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Sunday
Jul192015

What to Eat When…

In the course of our established routines, we may do well in sticking with our Healthy Way of Eating intentions. 

Until an unexpected situation throws us for a loop....

What you do during these scenarios over time will determine your success because it's critical to have a mindset - perhaps even more than a plan - that seeks out the healthiest options possible within every situation. 

Check out these eight scenarios for tips on how to maintain your goals during typical "problem" times.

You’re eating out.

One of the most frequent questions I get from clients, friends, and family is “What should or can I eat when I’m eating out?” 

While every restaurant is different with their unique choices, you can play it safe a good majority of the time and plan to order an entrée that is primarily protein and vegetables. Those two things can be a meal all on their own! 

For example, a great choice could be a chicken breast or fish fillet with steamed broccoli (add butter for some healthy fat and extra flavor!). You could even add a side salad or small side of fruit. 

Are traditional entrees not available? Try ordering a bun-less burger with a side of vegetables, skipping the condiments (which can have added sugar), and ask for a few veggies or slices of avocado on top if available. 

If you know ahead of time where you’re going, you can see if the restaurant posts its menu online. Use it to plan your order or to determine whether you need to eat something at home beforehand. I’ve had clients who drink a protein shake before heading to a restaurant and then order a salad when they get there.

Keep in mind when you eat out that restaurant versions of the meals you make at home may not be as healthy. Be conscientious, and do the best you can with what’s offered! 

You’re joining friends for happy hour.

Oh, happy hour… For many people, it’s one of the most fun pastimes with friends, but it presents its major challenges as well. 

Make no mistake: someone living a healthy way of life can certainly enjoy it just as much as the next person. A few helpful tips when it comes to happy hours include minimizing sugar and/or high-carb options, not banking on willpower, and loading up on water. 

While alcohol has some carbs and sugar, be selective on what drink you choose. You’ll be better off choosing a wine or mixing a spirit with club soda (add lemon or lime for extra flavor!). 

As far as willpower goes, when your friends are ordering appetizers, do an honest self-assessment. If you don’t think you’ll be able to refrain from digging in when the nachos arrive, consider ordering an alternative appetizer or side salad for yourself. Choose a higher protein option rather than a high-carb selection like buffalo or chicken wings, steak bites or meat skewers.

You don’t have time for dinner.

Despite our image of dinner as the most elaborate meal of the day, evening fare can be just as quick and easy as lunch. I’ve had many clients who have given up before they’ve even tried because their mindset is that “it takes too long to cook.” 

A quick way to plan dinner is (1) Pick your protein (e.g. chicken, fish, turkey, beef, pork, etc.), and (2) choose your veggie, (3) add a healthy fat, and (4) consider adding a small side of fiber-dense carbohydrate (i.e. complex carbs, like whole-grain rice or quinoa) or fruit

Truth be told, you can make the equivalent of a “burger and fries” at home probably faster than it would take you to go to a local restaurant and get it to-go. In 30-minutes or less, you can use 1 pound of ground-beef to make a few burger patties on top of the stove. 

Slice up a sweet potato, drizzle it in olive oil, and bake the “fries” for about 25 minutes. In the meantime, steam some frozen broccoli or green beans for 5-6 minutes. For even more taste and nutrition, add a few slices of tomato and/or avocado to the burger (sans bun), and voila! Dinner is served.

You’re “hangry.”

When you waited too long in between meals, or your previous meal didn’t tide you over as long as you thought it would (perhaps because it lacked adequate protein or fiber), hunger can quickly set in and spur an “angry” version of yourself to emerge - a.k.a. “hangry.” 

In these scenarios, a fast and convenient snack option is essential. Rather than reaching for prepackaged (i.e. high-carb, low nutrient) options, this is where deli meats (e.g. sliced turkey, ham, etc.), quick veggies (e.g. celery, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, snap-peas), sliced cheese, and/or high-quality protein shakes can help save the day. Foods higher in protein and fiber will fill you up and help keep you fuller longer.

You’re traveling.

Summer is a common time for road trips, family vacations, or maybe even international travel. Planning for eating on the go can be challenging - especially if you neglect the prep altogether. “Failure to plan is planning to fail,” as the old adage goes. 

During your travel days, foods to pack for great snack ideas include: beef jerky, full-fat string cheese, grab-and-go vegetables (e.g. sliced bell-peppers and cucumbers, carrots, broccoli), nuts and seeds (e.g. pistachios, almonds, pumpkin seeds), and maybe even some fruit (e.g. apples, berries, cherries, etc.). 

While most of these can be found at a local convenience store, your best bet is to prepare them ahead of time and toss them in an easily accessible bag.

You have a craving.

Sweets, salt, or simply high carb - which one is your weakness? 

Cravings can actually tell a lot about a person’s typical nutrition intake as well as indicate his/her overall health. The more sugar we consume, the more our bodies craves it. This alone can lead to gut dysbiosis (a microbial imbalance of good and bad bacteria in the digestive tract), inflammation, and weight gain. 

Are you more likely to inhale a bag of potato chips than a candy bar? While you may avoid consuming as much sugar, you’re more prone to reach for highly processed “foods” with excessive sodium levels. In addition, this kind of craving could be a sign of chronic stress. In addition to the salty craving, do you typically have low energy levels and feel fatigued?. 

Helpful foods to get you through these tough times should be whole foods that are nutrient dense, such as nuts and seeds, fresh vegetables, and some fruit. Your body craves nutrients, and those foods will best replenish your body. In addition, ensuring you fit in adequate sleep and stress-management practices like meditation, yoga, and daily movement can significantly reduce cravings.

You’re late for work but need breakfast.

Most people do best when they make breakfast a staple in their day. 

By consuming a breakfast that includes protein, fat and moderate carbohydrate, you break the fast from your 7-8 hours of sleep and help regulate your blood sugar and energy levels for the rest of the day. 

Someone who skips breakfast or just eats a standard American breakfast (cereal with milk - a high-carbohydrate choice), may actually be setting themselves up for energy crashes and cravings throughout the day and as a result may be more likely to make poor eating decisions. 

It’s just as fast to grab a few hard-boiled eggs, batch-cook bacon prior and reheat a few slices, scoop protein powder into a shaker bottle and add some water, or take some healthy, protein rich trail mix for the road. 

You’re planning to work out or you just worked out.

One of the most frequently asked questions clients have is “What should I eat before, during, and/or after a workout?” 

It’s a fairly loaded question and with variable answers based on the person’s current state of health, his/her fitness goals, and the type of workout he/she is doing. 

While you can start to dial in the best nutrition recommendations for your situation (see here), a few general tips to optimize your workout include being sure to hydrate (not just during and before, but ALL of the time) and replenishing protein stores in your body with high-quality amino acids or protein (whey or vegan-version), plus (for longer workouts) complex carbohydrate. A scoop of essential amino acids with a scoop of Generation UCAN mixed with water can be a great pre- or post-workout fuel source!

Whatever the situation, you can make healthy way of eating decisions and be one step closer to your goals. While planning goes a long way when it comes to better nutrition choices, using some of the above tactics can help you make the best of any tough eating situation. 

Would you like more ideas and support around your eating challenges? Talk with one of our registered dietitians today. Thanks for reading.

In health, Becca Hurt, MS, RD, Assistant Program Manager of Life Time Weight Loss

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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