Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Healthy Habit: Ditch Convenience Store Stops

I drive quite a bit, and a bad habit I've gotten into is stopping at convenience stores for a bite of this or a drink of that for the ride. Convenience stores do a booming business selling fat laden and sugary processed foods alongside empty-calorie beverages (or, just as bad, zero calorie chemical concoctions) so I know I'm not the only one. I also happen to have it on good authority my dad has the same bad habit, so if nothing else, this post is for us, Dougie. However, if you fall into the same trap we do, it's time to declare yourself free from convenience store stops and the toll they take on your finances.

If the issue is your really hungry and in need of sustenance (and you find yourself regularly caught out of the house and famished) - plan ahead! Take snacks with you and you'll avoid that pricey gas station bag of Chex Mix and that corner store M&M and Poweraid fix. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
  • Fill snack bags with a healthy mix of almonds, cereal, and raisins. Keep a couple in your purse for when your blood sugar starts to dip and you're out and about.
  • Stash a few granola bars in your glove compartment for times your unexpectedly stuck in traffic and need some nosh. Opt for a variety that isn't too gooey or coated in anything - your car can get pretty warm and you don't want your snack to get runny.
  • Bring a few apples to work each Monday. Apples keep well at room temperature, so you can keep a few in a bag in your desk drawer or cabinet and enjoy a kick of crispy sweetness when you need a little pick-me-up (and avoid the vending machine) at the office. If you don't think the apple alone will stack up to your hunger, keep a couple single-serve packets of peanut or almond butter with 'em.
If the problem is less hunger and more a result of habitual conditioning (i.e. I stop here every day after work for something savory, I do it without even thinking. Or, grabbing a pastry every day is part of my morning routine.) You might need more of a jolt to snap you out of it. Here are a few different ways to shake up your routine to avoid being lured by your local convenience store until your new, healthier habits develop:
  • Pick a new route. If you always drive right by your source for that $1.30 Diet Coke, find a more scenic road that won't tempt you into spending.
  • Enjoy a more filling, healthier meal. By filling up on the good stuff that is brimming with nutrition, your body will be satiated with what it needs and that shiny package won't seem so alluring.
  • Listen to something interesting or relaxing instead of focusing on obtaining an oral fixation. If you think you need something to keep your mouth busy, chomp on some minty gum.
  • Do the math. I could (and have) easily spend $2.50 a day on seemingly little snacks (hey, those lemon zest Luna bars don't come cheap!). I didn't think much of this, until I realized that is almost $20 a week (half of my grocery budget!), $80 a month (the same as an unlimited yoga membership!) which totals over $900 a year (that's an IRA contribution friends!). Holy granola bars! Now I just think about those figures when I find myself involuntarily gravitating toward my local Circle K. It's simply not worth it.

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