Eating healthfully isn't easy, so recently DietDetective.com asked more than 300 people what makes it difficult for them to eat better. Here are the obstacles mentioned most often and how to overcome them.
Problem: Too many tempting foods
Survey results: 27.7%
Facts: This is by far the most common complaint and excuse for why we can’t seem to eat healthfully. Everywhere you go there’s fast food, cupcakes, doughnuts and fried chicken — the list is endless. In fact, many public health advocates call this an “obese-friendly environment.” So, yes, it’s tough when you’re trying to lose weight to eat healthfully.
Solution: Planning is one of the only ways to overcome the problem. Don’t think simple willpower is going to get you past indulging in all those tempting foods. Plan ahead. Think about where you’re going and what healthy foods will be available. Try to mentally rehearse making “healthier” choices in the most tempting situations.
For instance, find the healthier choices on fast-food menus before you get there (most fast-food restaurants have information on their Web sites). When traveling or in stressful situations, keep healthy food (including ready-to-eat foods such as low-cal soups, frozen dinners, cereals, fruit, etc.) readily available. Keep junk foods out of your house — they’re too tempting. The research shows that if you have those foods around, you’re likely to eat them. Do a house cleaning and dump all junk food you find. And don’t be a diet hero: Avoid cues that tempt you. If you drive by Dunkin' Donuts on the way to work and you can't resist stopping for a box of doughnuts, change your route. Also, don't head to the supermarket when you're starving — eat a snack beforehand. (www.dietdetective.com/diet/dont-be-a-diet-hero.html )
Problem: Lack of time
Survey results: 16.9%
Facts: For Americans rushing to get a healthy meal on the table between work, soccer, ballet class and sleep, time is often the missing ingredient. This lack of time leads many people to rely on unhealthy versions of takeout, fast food and easy-to-fix convenience foods.
Solution: The truth is that it’s not easy to eat healthfully when you’re busy, particularly when it’s not a priority in your life. Even if you have no time to buy healthy food and cook at home, you still have options. You can make convenience and fast foods work for you. For instance, you can find out what healthy offerings you might enjoy at your favorite restaurant (try getting menus in advance). You can go to the supermarket and buy some tasty, low-calorie frozen dinners — some of them are delicious. You can also try batch cooking: picking one day of the week to prepare an entire week’s worth of healthy meals.
Problem: High price of eating healthy
Survey results: 14.2%
Facts: It may seem cheaper and simpler to eat unhealthy foods. And in many cases it is. However, according to the USDA Economic Research Service analysis, more than half of the 69 forms of fruit and 85 forms of vegetables included in the analysis were estimated to cost 25 cents or less per serving, and 86 percent of all vegetables and 78 percent of all fruits cost less than 50 cents a serving.
Solution: Plan your meals and shopping lists in advance. Search out coupons and specials on supermarket Web sites. To cut shopping time and avoid impulse purchases, write the list according to the grocery aisles and sections in the store. You probably know the store you shop in pretty well, but if you map it out, you will be more likely to stick to the plan. Bring your lunch to work or school. Don’t wait until you’re starving to eat. Also, keep in mind that sin foods are often more expensive than healthier choices. For instance, one apple pie generally costs three times more than five apples.
(More information: http://www.dietdetective.com/food/healthy-wealthy-and-slim.html )
Problem: No motivation
Survey results: 9.8%
Facts: Healthy food can seem boring and bland. Plus, it takes more work to eat healthfully. However, eating healthy foods can be exciting and tasty if you put forth some effort.
Solution: Take a few minutes to write down all the reasons you want to eat healthier. For instance, “I’ve been diagnosed with heart disease and need to start eating better.” “I just feel better about myself when I eat properly.” Try to come up with as many reasons as possible. Any time you have doubts and need motivation, you can think about your list. That’s why you need to make sure it is meaningful. Make eating healthfully more exciting and enjoyable by learning healthy recipes and finding tasty, healthy restaurants.
Problem: Eat out frequently
Survey results: 8.6%
Facts: Up to 50 percent of our food budget is spent eating out, and foods purchased outside the home are generally higher in calories and saturated fat and lower in fiber and nutrients such as calcium than home-prepared foods.
Solution: There are lots of ways to eat out, have a good time stuffing your face, and still eat healthfully. Start by picking places that offer healthy choices. Also, follow a few of these tips:
- Limit mayo, tartar sauce, creamy dressings and extra cheese.
- Ask for dressing, sauces, butter or sour cream on the side.
- Use mustard, ketchup, salt, pepper or vinegar as fat-free ways to season your food.
- Watch nuts, croutons and other salad add-ons.
- Chicken and fish are good choices only if they're grilled or broiled, NOT breaded or deep-fried.
- Avoid large portions. Split your entrée with a family member, or ask for a half-portion.
- Read the menu. Avoid any of the following words: a la mode, au gratin (covered with cheese), battered, bisque, breaded, buttered, cheese sauce, creamy or rich, crispy, deep-fried, deluxe, fried, hollandaise (sauce made with butter and egg yolks), jumbo, nuts, scalloped, sautéed (unless you make a special request for it to be prepared in a small amount of oil) and tempura.
- Don't be afraid to ask questions or make special requests.
Problem: Unsupportive family members
Survey results: 4.6%
Facts: Family members can really put a damper on your diet. Also, family can influence your behavior; if your spouse doesn’t eat healthfully, it can make it difficult for you to eat right.
Solution: Don’t let your family throw you off track. Set boundaries for yourself when dining out or eating at home, and make sure that you keep track of your “difficult” family eating situations and think in advance about how you’re going to overcome them. Give yourself permission to eat different foods from the ones they’re eating and remain on track. Also, remember to talk with your family and let them know you want their help — not to police your eating, but to support your healthy eating choices.
Problem: Unhealthy food at work
Survey results: 4.3%
Facts: What with all the birthdays, parties, co-workers bringing unhealthy foods, and the stress of the workplace, the office can be a minefield for anyone trying to stay healthy.
- Be social: Team up with a co-worker who is also determined to lose weight. An office diet buddy can provide you with emotional support and reminders.
- Plan: Gather menus from all local restaurants as well as convenient takeout and fast-food eateries. Then scan them for healthy foods. Narrow your choices and highlight.
- Pack a healthy lunch: Bring your own low-cal sandwiches or buy healthy microwave meals (see if you can keep food in an area fridge or freezer).
- Set rules: Many offices are breeding grounds for nibbling just because snack foods are available. Decide in advance what you will and will not eat.
- Vending machines: These are mostly filled with unhealthy choices. Bring your own healthy snacks.
CHARLES PLATKIN, Ph.D., M.P.H., THE DIET DETECTIVE is one of the country's leading nutrition and public health advocates, whose syndicated health, nutrition and fitness column, the Diet Detective appears in more than 100 daily newspapers nationally. Dr. Platkin is also the founder of DietDetective.com, which offers nutrition, food, and fitness information. Platkin is a health expert and blogger featured on Everydayhealth.com, Active.com and Fitnessmagazine.com. Additionally, Platkin is a Distinguished Lecturer at the CUNY School of Public Health at Hunter College in New York City.
The information provided on this site is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between a patient/site visitor and his/her existing physician.