When it comes to food choices, it is hard enough to select the “right” things when the “wrong” things constantly surround us. We are bombarded with bad food choices all the time, in advertisements and commercials, when passing by the ever-so-convenient fast food drive-thru on the commute home from work, and at the grocery checkout lane which just so happens to be right next to some strategically-placed candy bars and snack foods.
It may seem challenging to fight off these always-present junk foods, but if you set yourself up for success, making or finding good choices is easier (and much less time-consuming) than you think. Don’t let your fast-paced lifestyle get in the way of your health or become an excuse for not eating healthy. You can maintain your weight and health by simply planning ahead and setting yourself up for success.
Dilemma: You’re a serial breakfast-skipper because you “just don’t have time.”
You’ve heard it before: “breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” The “most important” part, well that’s up-for-debate, but breakfast is certainly essential for maintaining your weight and staying healthy. Here’s why: Eating breakfast revs up your metabolism and keeps it actively running throughout the day. You will set yourself up on a good eating pattern if you sit and eat a meal in the morning—you won’t end up starving and bingeing later on.
Let’s face it though, for most of us it’s hard enough fitting in teeth-brushing time before heading out the door, so sitting and eating an actual meal in the morning seems near impossible. But don’t let a simple time-crunch issue get in the way. You can set yourself up for success in no time at all.
Ease into your day smoothly. Throw smoothie ingredients into a blender at night and place blender in fridge. In the morning, blend the drink and head out the door. It’s simple to make and an easy meal to eat in the car, train, bus, or walk to work. Here’s a delicious, power smoothie recipe (be sure to add in the whey protein powder—whey protein is the highest quality protein powder on the market and will help to make your smoothie more satisfying and filling):
Blend together 1 fresh/frozen banana cut into chunks, 1 cup fresh/frozen blueberries, 6 ounces (3/4 cup) plain yogurt, 3/4 cup skim, almond, or soy milk, 1 tablespoon ground flax seeds, 1 teaspoon agave nectar/brown rice syrup/honey, 1 tablespoon vanilla whey protein powder, 1/2 cup ice cubes. Serves 2.
Purchase healthy, convenient products that you can take on the go. Protein bars are great—but choosing the right one is essential. Look for a protein bar made with whole grains and natural sweeteners (like organic sugar, brown rice syrup, honey, maple syrup, etc.). Also, make sure it’s got a good amount of fiber per serving. ClifBar is a great, delicious brand of protein bars that are perfect for breakfast on-the-run. (Eat it with a piece of fruit for a balanced, wholesome breakfast.)
Don’t fear the fast food drive thru or the quick-stop coffee shop—both places have healthy, convenient options that can fit into your healthy lifestyle. Have what you truly want—maybe that’s an egg mcmuffin sandwich, or a muffin, or a doughnut. But if you make an “unhealthy” choice, only have a little bit of it (give into your craving, but don’t overindulge). Then, fill up on a healthier option, such as a fruit bowl, or whole grain toast with jam, or oatmeal. Or simply take off the top half of the egg mcmuffin, and enjoy it open-faced sandwich style. Eat a few bites of your favorite muffin, and then fill up on a cup of yogurt with fruit.
There are always good, better-for-you options at quick-stop food service stations—you just have to be smart and choose wisely. As a general rule, try to include protein, fat, and fiber in your breakfast meal to ensure you’ll be satisfied for the next few hours. Also, choose whole grains products over white ones, and fill up on tons of fruit and vegetables.
Dilemma: It’s 10 a.m., you’re at work, and you’re starving.
Beware of the office vending machine. Set yourself up for success by preparing yourself for those times when you get hungry between meals. One way to prevent this from happening is by consistently eating breakfast!
But don’t panic if you start to feel hungry between meals; it’s natural and normal. Just make sure you are adequately prepared to fulfill your hunger in a healthy, smart way.
Stock up on the healthy goods. Pre-portioned Ziploc bags or small Tupperware containers full of a handful of nuts or trail mix is a great, filling snack. Rice cakes smeared with one or two tablespoons nut butter can store well in your desk drawer. Whole grain, fiber-rich crackers, or small, pre-portioned bags of popcorn/pretzels/baked chips will fulfill any salty craving you have.
If chocolate’s what you’re after, portion out chocolate chips and mix them with nuts or popcorn or dried fruit for a more filling snack. A handful of chocolate-covered almonds will fulfill your sweet tooth while providing you ample energy and satiation. Be smart about your snacks—make sure you eat something small (under 200 calories) that contains protein, fat and fiber. And portion snacks out before you put them away in your desk—that way, the temptation to overeat is removed.
Shop the vending machine wisely. Sometimes we forget to stock our desk drawers with healthy goods, or simply run out of time to go to the store and pick up snacks the night before. There are always better-for-you options in the vending machine. Before you even step in front of it, ask yourself what you truly crave. Then give into your craving (but remember, don’t overindulge) and choose the best choice accordingly. If you crave salt, get a bag of chips, but only eat half of the bag and drink a large glass of water to help fill you up—you don’t need the whole bag of chips.
You want chocolate? Purchase the trail mix variety with chocolate chips in it, but make sure to eat only a portion of it and throw the rest away. Make a choice, live with your choice, enjoy your snack, and move on.
Track it and pack it. Setting yourself up for success requires a deep, thorough knowledge of oneself. When do you tend to get hungry for a snack? 10 a.m.? Or maybe you don’t need a snack until late afternoon, a few hours after lunch. Know thyself. Write down (or take very careful mental notes) when you feel hungry and what you crave. Get to know yourself, your body. This will make it easier for you to plan ahead. For example, if you get really hungry on the drive home from work, keep pre-portioned bags of granola in your car. If you travel often, and typically get mid-day snack attacks, make sure you have a piece of fruit in your bag as a go-to-treat! It’s all about knowing oneself and planning ahead.
Insider’s tip: Snacking is great …when done correctly. You need to eat your snack undistracted, so your body and mind recognizes that it’s eating. If you snack while you’re working, you’ll still feel hungry and unsatisfied. Take a break, eat your snack and focus on it, then move on. This is a great method to use when eating any meal. Take time to enjoy your food. Let it fill and permeate all your senses. And when you finish what’s on your plate, walk away and do something else.)
Dilemma: The cocktail party is complete with good friends, good music … and unhealthy food choices.
There’s no reason to give up the celebratory occasions in life. But do recognize that a celebration is no excuse to overeat the bad stuff. There are always better-for-you options at parties (even if it doesn’t seem like it), and there are numerous ways to plan ahead and set yourself up for success.
Spoil your appetite, just a little. Never go to a party ravishing and starved. Always eat before you go out to eat (sounds sort of ridiculous right? Actually, it’s very smart! It’s how you set yourself up for success). Before heading out the door, grab a snack that contains protein, fat and fiber, like a handful of nuts, or a small yogurt cup with fruit, or a sliced apple with peanut butter, or 4 whole grain crackers with cheese. When you get to the party, realize that you aren’t starving and that you don’t need to binge at the buffet line.
Survey the room and decide before you dive. Take a look at the food options you’re provided with and have what you really want, within reason. You really want the baked ziti? Then have it—a small portion of it. And then fill up on the healthy stuff: the salad and vegetables and fruit. Taste and enjoy the indulgent stuff and fill up on the healthiest options. Doing this will allow you to walk out of this party feeling just as healthy and fabulous as you did when you walked in.
Sit and eat. Sounds obvious, but at parties, we often tend to taste, mingle, and eventually overeat while standing around. It’s important to sit when you eat—food digests best this way. Also, sitting down with a plate of food helps your mind and body recognize that you are eating a meal and that you are getting full.
Some general rules of thumb to help you always set yourself up for success:
- At every meal, make sure you include protein, fat, and fiber—a nutrient combo that provides you with ultimate satisfaction, satiation, and physical fulfillment.
- Know yourself well. This means knowing when you tend to get hungry and what types of foods you crave. Knowing this will help you plan ahead and always be prepared to make healthy choices.
- Give in to your cravings! Life is about enjoyment, not deprivation. Eat all things in moderation and fill up on the healthiest choices. Eating well is all about balance, variety, and satisfaction—you won’t be satisfied if you eat grilled chicken and brown rice every night. So go ahead, eat a slice of pizza with a huge, healthy side salad and feel good about your food choices.
- Sit down and enjoy your food undistracted and uninterrupted—this type of environment will help you to enjoy your food best and will leave your belly thanking you in the long run.
- Don’t be so hard on yourself. Everyone overeats at one point or another. Sometimes, there really are no “good” options to choose from. You need to let these rare times go, and allow yourself to move on. Hanging on to a moment when you overate or relinquishing that time when you devoured an entire cake is only going to hurt you. Don’t hold on to the negativity. Move on and start fresh tomorrow.