// Eating for the hectic urbanite

by Caitlin Reid

Have you ever heard your clients say that they are just too busy or don’t have enough time to eat well? The chances are many of you are screaming ‘yes’ right about now. According to a survey of mainly women, conducted by Health & the City, 45 per cent of people believe that being too busy and reverting to convenience food is the number one reason why they struggle to eat healthily.

Many of your clients, both male and female, live hectic lifestyles that see them juggling work with personal, family and community commitments. With current technology allowing them to be contacted 24 hours a day, seven days a week, many of your clients will suffer from a lack of, or disrupted, sleep, which will reduce their energy levels and motivation for living a healthy lifestyle.

As a fitness professional you are well aware that exercising regularly makes up only half of the equation needed to help your clients achieve their goals.

Healthy eating makes up the other half, but how can your clients control what they are eating when they’re stuck in traffic, rushing to their next meeting or working back late? It’s as simple as following this eight-step plan.

1. Get them to plan their meals

Many of your clients will plan every last second of their day, but won’t spare a thought for their meals and snacks throughout the week. The first step to helping them achieve a healthier diet is to get them to plan all their meals and snacks each week. Sit down with them and write out their menu plan for the following week, including any work lunches or nights when they will be eating out. Before long, meals andsnacks won’t be far from their mind.

2. Get them organised

With next week’s meals planned, encourage your clients to write a shopping list and schedule in a trip to the supermarket. Emphasise that shopping once a week is a great way to not only get organised for the week, but to save money as well. A well-stocked cupboard makes meal times easier.

3. Encourage them to make gradual changes

Breaking eating behaviours and habits is not easy. If you ask your clients to make too many changes all at once, they will become overwhelmed and revert to their old ways. Get your clients to identify the dietary changes they think they can achieve first. It may just be eating breakfast to start with, and then focusing on making healthier breakfast choices. It is the small steps that will help your clients achieve lifelong healthy eating habits.

4. Show them how they can avoid skipped meals

Teach your clients how to include regular meals into their diet. Getting up ten minutes earlier may help some of yourclients fit in breakfast every morning, while keeping breakfast options at work may suit others better. Getting your clients to set a lunch date in their calendar each day will encourage your clients to eat it regularly, while another option is to have your client form a lunch club with a few work colleagues and take turns bringing lunch for everyone else in the group.

5. Understand their environmental influences

Gaining a good understanding of the environmental factors that affect your client’s eating can also help. Do they eat and drink from enormous plates, bowls and glasses? Is there an unlimited supply of lollies and chocolates on offer at their workplace?

Does their job require them to regularly entertain work clients at restaurants? Helping your client identify the hidden persuaders that make them unknowingly overeat can help them in their quest towards healthy eating. Getting them to change their environment by eating from smaller plates or placing the sweet treats atwork in opaque jars will help reduce their overeating.

6. Give them ideas for last minute meals

There will come a time when your clients can’t be bothered to cook a traditional, more time-consuming evening meal. Equipping them with easy meal ideas is a great way to keep their eating under control. Options such as baked potatoes with four-bean mix, reduced-fat cheese, light sour cream and salad; a toasted wholegrain sandwich with chicken, reduced-fat cheese, avocado and salad; or a two-egg omelette with steamed vegetables are all nutritious options that can be very easily prepared.

7. Educate them on healthy take away options

With the average Australian eating four meals away from the home each week, equipping your clients with the knowledge to make healthy food choices off the menu is a must. Encourage portion control, by getting your client to order an entrée size meal with a side of salad or steamed vegetables. Recommend that they avoid excessive amounts of bread or starters, particularly if they’re not hungry and are just ordering out of habit, and remind them that drinks of beer, wine, spirits, juices and soft drink all count towards their total daily kilojoule intake.

8. Practice what you preach

If you want your clients to eat regularly, reduce their intake of convenience food and up their fruit and vegetable intake, then you need to show them how it’s possible. Expecting your clients to break habits is hard enough, but if you as their fitness professional can’t find the time to eat well or are constantly eating processed foods, the battle for achieving healthy eating becomes even harder. You are a role model to your clients, so practice what you preach and then share your eating and menu tips with them.


Caitlin Reid

An accredited practising dietitian and accredited exercise physiologist, Caitlin is the director and author of Health & the
City. With a passion for integrating healthy eating and regular exercise into the lifestyle of hectic urbanites, Caitlin works
with people from all professions. She is also a lecturer at the Australian College of Physical Education and the club
dietitian for the South Sydney Rabbitohs. For more information visit www.healthandthecity.com.au