Beth Lipton is a writer and certified health coach. She is a contributing editor at Clean Plates.
Has this ever happened to you: You wake up late and have to fly out of the house before you have time for a decent breakfast, so you either grab a pastry from the coffee place or skip it altogether. And you think, It’s OK, I’ll have a healthy lunch… but then noon comes and goes and you’re so busy, you end up skipping it (or having another less-than-optimal grab-and-go meal). Next thing you know, it’s 4 p.m., you’re wiped out and too hungry to form a complete sentence, and all you want to do now is dive headfirst into a pizza.
Let us tell you: You. Are. Not. Alone.
No matter how healthy an eater you are, we all have days like this, where our best intentions feel like a distant memory.
The good news is: You can feel better, and turn things around, fast. Here are a few things to do on those days when nothing seems to be going right.
1. Start now.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve eaten the least-healthy foods of your life all day — or if you haven’t eaten at all and now you’re craving all the junk food. Don’t do the old, “I ate terribly all day, may as well keep going” thing — it will just leave you feeling worse. Instead, start eating healthy right now. Grab something quick to tame the beast (a handful of nuts is a good choice here, or see some of our fave snack choices below), and then either cook yourself something fast and easy (hello, veggie scramble), or get something to go that’s really nourishing. Eat plenty of vegetables, a moderate portion of protein, and some healthy fat. And if you’re a bit queasy, go easy on sauces and hot spices.
Pro tip: One of my favorite feed-me-right-now takeout items is Chinese food. I bring home or order in steamed shrimp and vegetables, and then either melt grass-fed butter on it or drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. I get it steamed to avoid the cheap vegetable oil they use in many restaurants, which is inflammatory and can leave you feeling terrible. I also skip the sauces, which are often loaded with salt and MSG. I add my own high-quality fat and keep it simple; it’s just a plateful of vegetables, protein and fat, so it’s gentle on my stomach. I usually throw the rice in the fridge to use for another meal to avoid a blood sugar spike.
2. Drink up.
Water, that is. If you haven’t eaten all day, it’s likely you haven’t had enough water, too. Maybe you downed some extra coffee to keep yourself going, too, which can be dehydrating. Have a cool glass of water, and add some lemon. It’s refreshing and also can help calm your hunger while you get something to eat. And if you’ve been eating junk all day, you may have taken in more sodium than you’re used to, so water can help flush it out. Herbal tea also can soothe your stomach; try a mint or ginger tea.
3. Get some rest.
Be really gentle with yourself for the evening. Take a bath (bonus points for adding relaxing Epsom salt) and get to bed early. A good night’s sleep can help you reset, so you can start the next day feeling like yourself again.
4. Forgive and forget.
Remember: This happens to the best of us. You aren’t a bad person because you had a less-than-optimal day of eating (or not eating). Life sometimes gets in the way of our best intentions around our health. If you catch yourself engaging in any negative talk, shut it down. Give yourself a virtual high five for turning it around and move on.
5. Pack a healthy snack.
Stash something non-perishable in your bag for emergencies, to help avoid future days like this. A few of our favorites:
- RXBar Kids bars. We love RxBars for their super-clean ingredients, and the kids’ bars are awesome because they’re about 2/3 the size of the regular ones. Sometimes a whole bar is too much of a commitment for us, so these are a great solution.
- Trader Joe’s Just A Handful of Pitted Manzanilla Olives. If you prefer a savory snack, meet your new BFF. They’re heart healthy, anti-inflammatory, have some good fats and fiber to keep you satisfied, and these little ultra-convenient packets have a perfect amount to tide you over.
- Dang bars. A low-carb, plant-based bar that’s crunchy and a little sweet with a hint of salt, like an awesome treat but healthy? These bars are like the unicorn of the snack world. We love the chocolate-sea salt the most, but the vanilla almond and lemon matcha are also super-delicious.
- Pan’s Mushroom Jerky. We love anything that gets extra vegetables into our day, bonus points if it’s a tasty snack. This jerky, made from immune- and heart-health boosting, cancer-fighting shitake mushrooms, is loaded with umami flavor, and it’s satisfyingly chewy, so you can really savor it.
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