We all have those moments when a fresh-baked cookie seems like a much tastier option than a fresh green pear. Or when potato chips on sale — and in bulk! — seem like a more fiscally sensible choice than pricey vegetables that might not last long in the refrigerator. With so many challenges to eating healthfully, can you really win the battle against bad eating habits?
Yes, with the right workarounds.
Here’s how to counter four common excuses that can get in the way of making good choices.
●The excuse: Healthful food is too expensive.
How to fix it: Find the best nutrition deals.
Healthful food doesn’t have to be more expensive, says Dawn Jackson Blatner, a nutrition expert in Chicago and author of “The Flexitarian Diet.” If you’re looking for nutrient-dense but inexpensive foods, try fiber-rich grains such as barley and quinoa. Instead of planning meals around meat, choose less expensive proteins, including beans, eggs, skinless chicken thighs and canned salmon. And when buying fresh produce, get what’s local and in season, says Elisa Zied, a dietitian in New York and author of “Nutrition at Your Fingertips.” You’ll often save money, since the food didn’t have to be flown or trucked from a faraway place.
●The excuse: It’s hard to eat healthfully at restaurants.
How to fix it: Do some research and plan ahead.
In particular, see if you can look up the restaurant’s menu online ahead of time. Many chain restaurants post nutrition information on their Web sites, allowing you to see which dishes best suit your dietary needs. If the restaurant you’re going to doesn’t provide nutrition information, scan the menu for grilled fish, chicken or vegetable dishes, which are often leaner and lower in calories than other items. Consider getting a baked potato or vegetables instead of french fries or mashed potatoes. And ask for salad dressings and sauces on the side.
●The excuse: It’s too hard to change bad habits.
How to fix it: Try new, better-for-you foods — then try them again.
The best way to regularly get more-healthful food into your diet is to make it a habit. But that’s not always easy, especially since you might not like new items much the first time you try them. The trick is to keep trying them, according to Zied. “It can take up to 20 exposures to a new food for someone to accept it,” she says.
Experiment with different cooking techniques, temperatures and seasonings. Perhaps you prefer your asparagus grilled rather than steamed. Or maybe you find lentils more palate-pleasing with a little curry added.
“It helps to pair something you like with a food you’re not sure about,” Zied says. For example, if you like carrots but you’re wary of parsnips, chop them all up and saute them together. You’ll get a tasty dish with familiar flavors but twice the variety of produce.
●The excuse: I don’t always know what’s healthful at the store.
How to fix it: Use the 50 percent rule.
Blatner offers this advice for grocery shopping: Your cart should contain 50 percent produce (canned, fresh or frozen), 25 percent lean protein (eggs, beans, fish, chicken, leaner cuts of meat and low-fat dairy) and 25 percent whole grains (breads, cereals, pasta and wraps). Read nutrition labels on packaged food and compare serving sizes, calories, saturated fat, sodium and fiber among similar products to make the best choices.
Other strategies to try
●Eat breakfast. A meal of low-fat dairy, whole grains, fruit and protein is filling and sets a healthful tone for the rest of the day.
●Avoid liquid calories. Skip sweetened drinks such as soda in favor of water, seltzer or tea. You’ll have more calories to spend on food.
●Plan what you’ll eat. Plot out meals and snacks ahead of time so you have the right items on hand when you get hungry.
●Eat mindfully. Turn off the TV, radio and computer, and focus on what you’re eating. This can make it easier to notice when you’re full.
●Slow down. Savor each bite and chew it thoroughly. It gives your brain time to catch up with your stomach.
●Don’t go shopping for food when you’re hungry. You’re liable to reach for higher-calorie food and overbuy in general.
●Control portions. Use smaller plates (10-inch diameter or less) and keep serving dishes off the table.