Overcoming Hurdles to Healthy Eating

Life’s experiences tell us that goals we set may not be reached by way of a straight and narrow path.  When obstacles cause our “full-speed-ahead” direction to take a turn, we find ourselves needing to get back on track.

In the case of healthy eating, the Mayo Clinic recognizes several specific hurdles common to most people in their quest to improve their diet on a long-term basis.  Take a look below and see if any of them sound familiar to you.  Then consider the strategies offered to resolve them.

Hurdle:  "I don't have time to make healthy meals."

Strategy:  Save time by planning ahead.  For example, when food shopping, buy foods for several meals at a time.  Prepare foods over the weekend and then freeze meal-sized portions to reheat during the week. You can also keep it simple with a fresh salad and low-calorie dressing, a whole-grain [or gluten-free] roll and a piece of fruit, or a healthy sandwich, soup or entree from a deli or grocery store.

Hurdle:  "I don't like vegetables and fruits."

Strategy:  Liking all vegetables and fruits is not a must.  Try to find a few of each that you like.  It’s a good idea to experiment with those that are new to you to see if you can add them to your diet.  Include fruits or veggies to your favorite recipes and replace meat with vegetables when possible. Experiment with new ways to prepare produce, such as grilling pineapple or lightly cooking vegetables if you don't like them raw.

Hurdle:  “I don't like to cook.”

Strategy:  Not a problem. You can find quick and easy recipes for healthy meals in cookbooks or on-line.  You can also use creative shortcuts that don't require a lot of cooking, such as frozen vegetables and lean meats.

Hurdle:  "My family doesn't like to try new things, and it's too much work to make two different meals."

Strategy:  In order to avoid the “2-meals dilemma,” discuss with your family what healthy foods they’d like to try.  Getting their feedback and help may encourage them to be more willing to experiment.  Approach this slowly, making a few small changes each week. You may be able to make some dishes healthier and tastier and your family won't even realize it.  And remember, a favorite dish could be made healthier using a different cooking method  such as baking rather than frying.

Hurdle:  "I can't resist junk food!"

Strategy:  A little compromise goes a long way.  You’ll need to fit the occasional treat into your healthy eating plan without sabotaging your healthy lifestyle or weight-loss efforts, so that you don’t feel deprived, decreasing your chances of successful weight management.

Give yourself permission to eat a treat on occasion and in moderation.  Find a happy medium for high-calorie foods.  Taking the kids out for ice-cream cones once a week is better than buying a gallon of ice cream for your freezer, where it causes constant temptation.  Try healthier versions of your favorite snack foods, such as baked, rather than regular, potato chips.  In addition, eating healthy foods before having your treat can help you eat less of your favorite treats.

Hurdle:  “When eating out, I like to eat large portions of my favorite foods, not something healthy."

Strategy:  It's okay to occasionally have your favorite foods if you do it healthfully.  For example, when at a restaurant, eat half of your favorite meal and save the other half for the next day.  Or, if you know you'll be eating extra calories, increase your exercise for the day.  Explore ways to make your favorite dish healthier. If your meal contains a rich sauce, for instance, ask for it on the side so that you can control how much of it you eat. If you dine out often, however, it's best to make healthy choices part of your routine. You don't want a large indulgence to cancel out all your good efforts.

Hurdle:  "I don't eat breakfast because I'm not hungry in the morning."

Strategy:  Studies have found that eating breakfast helps to better manage your weight by helping the cells to more productively burn fat, especially when you add protein to your morning meal.  So, even if you're not hungry, try to eat something in the morning. Start gradually by planning to have breakfast twice a week and then work toward eating breakfast every day. Keep foods on hand that you can take with you on busy days, such as hard boiled eggs, fruit, whole-grain bagels and low-fat yogurt in single-serving containers.