Three most common daily diet mistakes

COFFEE FOR BREAKFAST? More issues than one.
COFFEE FOR BREAKFAST? More issues than one.

It often comes as a surprise to clients that it is not the one-off treats or restaurant or fast-food meals that send our diets off the rails, rather it is the poor dietary habits that become so deeply entrenched we are not even aware of them.

Here are the most common dietary issues I see daily that prevent people reaching their goals:

1) Replacing breakfast with coffee.

It does not matter if it is a flat white, latte or cappuccino, any coffee that contains a significant amount of milk is likely to contain a significant number of calories, especially if it is in a large cup.

There are several issues with large cups of milk-based coffee. First, we do not tend to compensate for liquid calories, which means we do not eat less simply because we have drunk an extra 200-300 calories.

Having that morning coffee first thing can also lead to a few small breakfasts, rather than just one. Add to that some extra toast or cereal and another coffee on arrival at work an hour or two later. For others, breakfast has become purely coffee, which can interfere with our natural hunger and fullness signals through the morning.

Solution: if you enjoy a coffee, have a small one with breakfast, then wait at least two to three hours before you eat again. You can have black tea or coffee without worry.

2) Eating too much, too late.

A typical dietary pattern shows busy parents and professionals grabbing a quick breakfast or coffee on the run, followed by a light, late lunch, a series of afternoon snacks and a relatively heavy dinner much later in the evening.

This pattern is linked to weight gain because we tend to move much less during the second half of the day and are less likely to wake up hungry for a good breakfast the next day.

For many of us a shift to this schedule is unlikely to happen quickly, which means some subtle shifts in our food intake patterns will help reverse the daily cycle of higher calories in the second half of the day.

Solution: commit to making both breakfast and a good lunch a priority and, if dinner will be eaten after 8pm, keep your portions small and choose lighter options such as salad, grilled fish and vegetables.

For some, a heavier meal at lunchtime is great solution.

3) Little extras slipping in

It may be an extra coffee here, a biscuit or a fund-raising chocolate there and, without even realising it, we have eaten an extra meal worth of mindless snacks.

Snacking and mindless eating are habits that tend to build over years when we find ourselves in easy reach of food to relieve boredom, anxiety or simply because tasty food is in easy reach.

So, if you know that extras slip into your daily diet, try keeping a diary for a day or two to gauge where they come in. You might be surprised.

Solution: aim to eat only six to eight times a day with two to three hours in between meals - and only water, herbal or black tea or coffee in between.

Sydney Morning Herald