National Nutrition Month: Help Patients Make Healthy Eating a Priority — Even On the Go
“I want to eat healthy, but I just don’t have the time.”
For National Nutrition Month, it’s important to recognize that time is the one thing we never have enough of. Just like you, your patients have long to-do lists and busy schedules. Unfortunately, when time is short, healthy eating often goes out the window.
You know diets high in saturated fat, sodium, and sugar can lead to conditions like obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and heart disease. In fact, most of the sodium we consume comes from restaurant, processed, packaged, and store-bought food — the very things we reach for when we’re in a hurry.
It’s important to help patients make healthy eating a priority — even on the go. Beyond informing them about health risks and encouraging them to make better choices, this list offers specific tips you can share to help patients eat healthy, or at least healthier, when time is tight and they’re on the move.
Healthy Eating Tips on the Go for National Nutrition Month
Make sure being busy isn’t an excuse for your patients to ignore their healthy eating goals, from what they choose to eat and even how they prepare it. Share these healthy eating tips to give them actionable ways to make better choices, even on the go:
Work, Activities, and More
- Keep fresh fruit handy as a snack. Oranges, bananas, and apples don’t need constant refrigeration.
- Pack lunch, dinner, and/or snacks to stay in control of options.
- Avoid or limit sugar-loaded fancy coffee drinks.
- Stay hydrated — thirst often disguises itself as hunger.
- Pack last night’s healthy dinner leftovers for lunch.
- Beware of mindless munching.
- Travel with smart nonperishable options for snacks or even lunch in a pinch. Try low-sugar, high protein energy bars or single-serve whole grain cereal packs.
- Choose foods high in protein and fiber to stay fuller longer.
- Don’t skip meals.
- Sip water.
- Avoid the sugar load of office cake or pastries, which can decrease your energy. Take one bite, say, “No thank you,” or leave it on the table.
- Drink water with every meal.
- Canned and frozen veggies are speedy sides and can be more nutritious than fresh.
- Don’t skip breakfast! Grab-and-go choices include low-fat cheese sticks, fresh fruit, and low-fat yogurt tubes or smoothies.
- Do meal prep like chopping in advance so meals come together faster.
- Use prewashed, precut veggies to save time.
- Purchase low fat and low sugar frozen desserts.
- Freeze leftovers from healthy meals, they’re perfect for heating up in a pinch.
- Use leftover, prepped, or precut veggies to make a quick at-home salad bar.
- Weekends are a good time to batch cook for the week or stock the freezer.
- Bake potatoes ahead of time so they’re ready to heat and serve.
- Go for grilled menu choices.
- Only eat a few fries or skip them all together.
- Adults can order a kid-sized meal.
- Drink water or unsweet tea instead of sweet tea or soda.
- Skip the cheese and bacon on a burger.
- Choose wheat over white.
- Load up the veggies on sandwiches and burgers.
- Don’t double patties or super-size anything.
- Order thin crust instead of thick and skip pizza toppings like pepperoni.
- Choose low-fat salad dressing like vinaigrettes instead of creamy options.
Restaurants & Takeout
- Choose a veggie-heavy entrée.
- Avoid creamy or cheesy sauces.
- Opt for broiled, grilled, or baked instead of fried.
- Start with a salad to fill up more before the main course.
- Control portions — take extra food to go or split a meal with someone.
- Order chicken or fish instead of beef.
- Select smart sides, like a salad instead of mac and cheese.
- Ask for sauces and dressings on the side and control the amount.
- Put down the salt — restaurant food is usually already high in sodium.
- Skip the freebies like chips or bread.
We hope this list of specific tips helps you help patients make healthy eating a priority — even on the go. Bonus: We encourage you to use National Nutrition Month as an opportunity to apply these healthy eating tips to your own busy lifestyle!
Mary Schmidt, MD, FIDSA, MPH
The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and does not constitute health care advice.