cardio with strength training exercises, like lifting weights, to keep muscles toned and strong.
It makes sense to watch your calories when it comes to beverages. Most regular sodas and juices are loaded with sugar, chemicals, and add very little nutritional value. But some dieters will reach for calorie-free colas to shake a sugar craving or for an afternoon perk. If that’s you, time to rethink. Diet sodas (and many reduced calorie juices and flavored waters) contain artificial sweeteners that may do just as much damage–if not more–to your health. Opt for plain water as your beverage of choice. Need more flavor? Squeeze in a lemon, lime, or even some mint and cucumber for a refreshing twist.
Eating Too Much Fruit
When most people consider swapping processed foods for more plant-based options–fruit seems like an easy choice. But don’t go overboard. While fruit has many good aspects (it’s loaded with fiber, vitamins, and water) the high fructose content in some fruits will spike your blood sugar like crazy. Try to limit your fruit intake to one piece per day, and enjoy it with some protein to slow the digestion process, like apples with cheese. Also, pick fresh fruit over dried when you have a choice–you’ll be more satisfied and hydrated too.
Washing your hands a few times in your day is a great healthy habit to keep, especially if you work in an office with many surfaces and outside germs. But be careful with which soaps you pick to lather up. Anti-bacterial soaps may strip your skin of natural moisture, and have the potential to create resistant bacteria. Translation? You’re making the germs around you stronger, and more likely to cause nasty infections. Instead grab a gentle cleanser and read the label closely to make sure it’s safe.
Microwave Diet Meals
Microwave meals may seem like an easy option, especially if you are both new to dieting and a novice in the kitchen. But watch those labels! Most brands are loaded with salt and sugar, not to mention the preservatives it takes to keep them tasting (somewhat) fresh. Also, most come in very small portions that leave you famished later, and prone to late-night snacking. If you need a quick dinner with short prep-time, trying making your own soups and freezing those instead. Add seasonal veggies and lean meat or tofu for a nutritious meal.
Falling For Fat-Free Foods
Twenty years ago, fat-free marketing was all the rage. Seemingly overnight, ordinary full-fat foods, from mayonnaise to yogurt to cookies, became plastered with fat-free labels in hope to sell consumers a healthier food. Today, things have changed. Much evidence now suggests that some fats are beneficial for organ function, as well as regulating digestion and appetite. Fat will leave you more satisfied, so you’re likely to indulge in less full-fat ice cream and butter than the fake stuff. Also, when fat is removed, often sugar and carbs go through the roof to compensate for taste, so you’re better off sticking with full-fat products in the first place. As a general rule, if you see the words “fat free” in splashy writing and bright colors, don’t buy into it. It’s probably not healthy.