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  • Writer's pictureSrdjan Savic

8 Simple Strategies for Dodging Everyday Food Traps

If you’ve set goals to improve your health but find life keeps getting in the way, you might have fallen into one of these common healthy eating traps.

A healthy lifestyle is a journey and an accumulation of daily habits.

Even when we have great intentions, some of our behaviours get in the way of improving our diet quality and enjoying the rewards, like more energy and better weight management.

Here are some of the most common food traps that can sabotage our efforts, and simple ways to avoid them.


Trap 1: Skipping breakfast

There are many reasons for skipping breakfast, but your morning meal can ensure you meet daily targets for essential nutrients and may even help with weight management.

Skipping brekkie reduces memory, concentration and problem-solving skills, making us less productive.

It can slow metabolism and increase the risk of unwanted weight gain. Breakfast skippers are also more likely to overeat later in the day.


A nutrient-rich breakfast that includes whole grains, vitamin C, calcium, fibre, B vitamins and protein will provide you with a great start in meeting your daily nutrient requirements.

It will deliver the energy you need to stay alert during the morning, and you’ll be more productive.

There’s no rule to say you must have breakfast as soon as your feet touch the ground, but eating within two hours of waking up is recommended.


Trap 2: Skipping lunch

Research in Australia found one in three people skipped lunch at least once a week, while one in 10 rarely or never set aside time for a lunch break.

Skipping meals doesn’t aid weight loss – it slows our metabolism and makes us more likely to binge on treat foods later on.

People who skip lunch are also more likely to suffer from the mid-afternoon slump. Finally, lunch is a time to socialise, relax and de-stress.


Schedule time for lunch in your calendar. If you’re at home with the kids, sit down for lunch together.

A lunch break is also a good opportunity for activity – walk to meet a friend or just get outside for some sunlight and fresh air.


Trap 3: Shopping on the way home

Menu planning and strategic grocery shopping are keys to healthy eating during the week, and even more so for busy workers.

It’s tempting to pick up convenience foods such as ready-made meals, which can be high in kilojoules, saturated fat and sodium.

These types of meals look all the more tempting when you’ve worked hard, skipped lunch and survived on coffee and snack food all day.


To make healthy eating easier, get organised. Set some time aside each week to plan meals for the following week.

Write a shopping list and head to the supermarket once a week to buy a week’s worth of groceries.

Try to avoid visiting the supermarket or convenience store on the way home from a hard day’s work, when you are tired and hungry.

Alternatively, shop online and have your groceries delivered. Cooking a few meals on the weekend and freezing portions is a great way to always have a healthy option to whip up.


Trap 4: Succumbing to peer pressure

Research shows we eat nearly twice as much when we eat with a large group of friends.

And, according to Professor Ian Caterson, director of the Institute of Obesity, Nutrition and Exercise at the University of Sydney, men are more likely to overeat in these situations than women.

Regardless of gender, your social circle can influence your likelihood of being overweight.

A Harvard Medical School study found obesity risk increases by 57 per cent if you have friends with overweight, 40 per cent with overweight siblings and 37 per cent with an overweight spouse.

It’s likely, researchers say, that we unconsciously adopt the eating habits of those around us.


If the office shout is a regular occurrence, try to find out whether any of your colleagues are interested in healthier choices and collaborate on bringing healthy options.

It’s about changing habits. “Stop and think twice before you put another bite in your mouth,” says Professor Caterson. “Ask, ’Am I hungry? If I’m not hungry, why am I still eating?’” It sounds simple, he says, but most of us don’t do it.


Trap 5: Replacing food with supplements

Reaching for a multivitamin might seem like a good idea, but while vitamins and minerals are necessary for all metabolic processes in the body, supplements do not supply energy in the form of protein, carbohydrate and fat.

So if you feel better after taking a multivitamin, it’s possible your diet is not nutritionally adequate.

Dietary supplements aren’t meant to be food substitutes – they don’t contain all of the nutrients and benefits that are found in whole foods such as fruit and vegetables.


Build your daily food intake around whole foods such as whole grains, fruit, vegetables, dairy products, nuts, seeds, legumes, fish and lean meat.

Include a source of carbohydrate, protein and small amounts of healthy fats at each meal.

Aim to eat two serves of fruit and at least five serves of vegetables each day. Try to limit ultra-processed foods and don’t forget to drink plenty of water.


Trap 6: Struggling late afternoon & evening

Clinical psychologist Dr Julie Malone says: “Late in the afternoon, energy levels tend to drop off.

If you haven’t been eating healthily and consistently throughout the day, you increase your chances of having a low”.

”If you are eating well, food might not be the only issue, says Harvard University chronobiology specialist Dr Shantha Rajaratnam.

“Our bodies have evolved to rely on natural light and darkness for cues on when to produce both sleep and energy-inducing hormones,” he says.

If you’re inside all day, your body won’t receive the same cues to produce ‘energy’ hormones.


Try eating a diet with sufficient energy to get through the day, having breakfast and eating something nutritious every two to three hours.

Next time you’re feeling drowsy, step outside for a few minutes rather than opening the fridge. Even if it’s not sunny outside, you will find the exercise a good pick-me-up.


Trap 7: Using alcohol to relax

Some of us drink after work to unwind and fall asleep after a stressful day. But alcohol disrupts sleep, leaving you feeling more tired the next morning.

As alcohol is a depressant, excess consumption can slow brain activity, leading to anxiety, depression and aggression.

It robs the brain cells of glucose and water, contributing to a hangover the next day, and contains empty kilojoules that, if not used, can lead to weight gain.


If you drink alcohol, aim for no more than three standard drinks a day for a male and two for a female, with some alcohol-free days each week.

A standard drink is equivalent to 10g of alcohol (80-100ml of wine, 285ml of standard beer, 60ml of fortified wine or a 30ml nip of spirits).

Consuming more than the recommended limit of drinks in one sitting increases your risk of developing a number of cancers.

There are better ways to unwind after work. Try taking a yoga class, get your family and friends together for a walk, meditate, read a book or dance to your favourite tunes.


Trap 8: Working at home

Working remotely or busy with parenting duties, being at home can pay havoc with your intentions for healthy eating.

With food easily at hand, it can be more tempting to graze throughout the day.

Parents of babies and young children face particular challenges because your time is not always your own; babies can be more demanding than the toughest of bosses.


• Work in a room that’s away from the kitchen area if possible.

• Structure your workday as if you were in a shared office. Set time aside for snacks and lunch.

• Store the tasty, tempting foods in non-see-through containers in your fridge and cupboards to help keep them out of sight.

• Keep a supply of portion-controlled snacks and put your daily allowance to one side.

• Drink plenty of water: keep a water bottle in your office or near you at all times to avoid you having to go back into the kitchen to keep filling it up.

• Do some exercise – walk to the local shops to get a magazine or supplies.

• Look after yourself as well as your kids – you need food and water too 

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