It often comes as a surprise to clients that it is not the one off treats or restaurant or fast food meals that see our diets do of the rails, rather it is the poor dietary habits that become so deeply entrenched that we are not even aware of them. Here are the most common dietary issues I see on a daily basis that are preventing people from reaching the dietary goals they have for themselves.
1) Replacing breakfast with coffee.
It does not matter if it is a flat white, latte or cappuccino, any coffee that contains a significant amount of milk, is also likely to contain a significant number of calories, especially if it is ordered in a large or Grande sized cup. There are several issues with large, milk based coffee. First of all humans do not tend to compensate for liquid calories, which means we do not eat less simply because we have drunk an extra 200-300 calories. Coffee can also mean that we have a few small breakfasts, especially when we begin the day with a coffee, add to that some extra toast or cereal and then have another coffee on arrival at work an hour or two later. And then for some of us, breakfast has become coffee which can interfere with our natural hunger and fullness signals through the morning.
Solution – if you enjoy a coffee, enjoy a small sized serve with your breakfast and then wait at least 2-3 hours before you eat again. You can enjoy black tea or coffee without worry.
2) Eating too much, too late.
A typical dietary pattern sees busy parents and professionals grabbing a quick breakfast or coffee on the run, followed by a light, late lunch and then a series of afternoon snacks and relatively heavy dinner much later in the evening. Unfortunately this eating pattern is linked to weight gain simply as we tend to move much less during the second half of the day and are also less likely to wake up hungry for a good breakfast the next day. For many of us a shift to this schedule is unlikely to happen anytime soon which means some subtle shifts to our food intake patterns will help to reverse the daily cycle of higher calorie eating towards the second half of the day.
Solution – commit to making both breakfast and a good lunch a priority and if dinner will be enjoyed after 8pm each night, keep your portions small and choose lighter options such as salad, grilled fish and vegetables. For some, enjoying a heavier meal at lunchtime is great solution.
3) Little extras slipping in
It may be an extra coffee here, a biscuit in the tearoom or a fundraising chocolate there and without even realising it we have eaten an extra meal worth of mindless snacks. Snacking and mindless eating are both habits that tend to build over many years when we find ourselves in easy reach of food to relieve boredom, anxiety or simply because tasty food is in easy reach. So, if you know that extras slip into your diet on a daily basis, try keeping a diary for a day or two to simply gauge where any extras may be slipping in – you may be surprised!
Solution – aim to eat just 6-8 times each day with 2-3 hours in between meals and only water, herbal or black tea or coffee in between.