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Health & Fitness

A little help with some bad habits A little help with some bad habits

Special correspondent
Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 01:56 PM

It's never too late to change, and little adjustments to your diet can make a huge difference in your quality of life as you age. We all know that habits are hard to break, but you may be surprised by how simple turning a bad habit into a good one can be.

Bad Habit #1_You have a sweet tooth.

Solution: Eat a cookie.

You can't replace a piece of chocolate cake with an apple, though you read that suggestion all the time.  It just doesn't work. Nothing satisfies like the real thing. What to do?  Eat the cake, but have a brownie-size piece and savor every bite.  Enjoying your dessert with a cup of hot tea or coffee will help fill you up, and you'll ultimately satisfy your craving. 

Bad Habit #2: You binge in the afternoon.

Solution: Have a substantial breakfast and lunch.

People tend to reach for afternoon snacks automatically, as opposed to stopping to think about the cause of the impulse. Most likely, that cause is not having enough to eat during breakfast or lunch and not eating enough of the right foods. Considering only 10 percent of your total daily caloric intake should be from snacks, it is understandable why afternoon binging adds up to rapid weight gain, especially later in life.

Fiber-rich foods slow gastric motility, and they help keep you full, so incorporating whole grains, oats, grain salads, fruits, high-fiber cereals and colorful vegetables into breakfast and lunch is beneficial.

If you must snack, choose all-natural foods that add variety and nutrition to your daily diet. Additionally, it's good to mix protein with complex carbs to make a snack.  Simple carbs from fruit tend to be digested quickly, so have some mozzarella with that pear. Another option is enjoying a leftover chicken leg and some brown rice.

Bad Habit #3: You don't like water.

Solution: Hydrate with coffee and tea.

New research shows that coffee and tea count toward your hydration requirements. To estimate your water needs, divide your weight in pounds by two.  For example, if you weigh 120 pounds, you should drink 60 ounces of water daily.  Although coffee and soda are mildly diuretic, consumption can contribute to the body's fluid replenishment. Coffee and tea also contain antioxidants, which have been shown to reduce the risk of developing certain cancers. By counting the cups of coffee and tea you drink daily, plus adding a few glasses of sparkling water and club soda, you'll easily meet your fluid requirements.

Bad Habit #4: You graze.

Solution: Eat substantial meals.

"Grazing" is different than snacking. Grazing is defined as eating frequent, small and balanced meals throughout the day. Snacking is mindless, non-nutritive eating and is a quick way to gain weight without realizing it. So, don't be afraid to eat when you're hungry. But sit down, slow down and be conscious of each bite. A meal will usually contain fewer calories and less fat than several hours of munching.


Tina Ruggiero, M.S., R.D., L.D., is a nutritionist in private practice. Her book, "The Best Homemade Baby Food on the Planet," is an Amazon bestseller. You can follow Tina on Twitter @Tina_Ruggiero. She blogs at www.voiceofreason.net.

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