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Top 6 Excuses for Not Eating Well

Most of us are guilty at some point—using excuses to not eat well. We tell ourselves we’re unique, our situations genuinely unusual, our reasoning perfectly rational. Truth be told, however, we all have more in common than we think in these weak moments. As Nutritional Professionals, we’re often on the receiving end of these justifications but also subject to them in our own lives at times. It’s all part of understanding the experiences of our clients! All this said, none of us have to let these inclinations actually get the better of us. By outing the excuses themselves, we can diffuse the power (and believability) behind them. Of the many dozens we could collectively come up with, let’s look at 6 of the most common. See how many you recognize and what you would add to the list.

“I just don’t know what to eat – I need a meal plan.”

As adults, surely we’ve been told what foods are generally healthy and which foods are  giving dieticians like me job security. If we were fully honest with ourselves, most of us would admit we actually do know what to eat and don’t actually need a meal plan. What we need is a bit of time and creativity. The easiest way to “meal plan” is to get out a blank sheet of paper and divide it into three columns. In the first column, list all the vegetables you like, tolerate, are willing to try, and are willing to keep available to grab when you’re busy and on the go. In the next column, list all the protein sources that fit the same criteria: you like them, tolerate them, and are willing and able to keep them nearby no matter your lifestyle. In the last column, list the fats you’ll use to flavor the combinations you put together from the first two columns. Where do you put all the fruit, grains, and indulgences? On the back of course! That way when you slap it on the fridge you can focus on the foods that will keep you healthy (the processed and/or sugar-rich stuff is out of plain view).

“I don’t like to cook.”

The fact is, we don’t like a lot of things in life (including carrying extra weight or illness!). You don’t have to be a gourmet or even enjoy cooking to be able to consistently eat healthy. In fact, if you tolerate cooking once or twice a week, you can make a significant, positive change in your diet. Take the list you made for the first point above and cross off the foods you “don’t like to cook” or can’t find partially prepared for you. By partially prepared, I mean items like pre-cut broccoli with rotisserie chicken topped with salsa, a bigger omelet you can save for another meal, or an extra pound of burger patties grilled with your favorite vegetables. My clients usually find it’s not as hard as they anticipate once they get into a rhythm. If you truly are a total novice in the kitchen, start small by watching someone demonstrate how to cook your favorite dish on YouTube or cooking website. Take a class. Ask a friend for lessons in the basics. Get comfortable in the kitchen.

“Eating healthy is boring.”

I’ve started many clients down a healthy eating path based on the first and second excuses above, only to hear this third statement about weeks three or four into the journey. Eating “healthy” or focusing your intake on veggies, proteins, and natural fats can seem limited, but even if there are five items on each list there are at least 125 different combinations of three-ingredient meals! When the lists are smaller and cooking time or skills are in short supply, improving your nourishment can seem like a tedious process. Here are few quick ways to inject some excitement into a boring food rotation:

  • Don’t make it all about you. Get out there and socialize! Break out the grill, invite some friends over, and ask them to contribute to your healthy, wholesome feast. Meals should be social, and a good, old-fashioned potluck creates conversation. You’ll get a good meal out of it and likely some helpful ideas on various cooking methods or flavor combinations you can try in future efforts.
  • Use the web. Google the key ingredient you’re trying to jazz up, and you’ll get a nearly endless supply of recipes you could modify or adapt to your tastes. A quick Google search of “broccoli recipes” returned 29,500,000 hits in 0.45 seconds. Not only will this kill boredom, it will also save you time thinking and planning! If you prefer, browse the cookbook section of your local book store or library.
  • Use fat, spices, or condiments for added flavor. Broccoli tastes quite good with a pat of grass-fed butter and some sea salt; asparagus is amazing when sautéed in the drippings from 2 slices of bacon, and Brussels sprouts are awesome when roasted with garlic and olive oil. Who knew?
  • Go for visual appeal. When was the last time you put effort into the visual “presentation” of your dinner? You know it matters when you eat out at a restaurant. Give it the same amount of thought at home. Think of the colors, textures, shapes, aromas, and freshness of the last meal that made your mouth water. Cookbooks and food websites are great for ideas.

“It’s expensive to eat healthy!”

I sympathize with this reasoning, but have you priced out what it costs to have a heart attack lately? The investment in eating more nourishing foods is well worth it, but you won’t have to break the bank. Check out Anika’s 5 Ways to Save on Healthy Food You’ll also find some fantastic, cost-saving guidebooks available for wholesome nutrition as well in bookstores, libraries and other websites. By all means, ask your Life Time Dietitian or Weight Loss Coach for a few of their favorite tips to help save money when eating healthier. Take part in a grocery store tour. Ask others in your Life Time Weight Loss Group how they’ve bridged the financial gap to healthier eating. The cost of NOT eating well will always be greater in the long run.

“I ate it because it’s in the house for my kids.”

Hmmm. Let’s imagine for a moment that I asked your kids about this one. Chances are, I’d wager, they’d simply argue, “My mom/dad bought it.” Now I’m not saying you need to shut off the junk food cold turkey, but you probably can make progress by “hiding” it from yourself more often, letting it disappear without your assistance, and by not re-stocking it “for the kids.” If it’s in our house, it’s for us. Period. If it’s not helping you stay energetic, healthy, and lean, it’s probably not something your kids should get used to having around anyway. Parents: offer your strategies, comments, and comebacks to the ensuing insurrection. How have you handled it? 

“I don’t want to waste food.”  

Some clients are concerned with a full kitchen of not-so-healthy food going unused. While I respect their frugality, I think there’s another way to look at this. What if that same logic was applied to the limited number of chances we get to truly nourish out bodies? “I don’t want to waste a chance to nourish” by eating food that doesn’t give offer significant nutrients. A package of cookies might look like a waste in the garbage can, but consider the negative health impact you’re saving yourself by getting rid of them.

When the central question is “How can we make eating healthier a more consistent practice?” are we even wasting food (as in *real food* in the first place? I would argue not. Wasting money is more like it. Donate the items to someone who is less stringent, less fortunate, or seems to be immune to the nagging effects of [occasional] processed food consumption. Just don’t feel guilty for wasting food. The term will not fully apply to what you’re giving away.

Those are what I’d label the top 6 excuses I hear! What are your additions? I hope you’ll share your favorites—that you’ve used yourself at one time or that you’ve heard from others. Thanks for reading, everyone.

Written by Paul Kriegler - Corporate Registered Dietitian

This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.


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