Eat Against the Clock

Not every meal is going to be perfect, so make the most of what’s available, says nutrition guide

Patricia Bannan

“Sure, you may want to eat better, lose weight or set a better example for your kids, but those noble goals fall by the wayside when you’re dealing with an iPhone that chirps every two minutes.” So writes Patricia Bannan, N99, on the opening page of her recent book Eat Right When Time Is Tight (NorLightsPress), a nutrition guide for people who are too “overbooked, overloaded and overwhelmed” to figure out a healthy eating plan.

Bannan, an L.A.-based registered dietitian and health reporter, boils down her best advice for snacks to stash in your briefcase and lesser-evil options at the hotel breakfast buffet. Is Wendy’s your only quick lunch choice today? Order the large chili. Incapable of sitting down for breakfast at home? Bring along a soy, fruit and nut energy bar and a can of low-sodium 100 percent vegetable juice.

Fast food, she acknowledges, isn’t the ideal, “but eating right when time is tight isn’t about perfection—it’s about making better choices and eating a healthful balance of foods over time.” Even if your stomach is demanding pizza for lunch, she writes, the menu item makes a difference: A slice of thin-crust veggie pizza is about 200 calories and 7 grams of fat, while a slice of deep-dish pizza packs 480 calories and 26 grams of fat.

She provides a number of everyday strategies, such as including fiber and protein in your breakfast to keep you feeling full, and eating every three to five hours to keep blood sugar stable and avoid overeating at dinner, as most people do.

But she also offers meal plans for those atypical days that can really sabotage a diet groove. Who hasn’t wished for a “Blown-It-at-Brunch” meal plan, for when you’ve used up your calorie allotment for the day and it’s not even noon? Finally, advice on how to recover with grace . . . and salad.    

This article first appeared in the Summer 2011 Tufts Nutrition magazine.

Julie Flaherty can be reached at



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