Let’s face it. Eating healthy challenges are everywhere – obstacles that make it hard to control your weight. From the doughnuts in the break room at work to the “pull your hair out” challenge of finding something healthy to eat at a restaurant – eating right isn’t always easy.
After talking to patients and listening to their struggles, we’ve identified some of the biggest obstacles to eating healthy and how to correct them.
Confusion about What’s Healthy
It’s hard to know how to eat with so many eating plans out there. First, it was low-fat. Then low-carb diets stole low-fat’s thunder. The latest eating trend is the Paleo diet.
Don’t be lured in by every trendy diet and eating plan that comes along. KISS – keep it stupidly simple. There’s no “magical” diet that will melt the weight off permanently or transform your health.
Eating healthy is about getting back to basics. Here are 7 simple ways to improve the quality of your diet:
- Replace starchy side dishes with non-starchy vegetables
- Stop drinking sugary drinks. Drink more water, green tea, herbal tea instead
- Eat fish or plant-based protein in place of red meat a few times a week
- Choose whole grains instead of processed grains whenever possible.
- Limit packaged and processed foods. When you do buy a product in a package, read the label.
- Snack on nuts or a piece of whole fruit instead of sugary items.
- Add vegetables to everything you can – soups, sandwiches, pasta sauce, stews, pizza.
If you do these things, you ARE eating a healthy diet, no matter what you call it. Don’t jump on board the latest diet trends. Stick to the basics.
Eating Healthy Challenges: Lack of Time
Yes, lack of time is a problem for most people. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to eat healthy unless you’re independently wealthy and don’t have to work a job. It just takes a little planning. Prepare a large portion of something healthy on the weekend, freeze it and serve it during the week.
Healthy stews and soups are always a good option. Use your slow cooker to make a big pot of quinoa you can use as a side-dish or as a base for healthy sauces, protein and vegetables later in the week. Quinoa is higher in protein and fiber than rice. Much better for you. Here’s a yummy and healthy quinoa recipe:
Keep jars of low-sugar tomato and pasta sauce on hand to make a healthy and tasty sauce for meat and vegetables. Keep vegetable broth on hand to whip up soups and stews in the slow cooker.
Chop and prep vegetables and fruits on Sunday and package them into containers you can use later in the week. Don’t forget some grocery stores sell pre-cut vegetables and fruits that are ready to use.
Enjoy the convenience of frozen vegetables! They’re just as healthy if you avoid ones with sauces and with added salt. For Dr. A’s lunch, I buy frozen cod, cover it in a healthy sauce or marinade and bake it for 30 minutes in the oven along with frozen vegetables seasoned with the same sauce. So quick and easy!
When you’re out and about, skip the fast food restaurant and drive to a grocery store salad bar instead. In our area, Fresh Market has a salad and soup bar where you can grab a healthy lunch. Anything is better than fast food.
Hunger isn’t the only force that drives us to eat. Stress does too. Some people use food as a reward and then have to deal with the resulting weight gain. So many times we’ve heard people say they’re exercising and aren’t losing weight. Dig a little deeper and you’ll often discover they’re rewarding themselves after a workout with something sugary and high in calories.
Sometimes mindless snacking is a product of boredom. Have you ever had this happen? You’re sitting in front of your computer screen with a bag of nuts or chips. Thirty minutes later you look and half the bag is gone. Mindless eating, emotional eating – whatever you want to call it – is an obstacle when it comes to eating healthy and controlling your weight.
Here’s how to distinguish between legitimate hunger and emotional hunger. Would something healthy like an apple or a plate of vegetables satisfy your hunger? If the answer is no, it’s not true hunger. When the urge to eat strikes, rate your hunger on a scale of one to five. If it’s not at least a four, you’re not really hungry.
How can you curb emotional snacking? Find another way to comfort and reward yourself. Here are some ideas:
- A warm bath with lots of fragrant bubbles
- A cup of warm, herbal tea
- A relaxing walk outdoors
- Listen to new age music
- Do some yoga moves or stretches
- Squeeze a stress ball
- Take a whiff of peppermint or another essential oil
- Play with your pet. Your pet will love you for it!
- Do something creative. Grab the camera on your I-Phone and take some funny pictures.
The key is to do something you enjoy that doesn’t involve food.
Out of Control Portion Sizes
Humungous portion sizes are so common in restaurants that we’ve lost the ability to know what a serving of food really looks like. Did you know some restaurant portions are the equivalent of three servings? That’s triple the number of calories, fat, sugar and salt.
When you see out-of-control portion sizes in restaurants you start to believe that’s what a serving size should look like. Get a reality check by learning to eyeball portion sizes. Use these guidelines:
- Deck of cards – 3 – ounce portion of meat
- A woman’s fist – serving of vegetables
- Computer mouse – baked potato serving
- Tip of your thumb – a tablespoon
One way to help with portion control at home is to use portion control plates. Each plate is divided into pre-portioned slots to make it easier to control how much you eat. These nifty dishes take the guesswork out of how much to put on your plate. Portion-control plates also show you what a portion size SHOULD look like.
The Bottom Line?
Hope we’ve given you some ideas on how to deal with the eating healthy challenges you encounter in your daily life. It all comes down to a making commitment to eating healthy and being healthy and planning your strategy.
You are in control when it comes to what you eat and how much you eat. So, take back control and start planning to eat healthier. No more taking the easy route by throwing something in the microwave. Your health is more important than that.