When you’re trying to lose weight, you know it’s important to eat healthy meals at regular times — but sometimes things just don’t work out. Early lunches, late parties and midday hunger pangs can wreak havoc on your diet.
Fortunately, there are ways to eat healthy even at odd hours. Registered dietician Heidi Reichenberger McIndoo, author of the upcoming book When to Eat What: Eat the Right Foods at the Right Time for Maximum Weight Loss, says a little planning can help you have healthy habits any time of day. Check out her easy tips for some common situations:
The Early Bird
You like to get to the office early — maybe even hit the gym beforehand — so you don’t eat much before you leave the house. By the time you get to your desk, you're starving.
Solution: “Break up breakfast into two parts,” suggests McIndoo. “First, have some fruit or a piece of whole-grain toast, which will be easy on your stomach. Then in a couple of hours when you’re hungry again, you can have some yogurt or nuts. Those two meals together give you one hearty breakfast.”
Your boss calls a last-minute meeting right before noon, so you hit the vending machine. You know it’ll be a couple of hours before you can get a real lunch.
Solution: To tide you over, reach for something healthy with protein and fiber, which take time to digest and keep you feeling fuller longer, says McIndoo. Keep packets of instant oatmeal at your desk or bring in some cheese with whole-grain crackers.
The Party Girl
Whether it’s a Mother’s Day brunch or a fancy evening wedding, you can’t resist all that scrumptious food!
Solution: “Many people feel they should save up their calories for a party, but in doing so, you set yourself up for eating a bunch of high-fat, high-calorie foods,” says McIndoo. Instead, have a healthy snack before going out, like a small salad with a sliced hard-boiled egg on top, or half a sandwich and fruit.
The 9 p.m. Diner
Your can’t-wait errands keep you out so late that it just seems easiest to stop at the nearest pizza place afterward.
Solution: Late meals mean you may be tempted to indulge in easy, fatty foods. But your body knows you only need a certain amount of food each day, says McIndoo. “Once you go over that amount, you start to store it as fat.” To prepare for days you know you’ll be eating late, buy skinless chicken breasts or fish fillets that you can pop into the oven when you get home and are still healthy. Avoid spicy foods, caffeine and alcohol late at night.
The Midnight Muncher
You find yourself craving something sweet right before bed — or maybe you even wake up hungry.
Solution: You don’t have to deprive yourself, but make it a healthy habit by keeping it light so you won’t have trouble falling asleep. Try a cup of Greek yogurt with some fresh fruit mixed in, or a small bowl of whole-grain cereal with skim milk.