26 Healthy Habits That Really Aren’t So Healthy

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From magazine headlines to wise words from our mother, we’re constantly bombarded with “tips” to keep our health in check. But before drowning in diet soda and daily showers, reassess some of these behaviors that may be doing more harm than help.

Foods and eating habits:

1. Enhanced water. A little faux fruity flavor might seem like a great way to up H2O intake, but flavored water, like Vitamin Water or even Smart Water, can be filled with sugar. Skip the artificially sweetened water and infuse water with actual fruit.

2. Granola and granola bars. Granola is made from whole grains, so it can’t be bad, right? Not so fast. Granola and granola bars are both calorically dense and often contain a ton of sugar. You may as well eat a candy bar…

3. Protein bars. Protein bars don’t fall far from the granola-bar-tree. They are often ultra-high in calories and sugar—not exactly what the body needs after a hard workout. Choose a healthier high-protein snack instead.

4. Vitamins and supplements. Multiple studies have shown that taking vitamins (in pill form) may not have any positive effect on long-term health. Researchers have surveyed the nonexistent (or even potentially harmful) ties of vitamin E and C supplements with heart disease, cancer, and cancer treatment. Plus, most people get all the vitamins they need from their food, and substituting pills for whole foods may mean missing out on the benefits from other compounds found in the natural sources.

5. Light beer. News flash: Light-beer doesn’t necessarily mean less calories. Instead, many simply have a lower alcohol content. And for those interested in getting a buzz on, the calorie difference may be negated by the need to drink more. Sip a healthier beer instead, and split up the six-pack between friends.

6. “Low-fat” foods. Think twice before skipping the fat-filled salmon. While cutting some fat could help weight loss, we may miss out on some big benefits from healthy omega-3 fats, such as boosting brainpower and lowering the risk of heart disease.

7. Skipping meals. Skipping meals probably won’t save us any calories in the long haul. Forgoing a meal may result in overeating later on, so choose a healthier lunchtime treat instead.

8. Bottled water. Some bottled water may be filled with bacteria or chemicals when bottled in plastic containers. So grab a water filter and purify tap water instead.

9. Passing on dessert. Don’t deny your favorite dessert. If really craving that double chocolate brownie, enjoy a few generous bites instead of going for seconds at the dinner buffet line—which could rack up even more calories.

10. Diet soda. Diet Dr. Pepper may not be our friend. Scientists suggest too much of these zero-cal beverages could do as much damage as the sugary stuff, potentially leading to weight gain and an uncontrollable sweet tooth. The solution? Skip the soda completely and opt for a healthier choice.

11. Juice diets. Many of us could use a few more fruits and veggies, but we don’t need to have spinach-apple juice for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Juice diets may leave out important nutrients and enough calories to stay strong throughout the day.

12. Microwave diet meals. Try making your own meals, without the box and frozen plastic tray. Many frozen meals are packed with sodium, while lacking veggies and enough calories. Short on time? Make a large batch of your favorite meal over the weekend and freeze individual portions to eat throughout the week.

Hygiene and health:

13. Hot tubs. They may be super relaxing, but hot tubs are a one-stop shop for bacteria and germs, and may even cause a rash. Gross.

14. Antibacterial soap. It may not be worth scrubbing down with the fancy stuff: Regular soap and water is just as beneficial when it comes to staying squeaky clean.

15. Brushing right after every meal. Just ’cause dessert was devoured doesn’t mean we should grab the toothbrush and paste. Wait at least 30 minutes after a meal so saliva can neutralize the acid in the mouth and strengthen the enamel on those chompers.

16. Avoiding the sun. While too much sun could cause a nasty burn (or worse!) sidestepping the sun at all costs may lead to a lack of Vitamin D which is essential for proper muscle and bone development.

17. Daily showers. Stop the scrubbing! Hopping in the shower too often may irritate and dry out skin. If you really need to freshen up, spray on some perfume or cologne and save the shower ’till tomorrow.

18. Catching up on sleep. We’re sorry to break it to you, but it’s pretty tricky to catch up on sleep. So rather than skimping on sleep in order to cash them in later, aim for a solid seven to nine hours a night.

19. Sitting up straight. Yeah, we’re surprised too. Sitting up straight may be bad for the back, so skip the seat and try a standing desk at the office.

20. Cleaning with disinfecting products. There’s some evidence that certain chemicals in disinfecting products could lead to asthma. Simply use a regular cleaning product or detergent without the chemicals instead.

Working out:

21. Only doing cardio. Hitting the roads is great and all, but don’t retire the weights for the running shoes. Make sure to strength train to burn fat, lean out, and look badass in the process.

22. Doing a million crunches. The secret to six-pack abs probably isn’t crunch after crunch. To flatten out and tone up the core, try running some intervals, lifting a few weights, and cleaning up that diet instead.

23. Breathing deeply through the chest. Whether running the final lap or heading down the basketball court, avoid deep breathing with the chest. For a most effective breath to help any athlete’s performance, remember to use the diaphragm!

24. Static stretching pre workout. When warming up, static stretching (aka holding positions for a certain length of time) won’t do much in way of preventing soreness. Skip the still motions and do dynamic stretches, like lunges and high knees, instead.

25. Lifting machines. Most lifting machines focus on single joint exercises, which fail to improve muscle imbalance and does not burn as many calories as hitting the squat rack or swinging a kettlebell.

26. Hitting the gym daily. Don’t get us wrong, exercise is important! But spending too much time at the gym leaves little time for muscles—and the mind—to recover. Make sure to get at least one or two days of rest, and dominate those dumbbells the rest of the week.

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