Healthy Eating Obstacles

A nutritionist’s tips for navigating those difficult cravings
Published May 10, 2016

Eating healthy every day is something we all strive for, but even when you're on the healthy path you can still run into obstacles. For every low SmartPointsTM breakfast and high-protein packed lunch, there's a snack attack lurking around the corner. Worse still, sometimes these poor food choice obstacles can be unavoidable. Maybe it's an amazing burrito place two doors down from your office, or a spouse that likes to eat ice cream every night, there are certain temptations that we all have to face every single day just by virtue of circumstance and we all only have so much willpower.

We spoke with three women about their hard-to-handle food obstacles and offered advice on how to set up a path to success, craving-free.

Carbs on a Thursday
Elvira watches what she eats and works out but finds that her efforts fall flat a few days in, “I eat low carb all week. But for some reason by Thursday, I want a big sandwich on a crusty baguette. It’s so weird. I never do it but that tends to be what I want....or pasta.” Laura feels the same way, especially on stressful days. But at the end of the week when she’s more tired or stressed out, she craves pizza, “Always pizza!”

It’s easy to plan a virtuous week and work out and watch portions but at some point, either your physical or emotional cravings may kick in. Cravings for carbohydrates generally happen for one of two reasons: Either you are eating too few healthy carbohydrates, and your body is trying to make up for what is missing in your diet, or you are craving the feeling that that starchy carb gives you.

Instead of eating very few carbs all week, why not add in some healthy carbs throughout the week? A little bit of something every day is healthier than a binge one day per week. An open-faced sandwich on a healthier bread option, like sprouted Ezekiel or 100% rye bread can often give your body the carbs it wants, allowing you to sidestep cravings. Adding in some healthy carbohydrates, like roasted butternut squash or sweet potatoes can also help to “squash” cravings for bread.

Giving your tastebuds the experience of a crusty sandwich or a pasta dish can help as well. Try zucchini noodles, also known as “zoodles” in place of regular pasta. If you have a spiralizer, you can turn a zucchini into beautiful spaghetti shaped noodles (if you don’t have a spiralizer, you can make noodles with a vegetable peeler). Heat the noodles in a pan with tomato sauce and chicken meatballs and you have a pasta dish that you can enjoy every night of the week if you want to.

Camping temptation
Tarrah finds it hard to stay on track when she’s camping and to the cottage with her friends on many weekends during the summer. “I have tried so many things to overcome these long weekends,” says Tarrah. “I have tried counting SmartPointsTM, I have tried bringing my own food and not eating what everyone else is having. I have tried not drinking. I have gotten better with time but I always end up gaining weight. And to top it off when I get back, I am tired and out of groceries and I usually fall off the wagon worse than I had while I was away with my friends.”

Going on vacation is tough (OK, parts of it are tough,) especially when you’re the only one on the program. Enjoying yourself while not succumbing to the “Screw it, I’m on vacation” mentality is an art form. Most of us have a few foods that are hard to avoid when we’re in vacation mode (and have had a cocktail or two). By day one you may still be virtuous but by day two, it’s easier to be tempted by all the goodies.

Knowing what you often succumb to is part of the key. For Tarrah, it’s a delicious rice dish made by a friend, and her husband’s peanut butter and bacon cookies. It’s best to allow yourself a small portion of something than to try to talk yourself out of it entirely. It’s your life, after all! Try to find a way to have the healthiest lifestyle that you actually enjoy. Be in a happy frame of mind before you go on your vacation. Arrange some sort of walk or hike each day to keep your body moving. Allow yourself normal-sized portions of the things you love and ignore the rest.

Be prepared for when you get home. Don’t bring home leftovers, under any circumstance. Book a few workout classes during that first week back and tie up your shoes and go. Arrange a fruit and veggie delivery to come as soon as you’re back, so your kitchen will be filled with healthy food. 

Candy in the afternoon
Working in an office can test your willpower. Courtney eats a salad for lunch and then finds that the hours between 3 and 6 pm to be the hardest and the hungriest times of the day. She’ll either graze on candy (as she says, “Bad bad bad!”) or will try to wait until she gets home and will fill up on snack food, like hummus, cheese and chips before dinner.

We’re all different and experience hunger at different times. Some of us wake up starving while others’ hunger builds throughout the day. Generally, our digestive systems are primed for a bigger midday meal and a smaller meal at night. Working at an office can shift us away from listening to when our bodies want to eat. So at 11:58, many of us eat lunch, whether we’re hungry or not.

First, make sure that your lunch has protein. A green salad or a bowl of soup are wonderful and healthy things to eat, but unless they contain some sort of protein, you will end up hungry. Another trick is to shift your lunch hour so you eat a little later. This can do wonders for keeping you satiated for the rest of the afternoon. You'll also find the lunchroom a little less busy, and the cafe a little less crowded.  If you’re in the habit of bringing your lunch, consider the vessel that you’re packing your lunch in. Oftentimes, your meal will look bigger when you put it into a bowl or onto a plate.

Sometimes cravings for candy and sweets are a “rebound” craving of sorts that happens when the meal is too salty. Adding a few goji berries or chopped apple to a salad can help to balance out the taste.