Sticking to a healthy eating plan is about more than just knowing the right proportions of protein and carbs, says Foodtrainers founder Lauren Slayton, RD. “What I inevitably have women and men come to me saying is ‘I know what to do, but I’m not doing it’ or ‘I know what to do, but this gets in the way, all of the life events.”
Which is why her new book, The Little Book of Thin, focuses on what she calls “diet dilemmas,” the situations that find you and threaten to derail your resolutions (from family-style feasts to airport food options), no matter how much kale you cook at home.
Since you can’t hide in a box of leafy greens, we asked Slayton to share three of the most common dilemmas, with her expert strategies on how to solve them. —Lisa Elaine Held
For lots of people, everything is fine until about 4:00 p.m., Slayton says. “Your blood sugar has dropped, your morning caffeine is gone, and a lot of us get antsy or bored, and here comes the snack.”
The trick is to anticipate the issue in order to avoid resorting to the office vending machine. “You should make a ‘Pre-Snacktual Agreement’,” she says. “Just like you have a menu for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, you really should have a couple of items in mind for an afternoon snack. Say ‘My snacks for this week are going to be sunflower seeds or a chia bar,’ and then next week, it could be a matcha latte or almonds. Then there’s criteria for the snacks. You never should be asking yourself ‘What should I have?'”
It’s hard to escape the calorie bombs of office pizza and cupcake parties, and even harder if someone with power over you is providing the fare. “One tip I always say is ‘supplement versus squabbling.’ ‘I don’t eat pizza’ is going to have you labeled as the food police; a better strategy is asking ‘Can we order a few salads with that?'”
You can also avoid judge-y stares by accepting the piece of cake, taking a bite or two, and then ditching it when your co-workers are absorbed in a presentation. Just putting it on your plate and saying thank you is often enough to make everyone happy.
Finally, Slayton says that in these situations, telling tiny fibs about food intolerances or doctors’ orders won’t really hurt anyone. “If someone is willing to coerce you into eating something, you can push back a little. I always say little white lies are better than lots of white food.”
Getting home after a 10-hour work day with no plan for dinner often equals greasy Seamless orders. “Winging it and weight loss don’t go together,” Slayton says. “You should know what you’re having for dinner by the time you finish your lunch.”
The best way to make this process easy is to prep ingredients on Sunday, like washing and steaming greens, cooking quinoa, and grilling chicken breasts or turkey burgers. Then, when you get in the door, getting a meal on the table will be more about assembling than cooking.
And unless you’re a skilled chef, skip the elaborate recipes and stick to basics. “Even if it’s picking out a rotisserie chicken, using frozen vegetables, and microwaving a sweet potato, if you have it mapped out, you just have to execute it,” she says.