1-3-18 4:00 PM EST | Email Article

By Quentin Fottrell, MarketWatch

Why you should avoid diet soda, takeout and these other bad habits in 2018

The No. 1 New Year's resolution is a tie. Some 37% of Americans want to eat healthier, exercise more and save more money, according to new data from data analytics firm Statista. The gym membership probably won't work out, based on the number of people who take out new memberships and stop doing (http://www.ajc.com/lifestyles/new-year-resolutions-tips-for-avoiding-gym-membership-scams/im9l2UyegEsLDiMJER3GXJ/). And Americans still struggle to save partly due to stagnant wages (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/most-americans-are-one-medical-emergency-away-from-financial-disaster-2017-01-12), despite an improving jobs market. But for those who overate during the holidays, there are some simple dietary New Year's resolutions that could be a life saver.

Slow eating could mean fewer calories. People who eat slowly are less likely to become obese or develop metabolic syndrome, a cluster of heart disease, diabetes and stroke risk factors, according to preliminary research presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2017 (http://www.cardiovascularbusiness.com/topics/lipid-metabolic/fast-eaters-116-more-likely-develop-metabolic-syndrome), a global event held in November that shares the latest developments in cardiovascular science.

"Eating more slowly may be a crucial lifestyle change to help prevent metabolic syndrome," said Takayuki Yamaji, a cardiologist at Hiroshima University in Japan and the study's author. "When people eat fast they tend not to feel full and are more likely to over-eat. Eating fast causes bigger glucose fluctuation, which can lead to insulin resistance." He says the results apply globally.

Don't miss: Food for thought: 40% of groceries are thrown out every year (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/this-is-why-americans-throw-out-165-billion-in-food-every-year-2016-07-22)

Be vigilant about calories, especially when you're relaxing. Americans log nearly 6% more calories on Saturdays than any other day of the week, and 3% more on Fridays, according to an analysis of millions of calorie counters from weight-loss app Lose It! Weekends when people are kicking back are also a time for a spike in calories (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/this-is-the-most-treacherous-time-of-your-life-to-put-on-weight-2017-07-18) over other mornings (by between 6.5% and 7%).

Here are 5 bad habits to avoid in 2018:

Cut out the snacks

People love to eat sweet treats between meals. The packaged snacks industry is worth $33 billion, with households spending $133 every year on snacks, according to recent data released by Nielsen, a market research firm. Nearly a quarter of people (24%) snack between meals , up from 21% five years ago, Port Washington, N.Y.-based research firm NPD Group, found in a separate study.

On the plus side, health snacks have seen the biggest increase. Snacking products that are not genetically modified (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/5-little-known-health-benefits-following-non-gmo-diet-dimitrijevic/) soared more than 18% in dollar sales for each of the past five years, followed by snacking products that are free from artificial colors and flavors (16%) and no/reduced sugar claims (11%). Comparatively, the average snack only had an increase of just over 1%.

Also see:Lonely, single people are being blamed for America's snacking frenzy (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/blame-these-people-for-americas-snacking-frenzy-2015-08-12)

Resist takeout food

What's more, the number of phone and internet orders for restaurants surged 18% last year to 1.9 billion, NPD found (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/lazy-busy-or-both-americans-phoned-in-nearly-2-billion-takeout-orders-last-year-2017-03-09). Dinner is the meal most often ordered online, and families are the heaviest users of digital ordering, it said. People younger than 35 and those with higher household incomes are among above-average users of digital ordering with apps like Seamless and Grubhub.

People have less control over what goes into their meals when they order in, which can take a toll on their health. Americans get most of their daily sodium -- more than 75% -- from processed food and restaurant food, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People eat an average of 200 calories more per meal when they eat food from restaurants, a 2015 study found (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/this-is-why-americans-are-overweight-and-broke-2015-12-08).

Don't miss:Is this the worst tipper in America? (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/tipping-has-turned-into-an-ethical-quagmire-for-americans-2016-06-16)

Sprinkle less salt

"Excess sodium can increase your blood pressure and your risk for a heart disease and stroke," the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. "Together, heart disease and stroke kill more Americans each year (https://www.cdc.gov/salt/index.htm) than any other cause." Americans get 71% of their daily sodium from processed and restaurant food. Cooking for yourself is the safest and healthiest option.

Nearly 9 in 10 US children eat more sodium than recommended, and about 1 in 9 children has raised blood pressure, the CDC says. People should consume less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium each day, the CDC recommends, and those aged 51 and over and African-Americans should limit that to 1,500mg. However, most Americans are consuming 3,400 milligrams of salt per day.

Related reading: Americans rekindle their deadly love affair with salt (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/americans-rekindle-their-love-affair-with-salt-2015-07-28)


Stop drinking soda

A New York Times story published earlier this month said President Trump consumes a "dozen Diet Cokes" every day (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/bottled-water-overtakes-soda-as-americas-no-1-drink-why-you-should-avoid-both-2017-03-10). But researchers are divided over whether diet soda actually helps people lose weight, according to a 2017 review of studies (http://www.cmaj.ca/content/189/28/E929) published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. One theory: Diet soda may condition the body to expect calories.

Artificially sweetened beverages may be linked to an increased risk of stroke and dementia, according to the American Heart Association's peer-reviewed journal Stroke. Another 2015 study found that older women who consume two or more diet sodas per day are 30% more likely to suffer a cardiovascular event. Add that to more research (https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2017-12/eaft-aon122117.php) suggesting regular soda is linked to obesity.

Also read:Bottled water has finally overtaken soda -- why you should avoid both (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/bottled-water-overtakes-soda-as-americas-no-1-drink-why-you-should-avoid-both-2017-03-10)

Be careful of booze

One in eight Americans battled alcohol addiction, according to a September 2017 study (https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/article-abstract/2647075?redirect=true) published in JAMA Psychiatry, a peer-reviewed journal. "The United States is facing a crisis with alcohol use, one that is currently costly and about to get worse," it said. Treating hangovers is now a multi-billion industry, experts say, and costs the U.S. $223 billion (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/the-price-of-a-st-patricks-day-hangover-2014-03-18) in medical costs.

Even light alcohol use is linked with increasing the risk of several leading cancers, including those of the breast, colon, esophagus, and head and neck, according to recent research (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/this-many-drinks-a-week-is-bad-for-your-brain-2017-06-07) reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology. The society cites between 5% and 6% of new cancers and cancer deaths globally as directly linked to alcohol.

-Quentin Fottrell; 415-439-6400; AskNewswires@dowjones.com


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

01-03-18 1600ET

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