If you work in a few cardio sessions a week and nom on plenty of greens at dinnertime, you probably think you’re solid when it comes to taking care of your health. But while you definitely get kudos for eating right and staying active, some of your seemingly teeny-tiny habits may actually be undermining those healthy decisions.
Here are nine sneaky saboteurs to think twice about as you go through your day.
Habit #1: Hitting Snooze…Over And Over
Your alarm buzzes and you keep turning it off until you finally—agonizingly—force yourself out of bed after a half-hour of half-sleeping. “People who hit snooze multiple times each morning delay their wake-up time but don’t fill that extra time with good quality sleep,” says Arielle Levitan, M.D., co-founder of Vous Vitamin and author of The Vitamin Solution: Two Doctors Clear the Confusion About Vitamins and Your Health. “Snoozing continues to provide interrupted poor quality [of sleep]. Your body gets confused and does not get into the habit of a proper wake-up at a consistent time.”
The Fix: Routine is key. “The best way to get consistent good quality sleep is with a regular wake-up time followed by a solid morning routine—whether it’s coffee and the paper or a nice breakfast or a workout,” says Levitan. “Your body comes to expect these habits each morning.” Don’t worry, waking up (and falling asleep at the right time) will become easier, says Levitan. Getting yourself into a regular routine keeps your body’s natural circadian rhythm strong, and may even help you to feel more well-rested and vibrant throughout the day.
Habit #2: Skipping Breakfast
Always in a rush to get out the door? We feel you. But no matter how late you are, it’s still worthwhile to take a few minutes to scarf something down. “Skipping your morning meal may lead to increased challenges with focus and concentration, as well as anxiety,” says board-certified psychiatrist Judith Pentz, M.D. “There is a reason they say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. The brain has the highest need for fuel [in the morning], and after fasting all night, it is ready to be supported with nutritious food.”
The fix: “Plan a daily breakfast, or at least an A.M. snack,” says Carol Meerschaert, R.D.N. No need to eat ‘breakfast’ foods if you don’t like them. Even last night’s leftovers work.”
One of the simplest breakfasts: a bowl of oatmeal. “Whole oats only take four minutes in the microwave,” says Meerschaert, who suggests adding walnuts for omega-3s and dried fruit, like cherries. “With this meal, you’ve started your day with protein, complex carbs, good fats, and fiber.”
Or try this morning meal recipe from Meerschaert: Whip up a bean burrito by adding low-fat refried beans, salsa, and a little bit of cheese to a whole-wheat or corn tortilla. Microwave it for 90 seconds. “This is another high-fiber, and protein- and vitamin-packed breakfast,” she says.
Habit #3: Guzzling Fruit Juice
OJ might sound healthy, but it’s actually not all that awesome. “Juice tends to be all sugar,” says board-certified physician in family and integrative medicine Rachel Carlton Abrams, M.D., author of BodyWise: Discovering Your Body’s Intelligence for Lifelong Health and Healing. A big ole’ glass of fruit juice may only be little better than a donut. “Having simple carbs in the morning shoots your energy up and then drops it down like a lead weight, which really messes with your blood sugar,” says Abrams. Hence why you feel like napping at your desk by 11 o’clock.
The fix: Nosh on whole fruits instead of drinking juice, since they contain fiber that slows down your absorption of sugar, says Abrams, who also always suggests eating protein in the morning. A handful of nuts, peanut butter on toast, a couple of eggs, or Greek yogurt are all easy ways to pump up your protein intake at breakfast, she says. Since protein takes more energy to digest than refined carbs (i.e. sugars and starches), it helps you to feel fuller for longer, and doesn’t lead to the sugar spike and crash that refined carbs cause.
Habit #4. Ordering a Decadent Coffee Every Morning
If a venti vanilla latte is your commute beverage of choice, it’s time to reassess your daily order. There’s no nutritional value in drinks like these, says Kimberly Melton, R.D.N. of NutritionPro Consulting. “The sugar will send your blood sugar crashing because of the absence of protein,” she says. So, yeah, erase the OJ and the jumbo sweetened coffee from your A.M. to-do list.
The fix: If you feel like you need to satiate your sweet tooth, ask your barista to make your drink “skinny” with sugar-free syrup instead, suggests Melton. You can also order plain coffee or espresso and add a warming seasoning like cinnamon and a small amount of creamer, she says.
Habit #5: Sitting All Day Long
We’re not necessarily recommending you quit your desk job, but over the last few years, there has been a lot of research about how prolonged sitting can negatively impact your health. In fact, a 2016 study from the American Heart Association claims that no amount of exercise can undo the negative effects of sitting for six to eight hours each day. (The study reported increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and possibly even cancer). Sitting for such a long period of time each day can also lead to chronic back and neck pain, says Abrams.
The fix: This one’s a no brainer: Get on your feet! Even standing half the day can make a world of difference in terms of how your back is positioned, says Abrams. “I encourage people to get a standing desk—there are options out there that aren’t that expensive,” she says. Can’t convince your boss? Set an alarm for yourself every hour so that you can stretch and go for a quick walk, says Gisela Bouvier, R.D.N. “This also allows you to take a mental break and be able to refocus afterwards.” You may even find yourself feeling more productive.
Habit #6: Eating in Front of Your Laptop
Consider this your permission to take a lunch break. “Eating while our minds are elsewhere is counter-intuitive,” says Bouvier. When we aren’t focused on our meal, we lose the connection between our brain and stomach that signals us when we’re full. Hello, accidental overeating.
The fix: It’s all about being mindful. That means turning off the TV, getting up from your desk, or putting down your phone when you’re about to dine. “To eat mindfully means to eat without distractions and focus on ourselves and our nourishment at that time,” says Bouvier. “This, in turn, allows us to not only savor our meal but also prevent overeating. We are able to focus on our hunger cues and feel when we are satiated and no longer need to eat.”
Habit #7: Chewing Gum Constantly
Ever wondered why you feel gassy and burpy throughout the day? Your chewing-gum habit could be to blame. The sweeteners in sugar-free gum (like xylitol and sorbitol) can cause gas and bloating, because they’re not fully absorbed by the digestive system. Plus, the act of chewing gum itself can also contribute to gassiness because you’re taking in a lot of excess air, says Joseph Mosquera, M.D., founder of saludmovil, a bilingual mobile medical, health, and wellness destination.
The fix: If you need to have something in your mouth, suck on a peppermint instead, says Mosquera.
Habit #8: Not Taking Brushing and Flossing Seriously
Plaque—a sticky substance that contains bacteria—forms on your teeth naturally overnight, says Jonathan Levine, D.M.D., associate professor at the NYU School of Dentistry. And if you don’t brush it away, it hardens into tartar—an irritant that can cause inflammation in your mouth. Eventually, that inflammation can lead to gum disease, says Levine. “It’s an epidemic,” he says. “Half of all Americans have periodontal disease—and 70 percent of those over age 65 have it.”
The fix: It’s time to make a commitment to brushing for two minutes twice a day (and yes, you need to floss, too). Tend to give up after 30 seconds of brushing? Invest in an electric toothbrush. “It does all the work for you,” says Levine. Plus, lot of electric toothbrushes have timers that will alert you to move on to the next section of your mouth so that you get in a thorough cleaning those two minutes.
As far as flossing goes, you should wrap the floss around your tooth in a ‘C’ shape, making sure to slide it under your gum, says Levine.
Habit #9: Scrolling Through Your Facebook Feed Before Bed
Spending time in front of a screen—particularly the blue light emitted by computers, tablets, and phones—before bed prevents your brain from releasing melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep, says Mosquera. But it’s easier said than done to power down. “Many people reward themselves after dinner by watching TV, shopping on the computer, or logging on to Facebook,” says Abrams. “The problem is that entertainment is addicting and people do it much longer than they intend, so they end up going to bed later and then need more caffeine when they wake up the next morning. It’s a vicious cycle.”
The fix: For starters, download software like f.lux to dim the light on your computer screen, says Abrams. And ban the blue light at least an hour before you hit the hay, says Mosquera. Still need help drifting off? Try reading a book or listening to some relaxing music on low, says Mosquera.