Eating Habits to Avoid

There are a few general dietary habits (not necessarily specific foods) that stand out as increasing the risk for obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

In our ongoing series on healthy eating, we have focused on what we should do to help us take care of our bodies in the natural. This time, we look at some things to avoid, as well as healthier alternatives.

1. Skipping Meals – A study in the journal Obesity found that skipping meals or eating inconsistently increases the risk of developing metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions that include high blood pressure and abdominal obesity.

People who eat consistently at the same time each day are less likely to develop a large waistline or insulin resistance. Fasting lowers insulin sensitivity and leads to insulin resistance, making it difficult to remove glucose from the blood. It's also much harder to make good choices if you're extremely hungry.

Instead, eat three healthy meals (starting with a good breakfast) and two healthy snacks at approximately the same times each day to keep your blood sugar stable.

2. Eating Too Fast – Women who rush through meals are twice as likely to be overweight, regardless of what they eat, according to a study in the British Journal of Medicine. Eating food too fast does not give your brain enough time to realize you're full, so you keep eating beyond the point of satiety.

Try chewing each bite longer, put your fork down in between bites, and concentrate on the flavors, texture, aromas, and experience of the meal.

3. The Worst Diet – Some diets proclaim carbohydrates are the enemy; others say it is fat. It turns out that the combination of the two is actually the worst.

Blood sugar levels stay elevated longer after high-starch/high-sugar meals that are also high in fat. (This may explain why so many different diets can initially help with diabetes or weight loss by restricting one or the other, or even both.)

As mentioned many times on this site, the Mediterranean Diet (see the Ideal Diet has emerged as the healthiest diet according to medical journals and articles. It features whole grains, fresh produce, and lean protein.

4. The Worst Beverage – More Americans now drink sugar-sweetened sodas, sport drinks and fruit drinks daily, and this increase in consumption has led to more diabetes and heart disease over the past decade, researchers reported at the American Heart Association's 50th Annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention.

Sugar-sweetened beverages are often empty calories, with little nutritional value. Our bodies don't seem to recognize liquid calories as well as those from solid foods, so we are still hungry and want to eat the same amount of food, even if we just drank a high calorie beverage.

Cut out the sweetened beverages and drink water or unsweetened tea throughout the day, or substitute 1-2 drinks with something that also provides nutrition such as low-fat soy milk or a small glass of dark purple juice.

5. Eating Out Too Often – Most restaurant meals contain too much salt, fat and sugar, all of which are building blocks for diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and obesity.

Prepare your own food as much as possible so you have control over what you eat, but if your lifestyle or job requires you to eat out often, there are options. Have a salad (with olive oil and vinegar on the side) instead of bread to start your meal and choose a lean protein entrée, such as fish or chicken. Look for preparation methods that use little fat, such as poaching, grilling, or broiling.

6. Not Getting Enough Nutrients – JAMA (Journal of American Medical Association) has reported, "Insufficient vitamin intake is apparently the cause of multiple chronic illnesses. Suboptimal levels of vitamins (at levels higher than levels considered to be deficient) are a definite risk factor for diseases such as heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis. A large proportion of the general pop is apparently at risk for these reasons. Most people do not receive optimal levels of nutrients through diet, and would benefit from a daily nutritional supplement."

Follow the recommendations in our healthy eating article series for nutritious food choices, and take a complete daily supplement such as New & Improved Basic Nutrient Support to ensure you are getting optimal levels of nutrients each day.

Dr. Reginald B. Cherry ( is a member of the American Medical Association, Texas Medical Association, Harris County Medical Society, and the American College of Preventive Medicine. Dr. Cherry has authored numerous articles on Preventive Medicine, emphasizing nutrition and exercise. He also speaks extensively on these topics nationwide and conducts numerous seminars for various groups and organizations. Currently, his weekly television program reaches 80 million homes.