Confessions of an Ex-Junk Food Junkie and 3 Tips for Staying Healthy on the Go

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

I'm embarrassed to admit that I grew up eating Lucky Charms, Cap'n Crunch and more McDonalds than seems possible. (My mom was a working, single mother who gave in to the whining and moaning of me and my siblings.)

So, you could imagine how challenging it has been for me to reform my eating habits after I went to medical school and learned a little about nutrition. I confess that embracing a balanced lifestyle is tough when we are busy and have become accustomed to a life of convenience.

But if you know what I know, when we give into our taste buds or the justification that 'there just isn't enough time, money or whatever to eat healthy,' we pay the price in one way or another.

To keep my waistline in check and the risk of diabetes down, I've found a few ways to eat nutritiously while on the go.

Plan Ahead
Whether you can plan for a whole week or just one day, by having your menu decided ahead of time you lower your risk of ending up at a fast-food joint hungry and giving into temptation. I've let go of the perfectionistic idea that the entire week must be planned in advance and I allow myself to go to the grocery store with a mission in mind. I'm able to buy what I need for the immediate demands and find that I feel a sense of satisfaction and mastery. (This allows me to build on that success, rather than feeling defeated!)

Stay Stocked With Quick Eats
Keep fruit, veggies or nuts on hand at all times. Once a week I make sure that I have simple things on hand for those times that I feel like I want a crunchy or sweet snack. Rather than eating candy or cookies, I reach for fresh strawberries, an orange, baby carrots with cream cheese, or a handful of cashews or almonds. It's hard to resist something crunchy or sweet in the afternoon when our energy levels start to dip. So be prepared for the munchies with Nature's original fast foods and you'll avoid the extra 200-300 calories that could add up to a pound per week in weight loss!

Drink More Water!
Most people don't realize that the brain needs a constant supply of water to use as fuel. When the brain is fatigued, it asks for more energy. But we mistakenly think that we need to eat or drink caffeinated beverages, when more times than not, the brain is in need of hydro-electric fuel in the form of WATER. So if you'd drink eight glasses of water a day, you'll find that you snack on less junk food and drink fewer empty-calorie drinks because your brain isn't being deprived.

These tips are simple but effective. Many of my clients find that starting with the easy things first, they can build up more power to exercise, get more rest and lead happier lives! I wish you much success in your journey to total wellness!

Dr. Andrea Pennington is an Integrative medicine physician and is certified in Age Management Medicine. She is the author of the Pennington Plan for Weight Success and has been seen on Oprah, CNN, the Today Show and Discovery Health Channel. Dr. Pennington is the immediate past President of the International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals and operates wellness retreats around the world. Sign-up for her free newsletter and learn more about her work at