Over time, food has become less and less about fueling your body and more and more about convenience. Blame technology (our ancestors certainly didn’t catch up with Twitter during dinner) or the snack food companies (for manufacturing such deliciously addictive treats), or whatever else you think of, but the truth remains the same: Many of us take an unhealthy approach to mealtime. And the worst part is you might not even be aware of the bad eating habits you’re guilty of. But we can help that.
Scroll through for the eight worst eating habits!
We’re all guilty of choosing our meals based on convenience, but any food that announces its low-calorie, low-fat, low-whatever-ness in the title should be avoided. Why? For one, they’re usually just not satisfying. Think about it: When was the last time you felt truly satiated after eating a pre-packaged frozen dinner? You probably end up reaching for a snack shortly after. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, our bodies burn about 50 percent more calories metabolizing whole foods than they do processed foods.
If you, like many American children, grew up being constantly reminded of the “clean plate club,” then you’re likely familiar with this bad habit. Just because food is in front of you, doesn’t mean you have to finish every last bite. Unfortunately lots of us tend to listen to external cues (“Is my plate clean?”) versus internal ones (“Am I still hungry?”) when eating, even when the food isn’t that good. Instead, check in with yourself throughout your meals to rate your hunger level. Stop yourself when you’re full, not because your food is gone.
While there’s nothing wrong with meat, making it the focus of your meals isn’t exactly a virtuous practice either. Meat is packed with plenty of essential vitamins and minerals, but it’s also higher in total calories and fat than other nutrient-rich foods like vegetables. Try thinking of meat as a side dish instead—at any given meal, eat twice as much produce as you do meat.
Paying attention to portion size is one of the most important healthy-eating habits. If you’re snacking right out of the package, you’re bound to eat more than one serving. When you portion out your food before you start eating, you’re much more aware of what you consume. Look at the serving size of packaged foods and eat all of your snacks and meals off of real dishware (and preferably at the kitchen table).
Chowing down too fast is a surefire way to pack on the pounds. You have to give your brain and your stomach time to catch up to your mouth. And your brain doesn’t start to recognize the signal that you’re full until about 20 minutes in to your meal, so you can see how wolfing down your meal in less than 15 minutes can lead to over-eating. Instead, practice mindful eating. Set your fork down after each bite and take a sip of water before you pick it up again. Or try counting your chews—15 to 20 for each bite will slow you down plenty.
If you’re still living in fear of fats, it’s time to change that. Healthy fats (like avocado, olive oil, coconut oil, and nuts) are an important part of any diet. Not only do they enhance the flavor of dishes, but they delay stomach emptying, keeping you full longer. Plant-based fats also up appetite-suppressing hormones and have been shown to boost metabolism. Don’t be afraid to drizzle olive oil on your salad or snack on a serving of walnuts.
This probably comes as no surprise, but distracted eating leads to over-eating. People who multitask during mealtime underestimate how much they eat by 30 to 50 percent—they also rate their level of fullness as less than those who focus solely on their food while dining. And (no surprise here) the multitasking eaters end up consuming more calories later on in the day.
Let’s face it: We, as humans, are weak—especially in the face high-sugar, high-fat foods, which have proven addictive qualities, not unlike cocaine and heroin (yikes!). As such, one of the worst eating habits you can engage in is testing your ability to resist temptation. In one study, office-workers with candy in clear dishes on their desks ate a whopping 71 percent more of the sweet stuff compared to the group that had candy in opaque dishes. That’s not say you need to purge your life of anything sweet, but do remember “out of sight, out of mind.” Keep healthy foods front and center in your fridge and stash the cookies in the back of your pantry—bonus points if you store them in a non-descript canister.
Which of these bad eating habits are you guilty of? Tell us below!