Diet & Nutrition
Top 5 Excuses People Eat Poorly
As the founder of Detoxinista.com, I hear many all-too-familiar excuses from my readers and nutrition clients when it comes to not eating well on a regular basis. As a former junk food lover nutrition consultant, I know Here, I debunk the five most common excuses for not eating healthily on a regular basis and offer solutions that satisfy even the pickiest, busiest, and most budget-conscious eaters.
EXCUSE #1: I don’t have enough time.
By far the most common excuse out there, and for good reason. As a society, we are busier than ever, and cooking healthful meals from scratch can certainly be more time-consuming than picking up a prepared meal on the way home from work or heating up a frozen pizza. You can make healthy eating a priority in as little as 30 minutes, e.g. prepping your meals for the week while watching a 30-minute show on Netflix. A few easy tips to squeeze healthy eating into your busy schedule:
- Seek out speedy recipes. Many of the recipes in this book are labeled with a 30-Minute Recipe icon to help you locate dishes that are ready from start to finish in half an hour. Other recipes require just 15 minutes of hands-on prep so you can be productive doing other things around the house while your meal bakes to perfection in the oven. If you can’t find 15 minutes to spare for yourself each night, you may need to reorganize your priorities a bit to make that possible.
- Make good use of your freezer. “Cook once, enjoy twice” should be the motto of every busy home cook. Make the most of your hands-on time by preparing double batches of your favorite recipes and freezing the extras for fast and easy future meals. Keep an eye out throughout this book for the Freezer- Friendly label denoting recipes that freeze well.
- Take advantage of healthful convenience foods. Most grocery stores now offer a wide variety of prewashed and prechopped packaged vegetables, so if you don’t have time to prep your own veggies, they are still incredibly easy to come by. When possible, be sure to look for ingredients, such as tomato paste, that come packaged in glass jars. This will help you avoid any chemicals potentially found in metal can linings. Also, be sure to check out your grocer’s freezer section. Many now offer cooked grains frozen into individual serving sizes, sliced stir-fry vegetables and precooked meats, so a healthier freezer meal is only minutes away when you’re crunched for time.
The next time you think you’re “too busy” to eat well, what you’re really saying is that healthy eating isn’t a priority for you at that moment. If you think about it, it would probably take you at least twenty minutes to get in the car and return home with food from a drive-thru window, so there’s no reason why you can’t use that time more wisely to whip up a healthy and satisfying dinner that won’t weigh you down. With all of the healthy and convenient options available, not having enough time is no longer a good excuse to sacrifice eating well.
EXCUSE #2: It’s too expensive.
Fresh organic produce may cost more than the conventionally grown variety and pasture-raised animal products are more expensive than factory-farmed animal products, but that doesn’t mean that healthy eating has to break the bank. Megan shares plenty of budget-friendly meal ideas (along with the price per serving, so you can budget accordingly), so your grocery bill goes down simply by preparing more whole-food meals at home. Many packaged foods, such as potato chips, soda and cookies— especially those with a brand name or a “healthy” marketing label— are more expensive than simply choosing whole foods in the first place. A few more ways you can save money while eating well:
- Stick to a meal plan. Megan includes three complete weeks of meal plans and shopping lists to help you stay on track and on budget. When you shop for only the items you need each week, you’ll avoid making expensive impulse purchases, and you won’t need to dine out when you find yourself hungry and unprepared. Preparation is key, so take 20 minutes out of your weekend to plan your meals for the week along with a corresponding grocery list.
- Eat fewer animal products. Meat, fish, dairy and eggs tend to be the priciest items in a shopping cart, so by reducing your weekly consumption, you can easily shave dollars off your grocery bill while also potentially increasing your life span. If your family relies heavily on meat-centered dishes, try serving a little less meat at each meal and then make up the difference by adding extra veggies to your plates. Or, simply aim to eat “meatless” one day a week and try a new vegetarian meal instead. You’ll save money while expanding your palate.
- Keep it simple. Healthful eating is often the most expensive when people are first starting out because they want to dive in headfirst, trying exotic ingredients and packaged convenience foods that are reminiscent of their old favorites. In many cases, these packaged foods aren’t much healthier than their processed counterparts, and you certainly don’t need a bunch of exotic ingredients to make truly delicious, healthy food. Instead, shop for simple whole foods, such as fresh produce, raw nuts and seeds, and bulk grains, then use them to make your own salad dressings, dips, snack bars and puddings for healthier and cheaper alternatives to pricey packaged snacks. This book is loaded with easy recipes to do just that.
- Shop seasonally. It’s better to eat seasonally and locally and one of the best perks is the money you save. When produce is in season, its supply is at its peak— making it easier and cheaper for farmers to distribute to your local store. Those savings get passed on to you, and as a bonus, your food tastes better and is more nutritious. When your favorite produce isn’t in season, you can save money by buying it frozen, which is almost always cheaper than fresh.
- Know the Dirty Dozen. If you can’t afford to buy organic produce all the time but want to reduce your exposure to pesticides, familiarize yourself with the “Dirty Dozen” list produced by the Environmental Working Group. Each year they create this free resource to let consumers know the top twelve fruits and vegetables that are most heavily sprayed with pesticides. They also share a “Clean 15” list, which includes the fifteen items that are least exposed to pesticides. Using these lists as your guide, you can save money by buying organic only when shopping for highly sprayed produce. If you don’t have the Dirty Dozen list on hand when shopping for produce, a good way to determine if choosing organic is worth the extra money is to think about how you will eat it. If you’re going to eat the skin, such as an apple or a bell pepper, buy organic. If you need to peel the fruit or vegetable, such as a squash or an avocado, conventional produce is just fine, since you’ll be discarding the peel and a majority of the pesticide residue along with it. When you start to make healthful eating a priority, you will most likely cut back on some other expensive habits, such as dining out often, buying triple-shot skinny-mocha lattes with whipped cream, eating greasy popcorn at the movie theater or sipping overpriced cocktails. Improving your health now will likely mean fewer costly doctor visits for you in the future, too. Consider that even more reason to banish this “too expensive” excuse for good.
EXCUSE #3: My family is too picky.
Even if you’re the only person in your home who wants to eat healthier, you shouldn’t have to become a short-order cook. It may take time for everyone in your household to make the transition, but gradually introducing higher quality foods and trying a new recipe each week is a great way to help your family
establish healthier eating habits while expanding their palates. Make it a priority! Some easy ways to get started – the more consistent you are, the faster you’ll see positive results:
- Sneak in some green. Add a handful of fresh baby spinach to your family’s favorite fruit smoothie. You’ll benefit from the added nutrients, and you won’t be able to taste the greens at all. If you or your family members are leery of green drinks, include frozen blueberries or raw cacao powder to completely mask the color.
- Bulk up your plate with veggies. Replace half of your pasta with zucchini “noodles” or steamed vegetables to boost the fiber and nutrients in your meal, while still indulging in a hearty pasta dish. Eventually, you might be surprised that you prefer a higher ratio of vegetables to pasta on your plate. The same technique may also be used with rice dishes— replace half of the white or brown rice with cauliflower “rice” for an easy vegetable boost that doesn’t significantly change the overall taste or texture of your family’s favorite meals.
- Keep healthful snacks in sight. Arrange fresh fruit on the counter and sliced veggies with dip in your refrigerator as easy-to-grab snack options. Keep your fridge filled with healthy foods at eye level so they are the first option you see when you open the door. Do this for toddlers by keeping a batch of prepared smoothies, applesauce pouches and sliced fruit in the fridge door at their eye level so they can “independently” choose a healthy snack. It’s empowering to give everyone the choice.
- Make new and “kid-friendly” recipes. There are several kid- friendly options labeled throughout this book— and they’re adult- approved, too. Butternut Mac ’n’ Cheese is a creamy and tasty alternative to the boxed neon- orange kind and packs some veggies into each bite. It’s also hard to resist a serving of delicious Philly Cheesesteak–Stuffed Spaghetti Squash, Chocolate Sweet Potato Buttercream with a sneaky vegetable base, or Creamy “Peanut” Dressing— it always has everyone reaching for more veggies to dip into it. Try new recipes often because you never know what new dish your family might enjoy until you try it.
- Keep meals flexible. Be willing to modify a dish you’re already making to accommodate family members. For example, if your spouse prefers to eat meat more often than you do, add a precooked chicken breast to his/her portion while keeping yours vegetarian to satisfy both parties. Or if s/he feels the need for more bulk when you’re serving a dish made with cauliflower rice, use an individual portion of frozen cooked rice from the freezer to add to his/her plate. It’s not much extra work on your part, and s/he’s still getting a mostly vegetable-centric meal without feeling overwhelmed by drastic diet changes. There’s no need to prepare an entirely different meal.
EXCUSE #4: I’m always on the go.
If you have to travel often for work, feel as if you’re always in your car or simply aren’t around your kitchen much, you can still eat well on the go—as long as you make it a priority. Sticking to your healthy eating goals is more important than ever when you’re on the go because your immune system is closely tied to your gut health. When you eat nutrient-rich foods, you’ll give your immune system a much-needed boost and help reduce your chances of catching a cold, even if you’re exposed to more germs than usual in a crowded dance studio, child’s soccer game or busy airport. A few on- the-go tips to help you stay well and on track:
- Choose healthful portable snacks. Fresh fruit is nature’s ultimate “fast food” since it’s already packed for you in an easily portable skin. Apples, bananas, pears and oranges are all widely available—even at gas stations and coffee chains— and can be stored at room temperature for days. There’s no reason why you can’t pack several pieces in your suitcase, purse or car to enjoy a nutrient-rich snack anytime. Raw nuts, seeds and dried fruits are also easy portable options, and you can usually find them available in airport kiosks and vending machines for a quick and easy snack.
- Make your own snacks. Megan’s Date Energy Bites and Nut-Free Chewy Granola Bars are a breeze to prepare and pack well on the go. They also happen to taste like dessert, so you won’t feel deprived while you’re out. If you’re craving something salty, try the Easy Party Mix for a more satiating alternative to chips.
- Dine out wisely. It’s likely that you’ll need to dine out while traveling or going to a post-game celebration, but there are still plenty of restaurants and fast-food chains that offer healthier choices. Common real-food options include steamed or grilled veggies, leafy green salads, broth- based vegetable or lentil soups, black beans, guacamole, salsa, plain baked potatoes, vegetable omelets and more. If you don’t see what you want on the menu, don’t be afraid to ask. Many places are happy to accommodate your needs if you ask them nicely. If you find yourself traveling often or dining out several times a week, those daily indulgences can quickly start to take their toll on your energy levels and overall quality of life. However, when you start to take care of yourself by using the previous tips, the better you’ll feel and the more you’ll want to stick to your healthy eating plan. Start building up your momentum now because it does get easier the more you practice.
EXCUSE #5: I can’t control my cravings.
Whether you’re on a diet or not, it’s totally natural to crave a sweet treat or salty snack every now and then. However, if your cravings feel out of control or start to occur more frequently, there could be a valid reason why. The following issues might help you get to the bottom of your cravings:
- You’re not eating enough. Many dieters are chronically undernourished after attempting a calorie- restricted regimen because they’re simply not eating enough food to get the nutrients they need in the first place. Calorie counting is a flawed approach because it doesn’t take the nutrient density of your food into account, and studies have shown that exposure to toxins can prompt weight gain regardless of calorie intake or exercise. Instead of counting calories, focus on nutrient-rich whole foods and eat until you feel satisfied, without worrying about the numbers. You might be surprised to feel your cravings vanish as you enjoy plenty of nourishing foods, and you may find that your taste for sweet and salty foods will diminish as your taste buds adapt, without stressing about portion control.
- Your food choices are too restrictive. If you have an all-or-nothing mentality, you might be creating unnecessary cravings by labeling certain foods as “forbidden,” even when you’re only aiming to adopt a whole- foods diet. By embarking on a super- strict eating regimen, you give certain foods more attention than they deserve simply by proclaiming them off- limits. Instead of taking drastic measures, try making small changes on a daily basis, such as starting your day with a green smoothie, replacing your usual crunchy vending- machine snack with a handful of raw almonds, or indulging in a piece of 5-Minute Freezer Fudge instead of a candy bar. Though it might not sound as exciting as committing to a strict cleanse, making these small changes, even with room for some of your favorite treats, will leave you with permanent results that will have everyone wanting to know what “cleanse” you’re doing. Even better, you won’t ever have to worry about rebounding back into old habits or into a larger clothing size, because practicing manageable new habits on a regular basis is what makes them stick for good.
- You have food allergies or sensitivities. Did you know that it’s not uncommon to crave foods that you are allergic or intolerant to? It’s one of nature’s cruel jokes. Food allergies cause stress to the body, and then the body releases endorphins to help make you feel better. The result is that you associate the food you’re allergic to with “feeling good,” and that may actually make you crave it more. If you suspect that one of your cravings might be related to a food intolerance or allergy, particularly one of the common allergens like wheat or dairy, try an elimination diet to see how your body reacts without it. You may not know how good you can feel until you give it a try.
*1 more thing that stalls progress
- Not knowing where to start. There’s so much conflicting nutritional information out there that it’s easy to stall because you don’t know which approach to healthful eating is best. The Paleo Diet? A vegan diet? Our society suffers from information overload, and the flood of conflicting studies and theories is enough to make your head spin. Don’t use this as another “excuse” to procrastinate changing your habits. Instead, stick to what most experts agree to be true: eat whole foods— with an emphasis on plants— as much as possible. It’s hard to go wrong with that approach!
Megan Gilmore, the powerhouse behind Detoxinista.com, hears many all-too-familiar excuses from her readers and nutrition clients when it comes to not eating well on a regular basis. As a former junk food lover turned highly sought-after nutrition consultant, she knows what it takes to successfully make the switch.In her new book, NO EXCUSES DETOX: 100 RECIPES TO HELP YOU EAT HEALTHY EVERY DAY (Ten Speed Press; Feb. 21, 2017), she debunks the 5 most common excuses for not eating healthily on a regular basis and offers solutions that satisfy even the pickiest, busiest and most budget-conscious eaters.