Overcoming the Most Common Barriers to Eating Better

As part of 31 Days of Wellness 2.0 challenge, we asked our members what their barriers were to eating better. While many of us feel like we could eat a little better, there always seems to be something in the way stopping us. At the ABC, we don’t think everyone needs to drastically overhaul their diet or opt for restrictive fad diets. And actually, we much prefer adding things into our diets rather than taking things away! We do understand that people are keen to be mindful of what they’re eating, however, and we saw some common barriers to this during the challenge including:

  • Time
  • Lack of motivation/energy
  • Lack of inspiration/desire
  • Habit
  • Emotional Eating
  • Money

Here are the most common barriers to eating better that our members came up with and our top tips to overcome them.

Barrier: Time

A lot of us work long hours or simply don’t have the time (or energy) to cook meals from scratch every single night. If your biggest barrier to eating better is time, here are some of our top tips:

  • Don’t be afraid of frozen! It can often take time to wash, chop and prepare fresh fruit and veg so don’t be afraid to opt for frozen options instead. You can even buy fresh, chop and prepare, and then pop in the freezer yourself.
  • Opt for a picnic style dinner! For days when you’re really short on time, consider a picnic style dinner of meats, cheeses, vegetables, dips, etc. Nothing to prepare and likely nothing to heat up. Just make sure you have a good balance of different food types, textures and plenty of different colours (avoid all beige).
  • Bulk cook when you can! Not everyone has hours to meal prep on a Sunday. However, consider bulk cooking whenever you can. That may just mean doubling up portions of a dinnertime favourite and popping it in the freezer or cooking a couple of meals at once when you’ve got the time.
  • Get Techy! Instant Pots, slow cookers and soup makers can all help you put together delicious and nutritious meals when you’re short on time.
  • Look for quick recipes! We can often get drawn in by long and complicated recipes, but try looking for super quick recipes you can rustle up in no time. There are some here too.

Barrier: Lack of Motivation/Energy

Lack of time and lack of motivation/energy often go hand-in-hand. By the time we get home or finish whatever we’re doing for the day, we can feel seriously unmotivated to cook anything. Here are some top tips to help boost your motivation:

  • Tell yourself that you’ll JUST get all of the ingredients out of the fridge or chop the veg up and see how you feel. If you’re still unmotivated, put it all back away. You’re not promising yourself that you’ll rustle up an entire meal, you’re just going to spend a few minutes prepping. See how you feel once you’re done… This is a variation of the two-minute trick and even though I know how the trick works, my brain still goes for it nearly every single time.
  • Start a Kitchen Disco! We love a kitchen disco to get moving, but it’s also a great motivational tool to get cooking. Create your own Kitchen Disco playlist or use ours. Cooking a meal will generally take 5-10 songs depending on the meal – and then it’s done! Sing and shimmy your way through mealtimes and enjoy the boost of motivation.
  • Use our whole list of ways to get motivated to find even more ways that work for you. Sometimes, the energy really isn’t there and that’s okay. Don’t beat yourself up for not being able to cook something from scratch every day – just focus on doing the very best with your energy levels right now.

Barrier: Lack of Inspiration/Desire

The lack of inspiration or desire to cook may actually be a lack of motivation, so try some of the motivation tips to see whether they help first.

If not, it’s time to fall in love with food once again. I’d highly recommend downloading Pinterest and spending some time of an evening pinning delicious looking recipes that pique your interest. I have a board packed full of 100s of recipes that I go back to whenever I’m lacking in inspiration.

Another top tip that I learnt from another member is to write a list of your go-to dinners on a piece of paper that you stick up on a cupboard door. The next time you’re lacking in inspiration, pick something off the list that you know you already love. I put things I know are quick and easy on this list so it helps with motivation and lack of time too!

Meal boxes can also be great for inspiration and to help you come up with different things to cook without having to meal plan, shop and prep. HelloFresh, Gousto and Mindful Chef are all examples of popular subscription meal boxes.

Finally, we have over 400 recipes on The Anti-Burnout Club which you can filter through (including super quick ones) so use these for inspiration too!

Barrier: Habit

Yet another barrier that came up a lot was the snacking habit! If you took part in book club with us in January/February then you may already be feeling good enough to skip this part. If not, then I highly recommend James Clear’s Atomic Habits as a book to help you break bad habits and make healthier ones. Here are some top tips we took away from the book:

  • Set your environment up for success – Remove the visible junk food and replace it with snack foods that you want to start eating instead (eg, a bowl of fruit or nuts). If we constantly see the ‘good snacks’ it’ll become a habit to reach for those instead.
  • Have a variety of options – Our brains like variety, so having a just a bowl of apples to pick from will have you reaching for the crisps in no time. Try to get a range of different snacks in to widen the variety.
  • Placing obstacles in the way – Make it harder for yourself to indulge in whatever your bad habit is! Once again, you can set your envionrment up for this. James Clear even recommends wrapping healthy snacks in clear plastic/sandwich bags and the ones you don’t want to snack on all the time in foil – out of sight, out of mind!

Read more of Clear’s tips here.

Barrier: Emotional Eating

A lot of our members opened up about emotional eating, and this can be a really difficult barrier to overcome.

Nutritionist and Intuitive Eating Counsellor Ela Law covers Emotional Eating as part of her Mindful Eating Course and it’s extremely helpful if this is something you struggle with. Both mindful and intuitive eating can really help with emotional eating and there’s a whole guide on this here.

Barrier: Money

With the price of everything going up right now, it’s no surprise that money made it onto the list. Here are some top tips for eating better on a budget, along with some other really helpful resources if money is a concern:

  • Plan ahead – Making a meal plan can really help keep costs down, especially if you go for meals that use a lot of the same ingredients that means you can buy bigger packs (which works out much better value for money and reduces waste).
  • Cook with pulses – Beans, lentils and peas are cheap and filling foods that also make a great replacement for more expensive ingredients like meat. Lentil cottage pies, bean chilli, and chickpea curry are all much cheaper alternatives to their meat or meat replacement counterparts.
  • Use up everything – Leftover vegetables can be used to make soup, whole chickens can be spread out over a few days in a number of different meals, and fruit on the turn can be used in smoothies or baked goods such as banana bread.

Other helpful resources

NHS Eat Well for Less

Healthline Clever Ways to Eat on a Tight Budget

Miguel Barclay £1 Meals

Cooking on a Bootstrap by Jack Monroe

Useful Resources for Nutrition and Eating Better

Want to dig into this topic further? Here are some helpful resources to help with nutrition, mindful eating, and eating better in general.

This post has been adapted from the Week 2 Workbook of 31 Days of Wellness 2.0. If you’d like to take the challenge, become a member here.