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6 Eating Habits to Avoid After 30, Says Dietitian

They took time to develop, so take your time breaking them.

Breaking news! The eating habits you should avoid after you turn 30 years old are the same poor eating styles that you made habitual during those formative years, ages 11 through 22. You likely know them—too many drive-thru dinners, drinking 20-ounce sodas, inhaling bags of Doritos, eating pizza for breakfast. The problem is that, at age 30 and beyond, your body, your cells, your metabolism, and heck, your whole life is different.

"As a kid, you were burning off all that extra energy you were consuming; as an adult, you're probably a lot less physically active, responsible for doing so much more, and dealing with many more life stressors," says Johna Burdeos, RD and blogger. "Because of all that, your diet plays a much bigger role in your health; you need to wake up to what you should have been paying attention to all along."

Burdeos doesn't mind ringing alarm bells in your ears if it'll help you adopt a healthier lifestyle. After all, she sees the results of a lifetime of poor eating habits every day in her job as a nutritionist working with very sick, long-term acute care patients.

"I've worked on both sides, in outpatient doing preventive counseling and, in the hospital, dealing with chronic diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease." So, she's keenly aware of the advice people ignore until a health problem forces them to take that advice to heart.

"The public health messaging is everywhere," she says. "How diet impacts the body is no secret. A lot of people have to be diagnosed with a life-threatening disease like diabetes to get the picture and start making change."

We're sure you'd prefer prevention to treatment so here are six eating habits to avoid by midlife to help you live a longer, healthier life.

Treating yourself a little too often

woman eating brownie cake with whipped cream

"I'm human—I like my treats," admits Burdeos. "An occasional piece of pie isn't going to give you diabetes."

But a slice of pie here, a sleeve of Girl Scout cookies there, and an every-afternoon chocolate bar pick-me-up, just might send your blood sugar into the prediabetes zone.

Look for the patterns in the big picture, says Burdeos. One of the best ways to identify unhealthy eating habits is to keep track of everything you drink and eat on your smartphone or a notepad.

"Within two days, you'll notice eating habits you'll want to begin to break from," she says.

Drinking sugar-sweetened beverages

man and woman drinking soda in a restaurant

"One thing I don't ever budge on is sugar-sweetened beverages," says Burdeos. "Clients will try to compromise that, but I don't budge because big studies, meta-analyses show a strong association between soda and other sugary drinks and weight gain and increased risk of disease."

Start weaning yourself off the sweet stuff gradually. Drink water. You don't need the extra calories from SSBs, she says.

Need more motivation? Check out What Happens to Your Body When You Drink Soda.

Eating without thinking

woman eating potato chips

There's a term for this: eating mindlessly. It's what happens when you are binge-watching Netflix, and you don't realize you ate the whole pint of ice cream until episode three. We often get into the habit of mindlessly eating when we're under stress.

"Looking to food for coping and comforting is a common habit that leads to overeating," says Burdeos.

The solution is recognizing when you are stressed and choosing to be present and aware.

"Practice mindful eating," Burdeos says. "Start in a small, realistic way. I recommend picking one meal out of the day, maybe on a weekend when you have more time. Remove all distractions and be present with your meal. Eat slowly. Enjoy it."

Food should be enjoyed, not shoveled into your mouth.

Skipping meals

woman rushing

Skipping meals to lose weight or trying overly restrictive diets will backfire on you.

"Those only lead to long-term harm at the expense of short-term gain, and your weight loss will be mostly just water weight," warns Bordeos.

The biggest danger of habitual denial of food is getting caught up in yo-yo dieting.

"This tells the primitive part of your brain to go into survival mode, lowering your metabolism, and resulting in the body clinging to every calorie," says Burdeos. "This results in regain of that weight and to add insult to injury, you'll likely add extra weight on, too."

Trying to ignore a craving

woman holding an apple and chocolate, having cravings

Don't fight your cravings; they are too powerful.

"Give yourself permission to satisfy a craving," advises Burdeos. "When you get too stringent and try to suppress cravings, you will overindulge later on."

There's a technique to satisfying a craving without overeating. You guessed it: mindfulness.

"Be in the moment and savor your treat," says Burdeos.

Winging it

fast food

Winging it means making quick decisions on the fly. That can be dangerous when it comes to your diet. If you wait until you are hungry to figure out what to eat, you'll inevitably end up choosing the fast food and processed food—such as canned or packaged foods full of preservatives, refined grains, and sugar. The antidote for this unhealthy eating habit is planning.

"Diet quality is something I preach on; it takes knowledge and time to make those better choices," says Burdeos.

For example, Burdeos says you need to first understand the dangers of too many saturated and trans fats before you can make an effort to consume healthier fats like olive oil, flax seeds, avocado, and omega-3 fats from fatty fish. Planning also helps you control portions.

"When you're starting out practicing mindful eating, use measuring cups to control portions," Burdeos says. "Not all the time, just in the beginning when you're learning what a healthy portion looks like."

All these are habits that many of us have spent years, maybe even decades, developing, so Burdeos recommends being patient with yourself by taking small steps to break out of them.

Jeff Csatari
Jeff Csatari, a contributing writer for Eat This, Not That!, is responsible for editing Galvanized Media books and magazines and for advising journalism students through the Zinczenko New Media Center at Moravian University in Bethlehem, PA. Read more about Jeff