8 eating mistakes not to make in 2013
You watch what you eat and feel pretty savvy about nutrition. But as you're racing from one chore to the next, it's easy to skimp on certain nutrients and overdose on others. The good news: "There's no food or dietary component that you have to eliminate from a healthy diet," says Rachel Begun, MS, RD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "But you have to plan a little to balance your diet the majority of the time." Kick off 2013 with a healthy start by discovering women's most common nutrition mistakes and how to fix them.
You eat too much sodium
The recommended daily allowance for sodium is 2,300 mg. But if you're over 50 years old, have high blood pressure, diabetes or kidney disease or are African American, your sodium intake shouldn't go above 1,500 mg per day. Unfortunately, the average American consumes about 3,300 mg daily, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). "Most of our daily sodium comes from restaurant meals and processed foods, not the salt shaker on your table," says Begun. "Start reading food labels. You'll be surprised how quickly sodium adds up."
The fix: Eat more fresh foods or prepare more foods at home, where you control how much salt goes in. Reduce your consumption of packaged foods, such as canned soup, lunch meat, frozen meals, flavored rice, dressings, sauces and snacks. Watch for sodium in condiments too. Even low-sodium soy sauce has a whopping 533 mg per tablespoon. And when you dine out, choose restaurants that cook to order, so you can ask chefs to prepare items without salt and serve sauces on the side.
Your sugar intake is too high
According to the American Heart Association, women should have no more than 6 tsp (24 g) of added sugar per day. But many of us get about 22 tsp per day. "The spoonful in your coffee isn't the biggest culprit," says Angela Lemond, RD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "Sugar is hiding in places you don't expect." Since added sugar contains weight-boosting calories but no nutrients, it's especially important to be conscious of your overall intake.
The fix: Learn to identify added sugar in ingredients lists. It goes by names like high fructose corn syrup, evaporated cane juice, molasses, honey, agave nectar and barley malt syrup. Watch for added sugar in foods such as sauces and dressings and bottled drinks such as fruit juice, iced tea, iced coffee, energy drinks and of course, sodas. And be wary of lowfat foods. When companies take out fat, they often add sugar to enhance flavor, says Lemond.
You skimp on fiber
"Fiber slows the rate at which your body digests food, so your energy levels remain more stable and you feel full longer, which helps with weight management," says Lemond. Fiber may also reduce your risk of constipation, heart disease, diabetes and colon cancer. Women need about 25 g per day, yet most of us eat just 10 to 15 g, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The fix: Up the amount of fiber you eat over a few weeks' time to cut your chances of bloating, and drink more water, which helps fiber move through the digestive tract. Start the day right with breakfast cereals that contain 5 g of fiber or more. Eat a variety of beans and legumes, sprinkling them over salads and pasta. Eat the skins on fruits and vegetables, such as apples and potatoes. Bump up your intake of whole grains, such as whole-grain pasta, or try ancient grains, such as quinoa and spelt, to add variety to your diet, suggests Begun.
You don't eat enough protein
Too little protein can't keep hunger at bay, which can lead to mindless snacking and weight gain. "Protein goes a long way to helping you feel full longer," says Begun. "A piece of toast for breakfast isn't going to hold you as well as a protein-rich egg would." How much is enough? Women need about 46 g of protein per day, according to the CDC.
The fix: Incorporate protein into every meal and most snacks. Try an egg or nonfat or lowfat Greek yogurt, which contains about twice as much protein as regular yogurt, for breakfast. Snack on lowfat cottage cheese, lowfat cheese spread on a few whole-wheat crackers or a smear of nut butter on an apple or banana. Boost your intake of plant-based proteins by sprinkling nuts or seeds over salads and soup and eating more beans, soy products and greens such as kale and Swiss chard at lunch or dinner.
You overdo it on red and processed meats
Meat is an excellent source of protein, with about 21 g per serving. But according to the American Cancer Society, studies have shown a link between red and processed meats, like lunch meat, sausage and pepperoni, and cancers such as colon cancer. "Many of us don't pay attention to portion size, which is just 3 ounces for protein," says Lemond. That's the size of a deck of cards or the palm of your hand.
The fix: Use these kinds of meats as a flavor enhancer rather than the center of your plate -- a crumble of bacon or sausage is plenty to spice up a dish. Slice up meat on a salad, make a stir-fry with more vegetables than red or processed meat and substitute beans for meat in chili. Choose 95% lean ground beef and lean cuts, which typically contain the word "round," as in top round, or "loin," as in tenderloin.
You don't drink enough water
"Not drinking enough fluids can trigger hunger if you're even slightly dehydrated," says Lemond. While your needs vary each day based on how active you are, how hot and humid it is and how much water you're getting from foods such as fruits and vegetables, here's a general recommendation: six to eight eight-ounce glasses per day, according to the NIH.
The fix: Before snacking, drink a glass of water and reevaluate how you're feeling in a few minutes. If you don't have a taste for water, up its appeal by adding berries, mint leaves, citrus or cucumber slices. Drizzle a splash of fruit juice in seltzer water, or try hot or cold herbal teas. Another way to work in water: Fruits and veggies are about 85% water, and eating them counts toward your daily.
You overdose on carbs
"Carbohydrates are our main fuel for energy," says Lemond. In fact, 45 to 65% of your total daily calories should come from carbs, according to the CDC. "The problem is we overindulge in them," points out Lemond. Not only are carbs in pasta and bread but also in fruits, vegetables, legumes and grains (all those things we're telling you to eat!).
The fix: Focus on carbs that are loaded with vitamins, minerals and body-regulating fiber. Limit your intake of carbs from highly processed foods, such as white bread and pastries, since they've been stripped of fiber. Opt for more whole foods such as oats, beans, lentils and fresh, frozen or canned fruits and vegetables. Boost your whole-grain consumption by substituting whole-wheat bread, crackers and pasta for white, or use lettuce or a corn tortilla wrap for sandwiches to cut back on bread.
You skip meals
"This is probably the biggest nutrition mistake on the list," says Begun. "There's consistent evidence that people who skip meals, especially breakfast, are more likely to be overweight. You need calories to burn calories."
The fix: Make time to eat, no matter how busy you are. Do it within one hour of getting up and throughout the day. If you don't enjoy breakfast, munch on something simple, such as a banana or nonfat or lowfat yogurt. If you'll be on the go all day, "pack snacks containing a little protein, a little fiber and a little fat so you'll feel fuller longer," says Begun. Good choices include yogurt, lowfat cheese sticks, hummus and veggies or a handful of almonds.