Mistakes are chances to learn and to change your habits for the better. Nutrition professionals aren’t immune to busy days, crowded supermarkets, blood sugar crashes, new mom challenges, or the eating-related mistakes that inherently tag along with these situations. But how do they learn from their food follies and prevent similar ones in the future? Read on to find out!
Mistake #1: Going vegetarian without planning
When I was twelve years old I stopped eating meat. I simply subtracted it from my diet.
“Easy enough,” I thought. If my family ate spaghetti with meatballs, I just ate spaghetti. Hamburgers and salad? I just had some salad. What I didn’t realize until I began studying nutrition was that my diet was really lacking in protein, which plays many roles in the body, one of which is helping you feel satiated.
The fix: Now, I pay more attention to what I add to my meals rather than just considering what I’m eliminating. Taking care to include a protein-containing ingredient like beans, nuts, seeds, tofu, or fish (which I later started including in my diet) in every meal helps me feel satisfied and energized throughout the day.
Rachel Meltzer Warren, MS, RDN, author of The Smart Girl’s Guide to Going Vegetarian.
Mistake #2: Waiting until I’m ravenous to eat
As a busy mom, I am sometimes more conscious of my daughter’s needs than my own. For the first year of her life, I’d sometimes go hours without eating and then be so hungry that I just ate whatever was in sight, whether it was healthy or not.
The fix: To combat this problem now, I keep non-perishable, healthy snacks in my purse, car, and stroller so that I can munch on a few nuts or dried fruit when I get hungry away from home. Having a little something in my stomach allows me to make much better eating decisions come mealtime!
Amelia Winslow, nutritionist and founder of Eating Made Easy
Mistake #3: Falling into an eating rut
I fall into a rut when I’m very busy — it’s easy and requires little thought when I go to the store or in my daily routine. I could eat the same foods day in and day out. Although these foods are mostly healthy, I miss out on a whole range of delicious foods and a whole range of nutrients and ultimately it could set me up to overeat when I eat a food that is outside of the routine.
The fix: Despite my busy schedule, I challenge myself to pick up at least one new food/ item at the store a week. It has to be something that I have never tried and I challenge myself to use it in my menu. Having an entirely unique food makes me think (and eat) outside the box and I get a lot more nutrients in than I otherwise would.
Lyssie Lakatos, RDN, CFT, one of The Nutrition Twins, and author of The Nutrition Twins Veggie Cure: Tantalizing Recipes & Expert Advice for Health and Beauty.
Mistake #4 Snacking on sugar
For me, proximity to junk food is the hardest — I don’t have any better level of self-control than the average person! If there are gummy bears, Oreos, or ice cream nearby, I’m probably going to have some. During college I would always have a supply on hand.
The fix: To keep my diet focused on whole, healthy foods, that’s all I buy! When I’m at a party (or on Halloween!), I’ll have a couple treats, but the resulting sugar headache usually kills any desire to have more in the near future. It’s MUCH easier to not purchase something than it is to not eat it when it’s in my kitchen!
Mistake #5 Skipping my afternoon snack
The biggest healthy eating mistake I used to make was not eating an afternoon snack when I was hungry! I felt like I should just wait until dinner to eat, but ignoring my hunger only made me cranky and less able to make healthy choices when I made it home because I was so starved.
The fix: I make sure to listen to my hunger, no matter the time of day. I bring snacks with me everywhere I go so I’m prepared, and it has made a big difference in my energy levels and mood in the afternoon in particular.
Mistake #6: Caving in to late night snacking
I am a natural-born late-night snacker. I know that extra calories tend to creep in when I’m up late working or just relaxing–– not to mention how it can disrupt my sleep! I’ve been a culprit of mindless munching on more than one occasion, leaving me feeling full, tired, and bloated in the morning.
The fix: The way I see it, late-night eating lovers have two options. The first is to identify whether or not you’re actually hungry. Are you eating because you’re bored? Tired? Stressed? Then target your fix toward treating the root cause, such as phoning a friend, making a to-do list, or just going to bed! The second option is for those of us who do like to “bank” some extra calories for later in the day—in which case I prep by choosing low calorie, high-volume snacks. My favorites include: popcorn, frozen grapes/berries, and chopped up crudité with salsa. These satisfy the craving to crunch/munch on something without feeling like I’ve totally blown it. The other key to not overdoing it during late night snacking: portion control—take a serving, enjoy, and then go do something else!
Jaclyn London, MS, RD, a New York City based dietitian. (Twitter:@JLondon1)
What’s your biggest healthy eating mistake and how did YOU fix it?