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Engineer Healthy Habits for Weight Loss

Findings from a recent study show that over four years, those who used cars daily for commuting tended to gain more weight than those who did not. Here are some tips on how get a few healthy habits back into your day to avoid the gain.
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Did you know that long commutes by car may be an important predictor of weight gain over time?  A recent Australian study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine examined whether commuting by car was associated with adults' weight gain.

In a nutshell, the findings show that over four years, those who used cars daily for commuting tended to gain more weight than those who did not commute by car.  Among people in the study who got at least two and a half hours of weekly exercise (in line with the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans), car commuters gained an average of 3.96 pounds over four years -- about one pound more than people who worked from home or who took the bus/train (or some other way) to work.

In other words, even if you are achieving the recommended amount moderate physical activity during the week, using a car for your daily commute itself has an impact on weight gain. However, there are several other factors that also affect weight gain that were not considered in the study.  For example, people who have longer commutes may also purchase relatively more unhealthy meals “on the go,” and this habit over time can influence weight gain.

The solution might be to try to avoid cars, but for many people, that choice isn't an option.  It’s no doubt that the invention of the car has created a convenience that would be difficult to live without.  Because we no longer have to hunt for our food or walk to the grocery store, it would be beneficial to engineer a few healthy habits back into our daily routines.  Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Park far from your office building entrance, grocery store entrance, coffee shop/restaurant or any entrance, or get off the subway/bus a stop or two early.
  • Make sure to have a nutritious breakfast – one that includes protein and whole grains to keep you fueled longer and more satisfied. 
  • Watch your portion sizes at lunch  and try to build your plate around salads or veggies that also include whole grains and lean protein (such as tofu, beans or lean cuts of meat).  This little trick will help you consume fewer calories and still feel full for a longer period, so that you don’t overeat at (or before!) your next meal.
  • Avoid mindless snacking and try healthier options, such as a handful of dried fruit & nuts and seeds or low-fat cheese and whole grain crackers.  Healthy snacks can be part of a healthy diet and can help prevent overeating at meals. 
  • Log onto the Healthy Dining Mobile Site or download the HealthPartnersYumPower App for the iPhone to help you find the Healthy Dining options that are closest to you and along your commute.

Here are some Healthy Dining approved menu choices to help fuel your day:

Corner Bakery CafeChilled Swiss Oatmeal from Corner Bakery Cafe
(350 calories, 2.5 g fat, 11g protein)
Located in CA, CO, DC, GA, IL, MD, PA, TX, and VA

Au Bon PainGreek Vanilla Yogurt & Wild Blueberry Parfait from Au Bon Pain
(340 calories, 6 g fat, 24 g protein)
Located in AL, CT, DC, FL, GA, IL, IN, MA, MD, MI, MN, MO, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, TX, and VA

UFood GrillBetter Breakfast: Egg White, Turkey Bacon and Cheese Burrito from UFood Grill
(410 calories, 12 g fat, 23 g protein)
Located in CA, FL, IL, MA, and UT

Sweet Peppers Deli
Turkey N’ Avocado Sandwich from Sweet Peppers Deli

(410 calories, 9 g fat, 22 g protein)
Located AL, LA, MS, SC, and TN

Pita PitLight Chicken Caesar Pita from Pita Pit
(450 calories, 20 g fat, 24 g protein)
Located nationwide

Tin Drum asiacafeChicken N' Broccoli Stir-fry with Brown Rice from Tin Drum asiacafé
(620 calories, 20 g fat, 44 g protein)
Located in GA


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