Top 5 healthy eating challenges

by: Ali B, RD

After discussing weight loss and eating patterns with hundreds of clients and patients over the past few years, I have found that there are many common obstacles to success. It is easier to plan ways to be successful with dieting if you can identify challenges you may run into.


Parties/special occasions. Unfortunately, many social gatherings revolve around food and drink. Whether you are at a restaurant for happy hour or a friend’s BBQ, you are likely to run into some food challenges. What can you do to prevent a total disaster? Plan ahead, of course! Here are some of my favorite tips/tricks:

  • Eat before you leave for the event. If you arrive on an empty stomach you’re more likely to eat whatever is convenient and sounds good which, let’s be honest, is never the best choice. If you eat before you leave you are more likely to make wiser decisions when it comes to food.
  • If it’s appropriate, bring an appetizer or side dish. This way, you will have at least one healthy option you can depend on for the evening.
  • Monitor your alcohol intake. It’s no secret that alcohol is full of calories and bad decisions :). Think about it, the more you drink the more likely you are to eat greasy food or go back for seconds.
  • Exercise before heading out the door. Having a healthy relationship with food means realizing you aren’t going to eat “perfectly” all the time. If you are trying to lose weight and know there will be healthy eating challenges in the future, burn some of those expected calories at the gym before you get to the event.


Accountability. This is probably the #1 reason people make appointments with me. They know what to do and how to do it, but they have no one to keep them accountable so their good intentions fall through the cracks. I find that people are more successful when they create a weekly goal and check in with someone every three days to report on their progress towards that goal. So find a buddy, have regular appointments with a dietitian, or use social media to help keep you on track.


Stress and lack of sleep. For most of us, stress is hard to avoid. Unfortunately, stress can lead to weight retention (or gain) due to the hormones it causes our bodies to release. In addition, when we are stressed we tend to choose unhealthy convenience foods. A side effect of being stressed out is skimping on the amount of sleep we get each night. Not getting enough sleep causes a decrease in metabolism (AKA fewer calories burnt during the day). Here are a few tips for managing stress and improving your sleep habits.

  • Find something that relaxes you. For some people, it’s meditating and yoga, for others it’s journaling. When I’m stressed, a 15-minute walk and well-crafted to-do list takes all my worries away.
  • Perfect the art of meal prep. When you have healthy food prepared in your refrigerator/freezer, you are more likely to choose good options when you are tired and stressed out. Don’t have time to make your own food? Look for a meal delivery company like Feed Your Vitality to prepare healthy food and deliver it to your home.
  • Cortisol is one of the hormones our bodies release when we are stressed. Read here for 7 ways to reduce cortisol and get your weight loss moving in the right direction.
  • Establish a routine. If you are able to predict what your day is going to look like you will be less stressed about what is coming, and may even create a normal bed time. Start out by writing down what you think each day will look like, and then live it out!


Slow results. A lot of people lose motivation when the pounds are coming off more slowly than expected. I always like to remind people that the number on the scale is not important. Do your pants fit better? Is it less challenging to walk up the stairs to your office? Is it easier to get out of bed in the morning? There are many more ways to measure your quality of life and overall health than your weight. Pay attention to some other parameters and keep up the good work! Your weight will follow suit.


Lack of time. If you are a parent, work too many hours, have a busy social life, or all of the above you may find it difficult to eat healthy and/or exercise. I always like to remind people of their priorities. If your health begins to suffer you may not be able to keep up with all of these demands.

  • Put meal prep and workouts on your calendar, and stick to them like any other meeting. I personally like to plan all my workouts and cooking times at the beginning of the week and fill in the rest of my schedule around it.
  • Utilize some of your spare time. If you only have 30 minutes one evening to cook, use that time to chop vegetables and prepare marinades. Use 45 minutes the next evening to get food in the oven. Put meals together if you have 20 minutes before work.
  • Use your time with loved ones to cook delicious meals. My girlfriends and I have recently gotten into the habit of cooking dinner before going out for the weekend. I always throw in some extra veggies and protein so I can put them in containers and have some food for the beginning of the following week. When you can get your kids involved in mixing sauces and seasoning foods, they not only have a blast but enjoy eating the final product a bit more (win-win).
  • Check out this blog post for other ways I stay healthy when I’m crazy busy.


Learning to identify your “problem” areas and creating a plan in advance can help you on your road to success. Are there any other obstacles that get in the way of your healthy eating?


Let’s Talk About Salt

by: Ali Brown, RD, LD

Salt is a substance made of 40% sodium and 60% chloride. It has been around for thousands of years and and has been used for much more than flavoring food.

At one time, salt was so valuable that Ancient Greeks used it as a form of currency. In fact, the word salary comes from the Latin phrase salarium argentum, meaning “salt money”.

Salt was used for preserving food before canning, freezing, and refrigeration became common practice.

Salt has received a bad reputation over the past decade, due to its correlation with high blood pressure. However, sodium plays an important role in our bodies and we simply can’t live without it. The mineral is used to maintain proper fluid balance, regulate blood pressure, and make muscles (including the heart) relax.


The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Healthy Americans advise individuals to eat no more than 2300 mg of sodium, or approximately 1 tsp of salt, each day. People who are at risk for heart disease and hypertension have further restrictions and are recommended to eat less than 1500 mg per day. Unfortunately, the average intake is about 3400 mg (almost 50% more than the recommendation).

So where is all this sodium coming from? Only 5-10% of sodium comes out of your salt shaker at home. Approximately 10% is found naturally in food. The rest is added to food during processing. Sodium can be found in foods that aren’t as obvious as pretzels and popcorn. You can find it in bread, pasta, canned foods, lunch meat, and sauces. For example, 1 teaspoon of hot sauce has 190 mg of sodium. While that doesn’t sound like a lot, consider this. Using 1/2 cup of the same hot sauce contributes 4560 mg of sodium to your diet – almost double the daily recommendation! An easy solution for this is to make your own dips and sauces. See my favorite hot sauce recipe below.

DIY Hot Sauce


  • 18 fresh cayenne or jalapeno peppers
  • 1-1/2 cups vinegar
  • 2 tsp minced garlic


  1. Remove the ends and seeds of the peppers
  2. Put all ingredients in a saucepan over medium-high heat until boiling. Reduce heat and allow to simmer for 25 minutes.
  3. Move the ingredients to a food processor and pulse until smooth.
  4. Add back to the saucepan and simmer for 15 minutes.


Tips for reducing intake

  • Eat more fresh foods and less processed foods. Processed foods have salt added to them to extend their shelf life.
  • Drain and rinse canned foods whenever possible. This can reduce the sodium content of foods by more than 40%.
  • Stay away from low-fat products. When food manufacturers take fat out of a food, they look for other ways to make it taste good. This usually means adding salt or sugar.
  • Taste your food BEFORE using the salt shaker. A lot of people put salt on their food before knowing whether it needs it or not. Often times, food tastes just fine without the added sodium.
  • Read food labels! Products can have a wide variety of sodium levels in them. For example, crackers can have anywhere from 25 to 270 mg of sodium per serving. Find products with less sodium to keep on hand.
  • Use herbs and spices to season your food. I cannot talk enough about this! You can grow your own herbs at home, which are pretty to look at, freshen up your food, and make cooking a little more fun. Fill your spice rack with a variety of spices – and use them! Not only can you make food taste great without adding salt, but you can completely change the flavors of a dish that may have been getting boring. See below for my favorite spice blend and marinade.

Savory Spice Blend

  • 2-1/2 Tbsp paprika
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp pepper
  • 1 Tbsp onion powder
  • 1 Tbsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 Tbsp oregano
  • 1 Tbsp thyme

Lemon Pepper Marinade

  • 1 Tbsp lemon zest
  • 3 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 Tbsp cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt