5 Ways to Eat Healthier Over the WeekendOctober 6, 2021
Do you ever find it easy to eat more healthfully during the workweek and then the weekend comes and you totally fall off track? I am guessing most everyone reading this would answer “yes”.
Many will find that it is easier to stay on track when we follow a schedule. However, in most cases, we do not typically follow a schedule to eat healthier over the weekend. We want to relax! Perhaps we wake later, have coffee, and are slow to get going before we get to things we need to take care of around the house. Maybe we have more of a brunch instead of breakfast or nothing at all until lunch. Maybe the fridge is empty, and you are only left with the option to go out and get something.
Additionally, the weekend may include going out to dinner with family or friends, attending social events, or just picking up fast food or take out due to not wanting to cook dinner.
Why Weekends Can Be The Culprit Of "Getting Off Track"
Working as a dietitian in the nutrition counseling setting, I hear various reasons as to why my patients veer off track with their healthy eating habits. Usually, weekends are the culprit for this happening. It can be a frustrating cycle if someone has a goal to lose weight or is just trying to do better with lifestyle habits.
I find they are putting too much pressure on themselves during the workweek their diet. They tend to be in the “diet” mindset, staying true to the course during the week and then sabotaging their efforts on the weekend because whatever they are following on the weekdays is unsustainable. It seems something always comes up that throws them off track.
Personally, I have come to realize that choosing sustainable habits rather than being strict is best. In addition, being as prepared as possible prior to the weekend is most helpful.
A common goal my patients and I set together is to find a healthy compromise between staying true to your workweek habits and prioritizing your nutrition to eat healthier over the weekend.
Many people plan activities or social events prior to the weekend while others may be more spontaneous. Of course, if you are already aware of your plans it is easier to plan better food choices ahead of time.
Overall, if you want to improve your nutrition habits, it will take a consistent evaluation of your food choices and where your food is coming from, either at home or dining out. I will address how to optimize both situations.
Five ways to help with eating healthier on the weekend
If possible, stay on the same type of schedule as the workweek.
I encourage my patients to try to keep a schedule on the weekends as they would during the week. Wake up generally at the same time and try to go to bed at the same time.
This helps with sticking to better eating patterns and helps with avoiding skipping meals, which are opportunities for quality nutrition.
My patients also report eating larger meals on the weekends due to skipping meals and becoming too hungry at lunch or dinner.
Having smaller and more frequent meals promotes sustained energy levels and blood sugar stabilization and prevents you from becoming so hungry and making poor food choices or overeating.
Do a “going into the weekend” fridge stock.
If you know you are going to be at home or not doing too much out of the house, this is necessary. You do not have to go crazy here. Just ensure there are a few healthy options you can depend on for various meals rather than skipping meals or grabbing fast food.
Consider what your plans are for the weekend and whether you will be home or out of the house for part of the day.
Some healthy go-to options include bowls of fresh-cut fruit, bean salads, chicken salad, tuna salad, hard-boiled eggs, and veggie trays with hummus or other dips. Many of these items are available premade so you do not have to spend too much time in the kitchen preparing them. I sometimes make a large plant-based pasta meal to reheat at any point over the weekend which is very convenient.
Keep a stash of grab-n-go items.
Aim for snacks that provide nutritional value. This means adequate protein, whole grains with a few grams of fiber, and lower fats. This could include roasted edamame, lentils or chickpeas, packaged nuts and seeds, KIND bars, Rx bars, bananas.
These are great for in-between meals and can help to control hunger so that you are less likely to overeat at larger meals. Protein shakes can also be a good option to stock in the fridge.
Know before you go.
If you are going out to dinner and you know where you are going, look at the menu before you go. Aim for healthier options such as grilled fish or baked chicken and steamed veggies. Try to have an idea of what you will order so you are more apt to choose a healthier option and avoid leaving it up to willpower when you get there to order. Chances are you will stick with the healthier option when it comes time to order.
Another tip is to have a protein shake or small healthy snack before going so that you are not overly hungry when you arrive. Many people find it easier to make healthier decisions when they are not ravenous. Tip at restaurants: limit the bread and eat slowly!
Practice mindful eating.
If you find it impossible to plan or if find yourself in front of high-calorie foods and limited healthy choices, you can practice mindful eating strategies.
This includes listening to your body, its hunger cues, and only eating when you are hungry or if your energy level is low. Also, focus on eating in undistracted environments so you can pay attention to your food, how fast you are eating, and when you are satisfied.
It can be very easy to lose control and aimlessly snack on foods or drinks in a social setting so be aware. Before you know it, you have eaten beyond fullness just due to food being in front of you and being distracted. I always say, “Be aware of what, when, how, and why you are eating”.
Although it is important to relax and recoup over the weekend, remember your food choices and eating behaviors continue to be important for staying healthy and keeping a healthy weight. Practicing one or all of these tips can give you the balance you need to transition into any weekend.
ABOUT THE AUTHORWhittany Gibson is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who specializes in adult weight management, bariatric surgery, diabetes management and medical nutrition therapy. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in dietetics and nutrition from Keiser University in Lakeland, Florida and. She currently practices at Manatee Weight Loss Center in Bradenton, Florida.