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Proteins, Fats, and Carbs: How to Balance Your Diet

Some of your daily habits may be hindering your health or weight loss goals. Little things you do throughout the day can either propel you forward or take you back a step, and either way, they add up over time. Consider the following 5 bad habits to determine whether a few easy changes will help you get back on track.

1. Not Planning Meals

Going anywhere without knowing what or when you'll eat is a setup for making unhealthy eating choices. If you know you're going to be out all afternoon, bring a piece of fruit, handful of nuts, a cheese stick, or a bag of crunchy cut-up veggies along with you. This will help you avoid feeling ravenous and being tempted to drive through fast food or grab quick, processed snacks.

Plan what you are going to have for lunch the night before, and if possible, bring your lunch with you to work, to school, or on your daily errands. Plan out your meals and snacks for the week, and head to the grocery store with a list of ingredients. Having a game plan for the week and being prepared will prevent your being caught off-guard and giving into tempting unhealthy food choices.

2. Rewarding Yourself with Food

Frequently treating yourself with desserts or another food treats can sabotage your health goals. Justifying a reward for your hard workout at the gym can negate your hard work and hinder your weight loss. If you want to treat yourself, go for a non-food reward like new workout pants, shoes, a massage, or even a pedicure. Practice this technique with children as well, so they do not associate food with reward. Food should nourish the body.

3. Letting Yourself "Starve"

This habit goes along with planning meals. If you know you are going to be away for a long time, or have a busy work day, bring some food with you. When we let ourselves go too long without eating, we are more likely to choose unhealthy foods - and overeat too much of them. Avoid this by eating something small about every 3-4 hours. This will help stabilize blood sugar and prevent blood sugar swings.

Ideally, you should pair a healthy carbohydrate, like a piece of fruit or some vegetables, with a lean protein source to keep blood sugar levels stable. Adding in a moderate amount of heart-healthy fats, like a small handful of nuts or ¼ avocado, with a protein and carbohydrate will also help keep hunger levels down.

4. Skipping Protein for Breakfast

You have probably heard the importance of eating breakfast in the morning. It is, of course, the most important meal of the day - especially for those trying to lose weight. However, including protein to breakfast may have an added advantage. According to a 2006 study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, subjects who had a high-protein breakfast compared to a high-carbohydrate breakfast had significantly lower amount of ghrelin released. Ghrelin is a hormone that stimulates the brain to increase appetite. Therefore, it appears that protein can help you stay feeling fuller longer, compared to eating a mainly carbohydrate-rich breakfast.

Increase protein at breakfast by adding in some eggs or egg whites, nuts or nut butters, protein powders in smoothies or oatmeal, low-fat cottage cheese, or Greek yogurt.

5. Eating a Lot of Packaged "Diet" Foods

Pre-packaged foods can be an easy, convenient source of nutrition on the go. However, as with anything, overdoing the packaged foods may not be the best way to stay healthy. Labeled "diet" or low-calorie foods can still be high in things like sodium, saturated fats, sugars, unwanted preservatives, and artificial colors and flavors. Natural foods like fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins have other components that your body actually needs, like antioxidants, non-synthetic vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Eat natural foods as much as possible, and when you are choosing packaged foods, check the ingredients label. If there are a lot of ingredients that you don't recognize and can't pronounce, that means there are a lot of chemical ingredients that may be hard for your body to break down. Choose packaged foods with most, if not all, natural ingredients.

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