Most of you know what you need to do to eat better: quit over-eating the sugary, starchy carbs, increase your intake of vegetables (preferably leafy green ones) and consume fish regularly. Choose healthy, unprocessed foods. Prepare the majority of your own meals.
That message is coming from A LOT of sources. But the crucial NEXT STEP isn’t really addressed – how do you get your life set up so you can manage all that?
It really is crucial: after observing people trying to get fit over 15 years, I can tell you that NO ONE eats well without being organised.
A lot of our (and by ‘our’, let’s say I mean Australia in general) unhealthy eating habits are due to our desire for convenience. A lot of people work long hours; combine that with inadequate sleep – the combination of fatigue and, dare I say it, laziness, leads us to reach for ‘convenient’ options – frozen dinners, fast food, takeaway.
The idea of preparing your own food can seem daunting, but as they say – the way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. Let’s get started.
- Make a list. Or a series of lists. However it works for you, write down what you’ll be eating for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the next 3 – 7 days. (I prefer to do 3 days at a time.) Stuck for ideas? Think omelettes with veggies for breakfast, or berries and natural yogurt; big salads with interesting protein for lunch (pesto chicken, smoked trout, thai beef salad). For dinner inspiration – check out any number of healthy cookbooks, such as Michelle Bridges offerings, or The Primal Blueprint Quick and Easy, or Jamie Oliver’s fast meals.
- Do the shop. This can be a dangerous time for some (me included) – junk is all around and it’s hard not to buy it! Remind yourself ‘if I don’t buy it, I can’t eat it later’ or, my personal favourite, ‘I only need to be strong in the store’. Set your willpower for that half hour, get in and get your healthy foods and get out!
- Cook in batches. There’s no getting around it: this will take more effort than you’re used to. You will have to do some sort of meal preparation every day if you want to eat well. But chunk it together – while you prepare dinner, chop everything for tomorrow’s omelette and salad and get it as ready as you can; make extra protein for the next day (for instance – if you’re having chicken for dinner, dice some up, toss through some pesto and there’s your salad protein).
If you prefer to get up early to prepare – I’m personally useless when it comes to energy in the evenings – get dinner veg ready while you make breakfast. With a bit of practice you’ll find a half hour of preparation sees you through.
- Repeat for the rest of your life. I know, I know, sounds a bit dramatic, but consistency is the key – this is not about you being motivated for a week, or a month, then going back to lazy choices and old habits. Change requires consistent effort.
- Don’t try to change everything at once. Depending on your current habits, just cooking dinner three or four times a week could be an achievement – don’t try to go from being takeaway every night to preparing every single thing – you’ll burn out the same way you would if you went from no exercise to seven sessions per week. Take stock of where you are at the moment and set monthly improvement goals: ‘I will cook dinner five nights per week’ or ‘I will bring my lunch every day besides Friday’ are good monthly goals.
- Revel in your achievements. Too often I’ve seen people make three changes of the four changes they wanted to make and still be down on themselves! Get into a positive spiral instead of a negative one.
You’re not going to be perfect; don’t beat yourself up if you don’t manage absolutely every task you set yourself – it’s so important to truly recognize the positive changes you are making!
We’ll talk more about the importance of consistency in upcoming blog posts! As always, your comments are welcome.
Here’s a quick salad idea to get you started.
Super quick chicken and chickpea salad – serves 4
4 free range chicken thighs (chopped into pieces) – fry or bake until cooked
1 tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
½ cucumber, chopped
½ red capsicum, chopped
10 cherry tomatoes
1 block feta cheese, diced
Kalamata olives, halved (optional)
Rocket and spinach leaves – 4 handfuls (one large bag)
Toss all ingredients together with good quality olive oil and vinegar of your choice (apple cider vinegar, balsalmic vinegar) to taste.