3 to make, 3 to break

Most of us have probably already thought of a few things we’d like to change this year – whether it’s hitting the gym a bit more, eating less junk, or cutting back on alcohol. But small daily habits can also have a huge impact both in the short and long term on your health. We’ve picked our top three daily habits to introduce, and top three to cut out, starting right now.

Three to start today

1. Stand more

Forget about hard core exercise – simply spending less time sitting down each day can improve your health.  A large study by the American Cancer Society found that people who sat for over six hours a day had a higher risk of death.

Another study looking into the use of standing desks found that workers who use standing desks are more productive throughout the day – ten per cent more productive in fact. If you’re lucky enough to have a standing desk or standing area at work, try to stand for at least an hour a day – or try thirty minutes in every two hours if you find an hour too long at one time.

If you don’t have a standing desk, make sure you get up frequently to speak to colleagues, stand when speaking on the telephone, and always take the stairs instead of the lift at work.

2. Floss

You might not think that flossing your teeth every day would have a huge effect on your health apart from making your breath smell a bit nicer! But you may be surprised to hear that not only does flossing help to reduce gum disease, but this in turn will reduce your risk of heart disease. The reason for this, is when inflammation starts in the mouth, chemicals and bacteria are released that can lead to clots in the heart – even in otherwise healthy individuals. So spending just a couple of minutes each day spent flossing is worth it in the long run!

3. Eat breakfast

More than half of Australians skip breakfast at least once a week, with almost a third missing out on this meal at least three times a week.

Unfortunately, contrary to many dieters’ beliefs skipping breakfast doesn’t equal weight loss – in fact it’s been shown to have the opposite effect. This may be because eating breakfast helps to regulate blood sugar levels, which in turn regulates appetite and energy – meaning you’re less likely to overeat or make unhealthy choices later in the day.

Skipping breakfast also means missing out on essential nutrients and vitamins – and these are often not compensated for later in the day.

If you’re someone who doesn’t feel particularly hungry first thing in the morning, aim to have a small healthy snack like a piece of fruit and a handful of almonds, or a glass of milk until you’re ready for something more substantial.

A few to kick to the curb

1. Your daily gourmet coffee

You may think nothing of that daily latte or caramel macchiato that you pick up on the way to work, but have you thought about how many extra calories it adds up to each week? A latte with regular milk comes in at about 225 calories – that’s over 1500 calories a week (almost a day’s allowance). If you go for a sweeter caramel frozen iced coffee with cream you could be packing in an extra 500 calories in just one drink!

What’s the solution? For a healthier alternative, go for a white Americano or skinny cappuccino. Or better still, quit the coffee completely and go for a red bush (Rooibos) or green tea.

2. Taking your phone to bed with you

Around eight in ten of us keep our mobiles on during the night and half of us use them as an alarm clock. That’s ok if we’re not using them right? Well maybe not. By having your phone near you and switched on it can actually keep your body and mind in a state of alertness making it harder for you to switch off and affecting sleep quality. On top of this, there’s evidence to show that the blue light emitted by electrical equipment like mobile phones, tablets and laptops affects the body’s natural body clock – making you more alert and affecting sleep patterns.

Experts recommend having at least two to three hours of no technology time before bed, particularly if you have any problems sleeping.

3. Eating standing up

Contrary to the evidence that standing up boosts health, eating standing up may have the opposite effect. The reason being that when you eat standing up, the chances are you’re doing something else, like walking, travelling, chatting or mindlessly picking food from the fridge or cupboard. When you eat without focussing on your food, your body finds it harder to register the meal, making you more likely to overeat. This may be one of the reasons behind the good health of those in Mediterranean countries – meal times are generally slower, sit down affairs and eating on the go is a rare occurrence.

To put it into practice, each time you’re tempted to eat something while standing, sit down and take note of the food you’re about to eat. Take the time to enjoy the taste and texture of the food, chewing each bite well. Don’t do anything else while you’re eating – that means no checking your phone, no reading and no TV!

Written by Ruth Tongue
(MSc Nutrition)