We know eating healthy isn't always easy, so we asked our community to share the challenges you face when trying to eat for a better you. After compiling your top five healthy eating challenges, we turned to some of the Experts we collaborate with for solutions and tips. A big thank you to:
- Barbara Eichorst, MS, RD, CDCES, Associate Vice President of Clinical Practice and ResearchAssociate Vice President of Clinical Practice and Research of Kindred at Home
- Hope Warshaw, MMSc, RD, CDCES, BC-ADM, author of Diabetes Meal Planning Made Easy, owner of Hope Warshaw Associates, LLC, a private practice and consultancy based in Asheville NC
- Nicole M. Bereolos, Ph.D., MPH, MSCP, CDCES, FADCES, Clinical Psychologist, ADCES Board of Directors - 2018-2021, American Psychological Assoc - Div 55 - Society for Prescribing Psychology - Membership Chair – 2021
- Toby Smithson, RDN, CDCES, Diabetes Lifestyle Expert with DiabetesEveryDay.com and author of Diabetes Meal Planning and Nutrition for Dummies
- Vandana Sheth, RDN, CDCES, FAND, www.vandanasheth.com, Author of My Indian Table: Quick & Tasty Vegetarian Recipes
Challenge 1 - Finding Time to Cook
- Nicole Bereolos: Find meal shortcuts, such as already prepared meals you can buy in advance and heat. Don't feel pressured to have multiple items on your plate; protein and vegetables are enough to constitute a meal. Cook in bulk on days where you have time and freeze in portions so that you can easily thaw and reheat a meal on busy days.
- Toby Smithson: Cook once to have meals prepped for the week. How does this work? Choose three dinner recipes and pick a day to do all your cooking. Prep all three dinner entrees; then serve the entrees throughout the week with a quick prep side dish. Dinner for the whole week is done!
- Hope Warshaw: Prepare salad “accessories” once or twice a week to easily eat more salads. I chop carrots, red or white cabbage, celery, red onions, cucumber, peppers, and mushrooms and put them into a plastic container. (They should stay fresh for about five days.) Every weekday for lunch, I simply take out the greens, my salad accessories, and a few other toppings. Making salads has become quick and easy. I also create a mix of fresh fruit and have it at the ready to serve. I cut oranges, apples, grapefruit, and mango and keep this mix in a plastic container. I enjoy a couple of spoons of this topped with various berries and non-fat Greek yogurt at breakfast. Great way to make sure I eat at least a serving of fruit each day.
- Vandana Sheth: The key is to plan and enjoy simple meals. We often complicate this step. Take shortcuts - buy chopped and prepped vegetables, already cooked chicken breast, salmon, beans, lentils, etc., and pre-cooked frozen rice or quinoa. Having these on hand can make meals come together in 15-20 minutes.
Challenge 2 - Cost and Availability of Fresh Seasonal Produce, Meat, and Seafood
- Vandana Sheth: Make a list of ingredients on sale, and use the foods you pick up in your meals and snacks to minimize waste. Consider buying frozen produce in place of fresh. Frozen produce can have considerable cost savings and is frozen when in season. Visit your local 99-cent stores - they often have produce at a cost-effective price point.
- Nicole Bereolos: Use your weekly grocery circular to find deals. Also, check out grocery store apps that typically offer coupons to app users.
Challenge 3 - Using Food for Comfort (especially when anxiety is high and motivation to work out is very low)
- Nicole Bereolos: This is very complex as there is a biological reason why food provides emotional comfort. However, food is a temporary "fix." Taking a problem-solving approach can help reduce stress in your life and reduce the chances of reaching for foods with little nutritional value. However, don't deny yourself food either. It takes a psychological toll if we tell ourselves that a food is "bad" or we will never have it again.
Challenge 4 - Family Not On Board / Needing to Cook Two Separate Meals to Accommodate Preferences
- Vandana Sheth: Keep your family's food preferences in mind when planning meals. Try to plan meals that can be customized easily. Consider creating a taco bar or stirfry station - people can make their individual tacos or stirfry based on their preference, and you do not have to make multiple meals.
- Nicole Bereolos: I don't recommend making multiple meals, as it is more costly and takes additional time. There is no "diabetic" diet, and everyone can benefit from a balanced plate approach with fat, salt, and refined sugar in moderation.
Challenge 5 - Portion Control
- Toby Smithson: Use the plate method as your visual guide to help with your food portion sizes and an overall balance of nutrition. For people with diabetes, the plate method includes half your plate being filled with non-starchy vegetables, one quarter with lean protein, and the final quarter with carbohydrate foods. When choosing carbohydrates, choose complex carbohydrates over simple carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates are generally a good source of fiber, and higher fiber foods slow down the absorption of carbs to give you steady blood sugar levels.
- Barbara Eichorst: Eat frozen meals - the healthy ones with less than 350 calories and low sodium. Add salad or soup to round it out. Also, add protein and healthy fats like avocado to keep you more full. Focus on what you can eat more of instead of what you're limiting. You can eat more vegetables and build your meals on a lettuce or vegetable base. Add unsweetened hot tea to your meals. This way, you will sip it slowly and allow enough time for your brain to realize you are full.
- Nicole Bereolos: Use salad plates and small forks (like those intended for desserts or appetizers). When eating in restaurants, have the waiter box half of the food before it comes to the table. If allowed, order off the kid's or senior menu (some places are more flexible than others).
- Hope Warshaw: Do NOT place dishes of food on the table. It's a sure way to go back for seconds and overeat. If you enjoy the option to have seconds, portion out less in your first serving. If you make enough for leftovers on purpose, put the leftovers away before you dig in.