6 Everyday Eating Mistakes

Some eating habits may be sabotaging your diet.

Medically reviewed in October 2021

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Pride yourself on being a healthy eater? Not so fast. Some “healthy” eating habits can interfere with weight loss or worse, make you fat. We caught up with registered dietitian Lauri Watson, RD, of Summerville Medical Center to learn about common diet pitfalls, how to avoid them and what to eat instead.

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Mistake #1: You drink juice.

Just because juice is made from fruit, doesn’t make it good for you. “Juice, in general, has around 30g of sugar per cup,” says Watson. She recommends staying away from any liquids that have sugar. What about smoothies? Watson recommends not going overboard on those either.

Do this: Whether it's an apple or an orange, get your fill of fruit from the fruit itself. "You're going to get a whole lot [more] fiber, vitamins and minerals from eating the fruit than if you were to drink the juice because of the processing," says Watson. When making a smoothie, use no more than a half-cup of fruit and mix it with a protein source, like Greek yogurt, she says. 

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Mistake #2: You banish your favorite foods.

Love pizza and French fries but refuse to take even a nibble? Probably not the best idea in the long run. "You end up pitting good food vs. bad food and then it becomes this forbidden thing to have this piece of chocolate -- or whatever that special food is -- so when you do eat it, you almost binge on it," explains Watson.

Do this: Learn to eat your favorite foods in moderation. Incorporate a cheat day once a week or allow yourself to eat what you want when you eat out at a nice dinner, suggests Watson. "Certainly it's not something you should do every day, but it's finding that happy place with food [that’s important]," she says.

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Mistake #3: You binge on nuts.

You probably know that it's bad to eat a whole bag of chips in one sitting but did you know that the same rule applies to nuts, even though they've been touted as one of the best snacks out there? While nuts have tons of health benefits, they also have lots of calories. Eating too many can put you on a dangerous road to weight gain.

Do this: Whether you're adding nuts to a salad or just snacking on them, eat no more than what's in the palm of your hand. "Put them in little small bags if you buy a big bag of it, or buy the little pre-packaged portioned bags and keep those in your purse or nearby for a quick snack," suggests Watson.

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Mistake #4: You drink diet soda.

It’s best to avoid diet drinks altogether, especially those with aspartame, an artificial sweetener that can be up to 200 times sweeter than regular sugar, says Watson. Artificial sweeteners are so sweet they can make your taste for sweetness insatiable. Research even shows that increased diet soda consumption is linked to more belly-fat in older adults.

Do this: Avoid, or at least cut back on, diet soda. Have a glass of iced tea or seltzer water with natural flavoring instead of diet soda. If you need a hint of sweetness, use a little Splenda or Stevia. "Another great idea is to get a diffuser pitcher and mix fresh fruit or cucumbers to give water a little taste," says Watson.

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Mistake #5: You skip meals.

Hoping to cut calories by skipping meals? That tactic may actually make you hungrier and more likely to overeat later, says Watson. "Meal skipping is the number one … [problem] I consistently see when I work with patients on weight loss," says Watson.

Do this: To jumpstart your metabolism and burn more calories throughout the day, start your morning with a healthy breakfast. "Breakfast doesn't have to be a big deal. It can be as simple as Greek yogurt with a serving of fruit, or cottage cheese and some strawberries and some blueberries or a couple of eggs and a piece of toast," Watson says. To stay fuller longer, eat small, frequent meals throughout the day.

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Mistake #6: You ignore food labels.

Some foods that are advertised as healthy actually may be full of sugar and other unhealthy ingredients. Enter flavored oatmeal and some types of granola. A closer look at the label shows that certain brands are loaded with sugar. Even some salad dressings can have as much as 2 teaspoons of sugar per serving.

Do this: Read food labels. “A good rule of thumb is to avoid processed foods with ingredients that a third grader can’t pronounce,” says Watson. "Focus on shopping the perimeter of the grocery stores, staying away from the inner aisles.”

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