A picture of your health is like a 1,000-piece puzzle — there are many interconnected parts, each dependent on the others to tell the whole story. Did you know that the diet mistakes you make before noon can greatly affect how well you achieve your health goals throughout the rest of the day?
Jillian Greaves, a registered dietitian and owner of Prevention Pantry, tells The Daily Meal that morning mistakes, such as skipping breakfast or not eating enough, can lead to “overeating at meals or snacks in the afternoon and evening, low energy levels, and can impact mood and cognition.” None of which is very helpful when you’re trying to find inspiration to attend a yoga class after work, or make a healthy choice at a restaurant for dinner.
We asked nutritionists to share with us the habits they notice often get in the way of their clients’ health ambitions.
We’ve all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but did you realize that consistently missing it can set you up for some serious repercussions later in the day? Cheryl Mussatto, MS, RD, LD, and author of “The Nourished Brain: The Latest Science on Food’s Power for Protecting the Brain from Alzheimer’s and Dementia,” believes that one of the worst ways to start your day is to skip breakfast. “Each day we sit down to eat breakfast, we are literally ‘breaking the fast’ of not haven eaten for many hours.”
Liz Weiss, MS, RDN, and host of the Liz’s Healthy Table podcast and blog, adds that “people who regularly eat breakfast have a lower BMI (body mass index), consume more calcium and fiber each day, have better memory and attention, and are more likely to meet recommendations for fruit and vegetable consumption.”
Eating while distracted
Shower, check the news, get the kids off to school, rush to work… the morning is one of the busiest times of day, and most people don’t have the luxury to sit down for breakfast amidst a flurry of activity. But eating while distracted or on the move could be setting you up for failure. Multi-tasking while downing your morning meal could lead to overeating or not feeling satisfied, according to Keri Gans, MS, RDN, CDN and author of “The Small Change Diet.” “If you don’t take the time to sit down, chew slowly and eat mindfully, it may almost seem like if you hadn’t eaten at all.”
Eating too quickly
“Eating in a rush doesn’t allow the body to catch up with your mind — hence you typically eat more when you’re eating in a rush. Satiety cues haven’t been reached, and you still think you’re hungry, so you most likely continue to eat past feeling full,” says Dana Harrison, nutritionist and educator behind Eats 2 Know, LLC. Her advice is to take it slow and focus on internal, physiological cues (like feelings of fullness) instead of external cues (such as eating just to eat or eating at a certain time of day when you’re not actually hungry).
Not packing a lunch
Ariane Resnick, CNC, warns to not wait until you’re hungry to grab lunch, especially if you’re buying your lunch. “If you purchase something before hunger has kicked in, you’ll make a wiser choice,” she explains. Keri Gans adds, “If you are surrounded in your office by co-workers who do not make the healthiest lunch choices you might find yourself joining in. Also, if you are very busy at work, you might not even bother to have lunch.” If you have a packed, nutritious lunch at your desk, a healthy choice is right in front of you.
Skipping a morning snack
Don’t forget to grab that apple and peanut butter or string cheese before you run out the door in the morning. Courtney Ferreira, a registered dietitian and personal trainer in Baltimore, tells The Daily Meal, “I find people will try desperately to ‘make it’ until noon or 1 p.m. for lunch only to be ravenous, overeat, and often make less healthful food choices due to the feelings of being very hungry. A snack is OK, and encouraged. If people are hungry, they should eat.”
Drinking your calories
Morning drinks can quickly morph into calorie bombs — think sweetened juices and sugary coffee drinks and smoothies. Keri Gans explains: “Many people don’t feel as full if they drink their calories versus actual chewing. Also, calories in beverages, such as coffee, can add up rather quickly, especially if you have more than one cup. Be careful not to make your morning joe into a sweetened dessert.”
But excess calories can be just one pitfall of many morning drinks. Cheryl Mussatto points out that many juices lack fiber and protein, both “key ingredients keeping us full and helping meet our nutrient needs. Even some protein shakes can be overly loaded with more protein than we need in a meal, and also can lack a healthy mix of nutrients we need to get our day started right, such as sufficient carbs and fat.”
Not eating fruits or veggies before noon
Liz Weiss explains that since most Americans don’t meet the daily recommended servings of fruits and vegetables, what you eat in the morning can make a big impact on your day. “By choosing nothing more than a bagel for breakfast or a giant muffin for your morning snack, it’s easy to miss out on achieving your daily fruit and veggie goal,” she says. Easy ways to reach the recommended number of servings? Mix spinach or frozen cauliflower rice into your morning smoothie, add chopped veggies to a breakfast quiche, or keep a large batch of fruit salad on hand for easy snacking.
Not eating ‘real food’
When it comes to the myriad of convenient breakfast foods to choose from, Dana Harrison recommends going straight to the source — eating whole foods. “Sometimes we get so caught up in packaged goods because they’re quick and convenient (which they are), but whole food sources can have the same benefits plus many more! Think grabbing a package or handful of almonds, an avocado, a quality unsweetened yogurt, or a piece of fruit. They’re packaged and ready to go for you.”
Skimping on protein before noon
Catherine Crow, the nutritional therapy practitioner at Butter Nutrition, explains that eating a carbohydrate-only breakfast sets you up for an energy slump soon after. “Be sure to incorporate at least a little bit of additional protein (like a tablespoon of collagen protein, a hard-boiled egg, or some nut butter) and fat to your breakfast to help keep your energy levels strong till lunch time.”
Not drinking enough water
This is one of the biggest mistakes Chelsey Amer, MS, RDN, CDN, sees in her practice, as owner of Chelsey Amer Nutrition. After a night of sleep, the body wakes in a state of dehydration, so it’s very important to hydrate first thing. “I encourage all of my clients to ‘wake up with a cup [of water]’ before sipping their morning coffee or tea. Sipping water first thing doesn’t just add to your daily hydration quota, but re-hydrates your cells and energizes you!”
Not eating your water
According to Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition, it’s not only important to drink water, it’s also important to eat water-rich foods (such as fruits, vegetables, oatmeal, milk, and yogurt). “Staying hydrated is necessary for good health for everything from your digestion (think softer stool that’s easier to pass) to your skin health (think glowing, plump skin). And eating water-rich foods will help you feel fuller and more satisfied.”
Eating out too often
According to Jillian Greaves, registered dietitian and owner of Prevention Pantry, eating out for breakfast now and then is fun, but shouldn’t be a regular thing. “Homemade meals are always better in my mind! The quality of the food and the way it’s prepared is typically better at home.” She notes that when you make your own breakfast, you have control over the ingredients and it’s more budget-friendly than buzzing through the drive-through or visiting Starbucks every morning. “Breakfast foods are easy to prepare and can be a nutritious way to start the day.”
Sleeping too much or too little
Sleep is one of those elusive things that no one can seem to quite get right. We all seem to be chronically under-rested, but oversleeping on the weekend can also lead to its own problems, like lethargy and sleep fragmentation. Most of us don’t get enough shuteye, though, and Chelsey Amer explains that not getting enough sleep is especially detrimental to your health and nutrition habits. “Studies repeatedly show that sleeping less than the recommended 7-9 hours per night is associated with a greater weight and increased cravings (making the doughnut at your coffee shop look extra appealing).”
Not taking at least 5 minutes for yourself
Jackie Arnett Elnahar, RD, Esq., and CEO of TelaDietitian, says that in the hectic rush of the morning, it’s easy to give in to stress, which can lead to poor nutritional choices. “A quick perspective check in the morning can help keep you grounded during the day.” She believes in being grateful for the little things in life — for her, that can be as simple as the opportunity to make her kids a wholesome lunch. Mitzi Dulan, RD, nutritionist, and owner of SimplyFuel, recommends simple meditation, deep breathing, or even just listening to music to set yourself up for a healthy day.
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