When you are a busy person, like most of us are, sometimes you eat whatever is most convenient. That could be leftovers, a fast food drive-thru, snacks from a gas station, or something you can just throw into the microwave.
Know that you are not alone, but understand that you can do better. You can learn how to overcome a hectic lifestyle while still staying on target with your health and nutrition this year—let me show you how.
The Structure of an Ideal Plan
I believe that if you are honest with yourself you could fit this structure into at least one or two days during a typical week. Ideally, you would have your meals prepped for the next day the night before or at minimum know ahead of time what you are going to eat. Having a plan will help you avoid grabbing the closest edible looking thing your hands can reach. It is critical that you plan ahead, and here are some take-away points to help set yourself up for success:
1. Shop for the Week
Do you shop for the week and plan out what you are going to have for dinners? Do you have a few food ideas for breakfast and lunches? Consider how many days a week you can plan for, and be realistic. Then create a menu that you can prepare meals for to meet those target days. Writing down this menu is helpful and if will be preparing food for your family, you can post it so they know what to expect.
If you don’t enjoy making a complicated meal, don’t plan one. Start simple. Remember, there is nothing wrong with simple and easy.
2. Make More Than You Need
It can feel like a daunting task to prep all your meals at the beginning of the week. Luckily, you don’t have to. Instead of making each meal individually or making all your meals at the beginning of the week, try making more of the meal you are already preparing and portion it into containers for future meals.
For example, you are making homemade chicken soup. Make enough for your family for dinner and for the next day’s lunch. When you are cutting up vegetables for a salad, cut up a few more of your favorite veggies and pack them away for snacks on the go for that week.
This is called batching your time. You are already preparing the meal and it will only take an extra few minutes to make more for throughout the week. Everything you need is already out and ready, so you don’t waste time getting it all out again to prepare for additional meals.
3. Prep the Same Foods
For example, prep one snack for the whole week so it is ready and available each afternoon. A good example of a mass-prep breakfast is to take five jars and make some overnight oats for the week. If you struggle with lunch, make layered salad in jars and get a small container of dressing that will last all week.
Understand the Role of Macronutrients
Remember what you are trying to accomplish. You are trying to fuel your body with healthy sustenance and feel full throughout the day. The goal is not perfection, but a sustainable plan.
The best way to sustain your plan that is to choose foods that are high in protein. Protein takes longer to break down and because of this it will help you to feel and stay full for longer. Your goal is to get 20 grams of protein per meal when on the go.
Once you have your protein chosen, choose vegetables to add volume, then choose your starches and fats. Remember that fats will leave you satisfied longer while carbs will not satisfy you for very long. By creating a balanced nutrition plan, you will be less likely to choose a convenience food as an unplanned snack.
Have a Lunchtime Emergency Plan
If you find yourself at work with no lunch, what do you do? Do you starve? Hell no. Do you grab some takeout? Most likely, but use caution.
If you find yourself without a lunch, have a few menus at your desk or workplace that have options you like and fit within your nutritional needs. Highlight the meal options that you like and that are healthy. Salads with protein are usually a good choice. Skip calorie dense additions, like extra cheese or heavy dressing.
By picking what you are going to eat ahead of time when eating out, you set yourself up for success. You don’t have to go through the decision process because you have already done the work ahead of time when you chose the menus to keep at hand.
Have a Gas Station Emergency Plan
It is never ideal to find yourself looking for sustenance in a gas station, but it does happen. If you are caught desparate for a meal in a convenience store, you should look for foods in this order:
Protein: Hard boiled eggs, cheese, protein bar, beef jerky, and yogurt
Vegetables: Salad or carrots
Carbs: fresh fruits or fruit salad
Fats: mixed nuts, hummus, peanuts
Be Mentally Prepared for Your Meals
Being mentally prepared is just as important as the actual food preparation. You can do all the planning needed, but if you are not mentally ready to follow through with eating the meals, there is a good chance you will revert back to your old choices when a stressful circumstance arises.
Remember that unplanned eating on the go is never ideal, but it happens. By planning ahead, you will less likely run into these situations. Life may get away from you at some point, but just remember this simple guideline to nutritional success: protein first, then vegetables, lastly carbs and fats.