Don't like to cook? Can't resist junk food? Use practical strategies to overcome your biggest healthy-eating challenges.

Life doesn't follow a perfectly smooth course. You will inevitably run into obstacles on the journey to healthy eating. It's how you respond that makes the difference. For long-term success, you'll need strategies in place to solve problems as they arise. The first step is to identify and define potential roadblocks and brainstorm solutions. Identify the barriers most likely to get in your way and plan ahead how you'll face those challenges.

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

Healthy detours: If you use smart cooking strategies, creating a healthy meal doesn't have to take too much time. Planning ahead is a great time-saver.

For example, shop for several meals at one time, or prepare foods over the weekend and then freeze meal-sized portions to reheat during the week. You can also keep it simple with a fresh salad and low-calorie dressing, a whole-grain roll and a piece of fruit, or a healthy sandwich, soup or entree from a deli or grocery store.

Roadblock: "I don't like vegetables and fruits."

Healthy detours: You don't need to like all fresh vegetables and fruits. Just find some that you enjoy. Experiment by sampling produce you've never eaten before. Add fruits or veggies to your favorite recipes, or replace meat with vegetables when possible. Experiment with new ways to prepare produce, such as grilling pineapple or lightly cooking vegetables if you don't like them raw.

Roadblock: “I don't like to cook.”

Healthy detours: Not interested in becoming a gourmet chef? No problem. Many cookbooks offer recipes for quick and easy healthy meals. Or you can use creative shortcuts that don't require a lot of cooking, such as prepackaged vegetables and lean meats. Also, remember that cooking is a skill: The more you practice, the better you will become.

Roadblock: "My family doesn't like to try new things, and it's too much work to make two different meals."

Healthy detours: You're right — you don't want to fall into the trap of making the "good" food for the family and the "diet" food for yourself. So instead, ask for your family's input — and help — on healthy foods they'd like to try, which may make them more willing to experiment.

Take it slow, and make a few small changes each week. You may be able to make some dishes healthier and tastier and your family won't even realize it. If you have a favorite dish that you don't want to abandon, prepare it with a different cooking method, such as baking rather than frying.

Roadblock: "I can't resist junk food!"

Healthy detours: As you prepare your healthy-eating plan, ask yourself how you can fit the occasional treat into the plan without derailing your overall weight-loss efforts. If you give up all your favorite foods, you'll feel deprived, which decreases your chances of successful weight management. Give yourself permission to eat them on occasion and in moderation. Find a happy medium for high-calorie foods. Could you take the kids out for ice-cream cones once a week or buy a small bag of chips for the Sunday-afternoon football game? That's better than buying a gallon of ice cream for your freezer, where it causes constant temptation.

You can also try healthier versions of your favorite snack foods, such as baked, rather than regular, potato chips. In addition, eat healthy foods before having your treat. It can help you eat less of your favorite treats.

Roadblock: "When eating out, I like to eat large portions of my favorite foods, not something healthy."

Healthy detours: It's OK to occasionally have your favorite foods if you do it healthfully. For example, when at a restaurant, eat half of your favorite meal and save the other half for the next day. Or, if you know you'll be eating extra calories, increase your exercise for the day. Explore ways to make your favorite dish healthier. If your meal contains a rich sauce, for instance, ask for it on the side so that you can control how much of it you eat. If you dine out often, however, it's best to make healthy choices part of your routine. You don't want a large indulgence to cancel out all your good efforts.

Roadblock: "I don't eat breakfast because I'm not hungry in the morning."

Healthy detours: Research shows that eating breakfast helps people better manage their weight, in part because it helps keep them from feeling ravenous and overeating later in the day. So, even if you're not hungry, try to eat a little something in the morning. Start gradually by planning to have breakfast twice a week and then work toward eating breakfast every day. Keep foods on hand that you can take with you on busy days, such as apples, bananas, whole-grain bagels and low-fat yogurt in single-serving containers.

Roadblock: "Keeping food records — measuring food, keeping track and figuring out calories — takes too much work."

Healthy detours: Losing weight does take time and effort. That will gradually lessen as you get used to knowing what serving sizes should look like and how many calories you should have each day. But, initially, keeping detailed records will help you work toward your main goal: reaching a healthy weight. Make these initial steps easier on yourself by keeping your food record and serving-sizes chart handy and logging your entries after each meal instead of at day's end.

 

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