It can be really hard to stick to a clean eating lifestyle when you have a busy schedule. Between work, commuting, taking the kids to soccer and mowing the lawn, how do you find time to prepare a healthy meal for your family? In our fast-paced world, we don’t have time for food, which is why the industrial global diet of fast food and processed meals has taken over many of our kitchens. Pre-packaged foods are easy, cheap and designed to taste good, so it’s no wonder that we often choose to pop a frozen pizza in the oven instead of building one from scratch using healthy ingredients. Unfortunately, these easily accessible foods are also the cause of weight gain and increased obesity in kids and adults. So how does one juggle a career, family and healthy lifestyle?
The key to staying on track is to incorporate a weekly ritual of meal planning, grocery shopping and food preparation. It will only take a few hours every week, but you’ll quickly realize how key it is to avoid choosing processed food over cooking from scratch.
The first step is to plan all of your meals and snacks for the week. Keep a list of clean recipes that are simple, fast and tasty. If you aren’t a natural in the kitchen or you’re new to clean eating, sit down with a couple of magazines or cookbooks that support your choice for healthy eating. Pick out recipes that you’ll enjoy and write your meal plan or create a chart that you can follow. To save time (especially if you don’t like to cook), make larger quantities of two or three recipes and eat the leftovers for dinner over the following few days. You can also simplify this process by having the same snacks every day. A simple meal plan can look something like this — breakfast: 1 hard-boiled egg, 1 turkey sausage, bell pepper slices, 1 piece of whole grain toast; morning snack: almonds, apple; lunch: grilled chicken salad with spinach, pumpkin seeds, veggies, and balsamic vinaigrette; afternoon snack: hummus and veggies; dinners: Monday and Wednesday… baked salmon, asparagus, roasted cauliflower and quinoa: Tuesday and Thursday… lentil and eggplant curry with brown rice: Friday and Sunday… clean chicken enchiladas with a side of salad.
Once you have planned your menu for the week, it’s time to prepare a detailed grocery list and head to the grocery store. But before you go, have a quick snack; it will be a lot easier to avoid the bad stuff on a full stomach. When at the grocery store, start by shopping the perimeter of the store. That’s where you’ll find 80 per cent of your list — fresh fruit and vegetables, dairy, meat and other protein sources. Shop the aisles only for items on your list and try to avoid going near your favourite treats. If you’re new to menu planning, stock up on glass containers and snack bags, as you’ll need them for storage.
Now that you have all of this clean food, don’t put it away just yet. Take the next few hours to prepare everything, so all you’ll need to do during the week is pull it out of the fridge and throw it together, or reheat and eat. Based on your meal plan, this might entail boiling eggs, washing and chopping vegetables, marinating protein sources, preparing salad dressing and measuring portions for breakfast and snacks. Prepare as much as you can; organize your evening meals by chopping everything up and placing it all together in a freezer bag, ready to cook. You might be tempted to put the food away and prepare as you go, but chances are, you’ll run out of time and revert back to a processed meal or snack that will hinder your goals for healthy eating.
This is one strategy for healthy eating but it might not work for you. Based on your schedule and your lifestyle, you might choose to wake up early and plan meals for the day, rather than prepare for the week. Maybe you’ll pick a different meal for dinner each night, or maybe you’ll cook a big portion twice a week and eat the leftovers for lunch. Regardless of how you do it, make a plan and stick to it! And as always, a healthy diet is best when paired with regular exercise. For more information on affordable small group fitness and personal training or to schedule your free consult, visit our website at www.fitness4life.tv.