Though our patients are of all ages and walks of life, and come to us for many various acute and chronic health conditions, there are some bad health habits to which most of us succumb. These are the most common nutritional mistakes we see our patients making. Check them out and see if they resonate with you. There is no time like the present to change your family’s eating and lifestyle habits.
1) Too many diuretics, and not enough water. At Longevity, we are always stressing to our patients the importance of staying well hydrated and the many crucial roles of water in the body. We should all be drinking half of our body weight in ounces every day. Add 12 ounces to this number for every 8 ounces of diuretics (sodas, coffee, caffeinated teas, alcohol and packaged fruit juices) that you drink. The majority of our first-time patients come in with symptoms of fatigue, irritability, anxiety, cravings, cramps and headaches, all of which are signs of dehydration! One of the most basic but important part of a new patient detox protocol is to SIP water throughout the day (No need to guzzle it. It just puts stress on the kidneys and has you running to the bathroom all the time!). So if you don’t carry around a trusty water bottle with you every day, it’s time to start!
2) Skipping meals, and going long periods without eating. Even though it’s beaten into our heads from a young age that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, you wouldn’t believe how many people are still skipping it. Even if you can’t do a full meal, try to at least eat a little something within an hour of waking to get your brain and metabolism going for the day. Many people are going as long as 12-14 hours between meals, and then they wonder why their metabolism is sluggish and they have no energy! Try to eat every 3-4 hours, or three balanced meals and nutritious snacks in-between.
3) Too many starchy carbohydrates, and not enough healthy fat and protein. Many people who are making a point to eat breakfast are choosing simple carbohydrates (scones, donuts, cereals, pancakes, toast, etc.) that turn straight to sugar in their bodies, leaving them starving again a couple of hours later. When comparing low glycemic index breakfasts to high glycemic breakfasts eaten by 9- to 12-year-old children, research shows that children who eat high glycemic breakfasts (sugary, starchy carbohydrates) tend to eat more at lunch. When it comes to breakfast, it’s all about the protein. Go for an egg, some turkey sausage or even a protein shake, and it will keep you going so much longer than the simple carbs do.
And it’s not just at breakfast that we’re overloading on carbs. It’s lunch, dinner and snacks too. If you have cereal for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch and pasta or baked potato for dinner, plus cookies and cracker-type snacks, that’s way too many starchy carbs for a single day. Starchy carbs should only make up 10-15% of our total diet, and healthy proteins and fats should make up 30% each! Many people get on a low-fat diet, and as a result they are deficient in the healthy fats and proteins that fuel our muscles and provide long-burning fuel, and they’re eating more fake, processed and starchy foods.
4) Eating the same foods every day. We’re all creatures of habit, and as a result many of us have been eating the exact same foods every day for years! Our bodies like variety, and when we overload on the same types of foods time and time again, food allergies and sensitivities can develop as our system works to keep processing them. One way to keep things fresh is to eat what’s in season. As we move into fall, it’s a great time to start eating sweet potatoes, broccoli, cabbage, pears and brussel sprouts, while spring is the time for berries, melons, corn and asparagus. If you eat salmon every week, mix it up and get the tilapia or mahi mahi from time to time. Try to incorporate at least five colors of food into your diet each day – red peppers, purple cabbage, green onions, blueberries, lemons, sweet potatoes – the more colors the better. Hint: WHITE IS NOT A COLOR, so refined breads and pastas and french fries don’t count!
5) Focusing on quantity, and not on quality. It’s really easy to get focused on the amount of food we’re eating, especially when we’re watching our weight. While portion control is a good thing, we have to remember to also pay attention to the quality of our foods. Our goal is to eat a properly prepared, nutrient dense, whole food diet. We Americans are the worst about taking a highly nutritious food and cooking all the life out of it. By the time we fry it up in hydrogenated oils or process it with all kinds of chemicals, like high fructose corn syrup and MSG, it’s of no nutritional worth whatsoever! Eat your foods in the most whole form possible, and buy organic, hormone and antibiotic-free, grass-fed and non-GMO foods whenever possible.
If you’ve never kept a food journal, we challenge you to do so for about 3-7 days. Don’t just write down what you’re eating and drinking, but record the time of day as well as how you feel afterward. This will allow you to see patterns of how certain foods affect your energy, mood and digestion. Be as specific as possible, writing down both the quantity as well as the quality of your food choices. Then step back and take an objective look at your diet, and look for the nutritional mistakes mentioned here. You might be shocked to see how long you’re going between meals, how often you’re consuming starchy carbohydrates, or how little quality fat you’re getting on a daily basis. Or you might be pleased to see how well you’re doing with drinking water and selecting high-quality foods. Either way, it’s a valuable exercise that can only improve your diet and overall health.
What bad nutritional habits are keeping you from living your healthiest life?