Excuses, Excuses: Experts Bust The Most Common Reasons People Give for Not Eating Right

We have excuses for being late to work, for not visiting the in-laws and for downing fast-food burgers and fries instead of eating nutritious foods. But unlike the first two types of alibis, nutrition excuses can make us fatter, weaker and generally unhealthier. Here, experts bust the dietary cop-outs that may be undermining your health.

Excuse: I hate cooking.
BUSTED! Believe it or not, you can eat healthfully without standing over a hot stove. “Try fresh fruit, raw vegetables with a healthy hummus dip, sandwiches with peanut butter or lean deli meat and veggies, fruit smoothies or salads,” says Diane Welland, M.S., R.D., a member of the American Dietetic Association’s Food and Culinary Practice Group.

If even those suggestions involve too much “cooking” for your taste, head for your supermarket’s deli section for roasted chicken or another prepared entrée, grilled vegetables and a salad. If you opt for eating out, check the restaurant’s nutrition information online so you can determine the healthiest selections beforehand, or spring for a copy of Eat Out, Eat Right: The Guide to Healthier Restaurant Eating by Hope Warshaw, which gives nutrition details for restaurant meals ranging from American to Thai.

Excuse: I burned 500 calories on the treadmill, so I can have 500-calorie dessert.
BUSTED! Not so fast. “We read those calorie printouts on the machines as if they’re the Bible,” says Amy Hendel, a family nutritionist and author of Fat Families, Thin Families: How to Save Your Family from the Obesity Trap. “Those machines are calibrated to a very finite person who weighs about 160 pounds and is about 5-foot-10, and it’s based on the fact that they are moderately fit.”

If you don’t fit that description, your calorie count can be way off. This is true even for those machines that ask for your weight. Even if you’re off by only 100 calories per day, that’s about an extra pound gained every month. The best thing to do is to always eat healthfully and in moderate amounts, even if you work out.
Excuse: Vegetables go bad before I get a chance to eat them.
BUSTED! “People get into the mind-set that fresh is best, but frozen is just as good, and so are canned vegetables as long as they don’t have added salt,” says Toby Smithson, R.D., a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.

In addition, Smithson says, planning is key: Instead of stocking your fridge with veggies without an idea of how you’re going to eat them, plan a weekly menu so you buy only what you need—and use what you buy.

Excuse: I don't have time to make healthy meals.

BUSTED! Some of the same tactics we used to bust the “I hate cooking” excuse also work when you’re strapped for time: Sandwiches, salads and canned soups (look for low sodium varieties) are fast and easy options.

Another idea: During the weekend, cook up several days’ worth of foods such as casseroles, pasta and grain salads, and stow them in serving-size containers in the freezer, suggests Smithson. On the weekdays when you have no time to cook, just grab one of the containers and pop it in the microwave. Voilà! Healthy homemade food, fast.

Excuses: I have veggies.
BUSTED! Have you really tried every vegetable in the produce section? Experiment to find ones you like. “Start with the sweet ones, like red bell peppers, sweet onions, sugar snap peas or snow peas, and beets,” Welland says.

In addition, she recommends trying raw versus cooked vegetables; some vegetables actually are milder raw than cooked. Pair them with a low-fat dip or toss them into a green salad with a tasty dressing to give them a flavor punch.

If you still can’t stomach the thought of sitting down to a plate of peas, incorporate them into dishes where you’ll barely notice them. For instance, try meatloaf with finely chopped onion; spinach and cheese ravioli; or chili with chunks of zucchini.

Excuse: Its the weekend.
BUSTED! It’s understandable: You eat healthfully all week, and on the weekend you want to splurge. But watch out: If you treat yourself to, say, a big restaurant meal once per week and chow down on an extra 1,500 calories (which is easier to do than you might think), you can gain 22 pounds in a year, Smithson says.

If you want to indulge, plan for one small treat, such as a side of sweet potato fries or a moderately sized dessert, instead of overeating the entire weekend.

Excuse: I skipped breakfast, so I can pig out for dinner.
BUSTED! First of all, your body needs breakfast because you’ve fasted all night long, so you shouldn’t skip it. Interestingly, people who skip breakfast tend to eat more calories throughout the day than people who get a healthy start, because they become famished and grab unhealthy snacks and fatty foods, Welland says.

As a matter of fact, in a National Weight Control Registry study of people who successfully lost weight and kept it off, 78 percent were regular breakfast eaters. So don’t ditch this important meal. Try low-fat yogurt with fruit, whole-grain toast with natural peanut butter, a fruit smoothie, or oatmeal with berries and walnuts.

Keeping You Accountable
Want to bust nutrition excuses for good? Let a registered dietitian help you devise a meal plan that works for you. Visit gwinnettmedicalcenter.org/dnec to learn more about the Diabetes & Nutrition Education Center or call 678-312-6040 to schedule an appointment.


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