How to Overcome Common Nutrition ‘Problems’

This nutritionist has heard it all. No more excuses.

vending machine

Step away from the vending machine! Vending machine image via Lissandra Melo / Shutterstock.com

Harvard Vanguard nutritionist and registered dietitian, Anne Danahy, who created the blog, Craving Something Healthy, has heard it all. From “there’s no time to cook” to “vending machine lunches,” Danahy says that with just a few simple lifestyle changes, these problems will disappear. Below, she offers us some easy solutions to the laziest of excuses.

Problem:
I have no time to cook.

“Stress is exhausting, and no one wants to get home late and start dinner,” Danahy says. “Unfortunately, picking up take-out makes matters worse, because most of it is too high in calories, fat, and salt and too low in nutrients. When your diet is unhealthy, you feel even more tired and less able to deal with the stress.”

Solution:
The best way to deal with the “no time” problem is to plan ahead, she says.

  • Use weekends or days off to batch cook and freeze extra portions.
  • Prep a week’s worth of meals on Sunday by cutting, measuring, and combining ingredients.
  • Let a crockpot do the work for you while you’re away from home.
  • Have five “fast food” recipes that you can whip up in a few minutes.
  • Eat breakfast for dinner.
  • Have a “no-cook” dinner like whole-wheat pita with hummus, olives, and raw vegetables.

Problem:
I’m starving by lunchtime and then I get a headache.

“Planning and cooking ahead of time comes in handy,” Danahy says. “Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day, because it’s gives you the nutrients and fuel you’ll need to tackle the day.”

Solution:

  • Plan ahead and prepare one or two recipes that will last all week.
  • Keep a bowl of overnight oats in the refrigerator. When you pack a lunch, just scoop some into a cup with a lid and heat it and eat it at work.
  • Make some egg and vegetable frittatas, and grab one or two and eat them in the car, or when you get to work.

Problem:
I’m good until 3 p.m. and then it’s all downhill.

“Step away from the vending machine,” she says. “It’s hard to make good decisions when you’re tired and hungry.”

Solution:

  • Plan five healthy meals and snacks, make a grocery list, and pack your food for each day.
  • Make sure both lunch and snack meals include at least three food groups, one of which is protein. Choose good snacks, such as fresh fruit, a handful of almonds, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, bean dip with whole grain crackers, raw vegetables, or half of a pita pocket stuffed with turkey, spinach and tomato.

Problem:
I have no time to exercise.
“I get it. You get up early, get home late, and when you’re not working, there’s laundry to do, kids to pick up, or groceries to buy. Exercise is probably the best thing you can do for stress, though, so if you can’t fit it in before or after work, try to fit it in during work hours,” Danahy says.

Solution:

  • Aim for 150 minutes of exercise each week, and break that up in any way that works for you. For example, you could park a half-mile from your office, which will give you 15 minutes round-trip of walking time.
  • Take a 15-minute walk at lunchtime.
  • Bring your walking shoes to work and walk for 15 minutes before you leave for the day.
  • Close your office door and do a 10-minute workout.
  • Get a longer workout in on the weekend.

“All of these solutions require a bit of advanced planning, but if you get in the habit of planning what to eat and when to exercise, you’ll be able to stay a step ahead, and you’ll have one less thing to stress about,” she says.