A classic quest for healthy food every time you’re hungry? Who’s got the time? Instead, try these 3 key strategies for having healthy food available when you need it. They’ll help make meal planning a no-brainer.
One of the many important lessons we teach our clients: Keep it simple. Think less. Make fewer decisions. Let your environment do much of the work for you.
If healthy food is around you and convenient, you’re more likely to eat it. If you have a trusted system for making healthy food available, you don’t have to decide to eat well… you just show up and do it.
Enter the “food ritual”.
This is a practice in which you set aside a bit of time to prepare some healthy food in advance so that it’s ready, available, and convenient when you need it.
How you choose to ritualise healthy meal prep is up to you. Here are some strategies that have worked well for the men and women who have had the most success in our coaching programmeme.
Option 1: The Sunday Ritual
You don’t have to do this on Sunday, of course. You can choose any day you like.
It’s just that Sunday is often a time when people are freer, more relaxed, and more able to devote time to this type of task. And it’s a time when we’re usually thinking ahead to the upcoming week.
Whatever day you choose, set aside 2-3 hours once a week to do the following.
– Look ahead to your upcoming schedule and see what’s happening. What nutrition challenges or opportunities might pop up? Where might you need some special preparation in advance? What are quiet and busy times? Etc.
– Come up with a general menu for at least the next few days. It doesn’t have to be anything in-depth. Just get a basic sense of the food you might need to have on hand for the week ahead.
– Build your shopping list from your menu. This will help you be as effective and efficient as possible when you hit the supermarket, and you’ll be less tempted to buy random (and non-goal-supporting) things.
– Hit the supermarket. Stock up on what you need for the week. Consider grabbing a few extra “just in case” emergency items as well, such as tinned tomatoes, frozen vegetables, or other easily-stored healthy options that you can use in a pinch.
– Once you’re back home, start prepping and cooking. Whip up a batch of lean protein — for example, by grilling or roasting several chicken breasts/thighs at once. Try some one-pot meals that can be easily cooked in a slow cooker, then divided into containers to be frozen or refrigerated, such as soups, stews, curries, chili, etc. Wash and chop veggies.
Some people choose to prepare most of their meals for the week on Sundays.
Others prefer to figure out which meals will be easy to cook “in the moment” and save them for later, and only pre-prep meals for super busy times (such as lunches at work or dinner after a late meeting).
Do what works best for you, and your schedule.
If possible, give yourself a little extra buffer zone. You never know what unexpected challenge might strike at 6 PM on Wednesday, and when it does, you’ll be glad you stocked away an extra meal in the freezer.
Option 2: The Daily Ritual
You can combine the Sunday Ritual with the Daily Ritual — for example, by preparing the labour-intensive staples such as lean protein on Sunday, and then adding some quick-prep items (such as fruit and veggies) every day.
It often takes about as much time to prepare a few items as it does to prepare one.
For example, it’s nearly as fast to chop 3 carrots as it is to chop 1 or to scramble 6 eggs instead of 2. During the Daily Ritual, you can prep a few extra items to have on hand for later in the day or the following day.
Try a Morning Ritual where you use some of our time-saving strategies to whip up a healthy breakfast or lunch:
– Porridge Oats: Shake up your dry porridge and any other items (e.g. ground flaxseeds, cinnamon, protein powder, other grains, etc.) in a large container. In the morning, scoop out the dry mix, pour in some water, and pop it in the microwave. Top with fruit, add more protein if you like (e.g. cottage cheese, Greek yoghurt) and enjoy a hearty breakfast.
– Egg “batter”: Whiz up some eggs in a blender (with some veggies if you like); keep the mixture in a jar in the fridge for up to a few days. Pour and cook as needed.
– No-sog salad: Take a large jar and pour salad dressing into the bottom. Then add veggies, top with greens, and make sure the jar stays refrigerated and upright throughout the day. When you’re ready to eat it, shake it up and pour it into a bowl (or eat it straight out of the jar!).
Or try a Dinner Ritual where you simply make extra portions and save the rest for tomorrow.
Again, it doesn’t take much more time to prepare a few extra things, so cook in bulk where possible.
Option 3: Healthy meals made for you
Many Supermarkets — from your average Sainsbury’s or Tescos to more upscale Whole Foods or Waitrose type places — now offer a wide range of grab-and-go meals. Think salad bars, pre-washed and cut vegetables, and individually-portioned lean protein.
Some of our coaching clients even sign up for a healthy meal delivery service, if only for one or two meals a week. If you don’t enjoy cooking or are extremely busy, you may find that having a break from the time and hassle of meal prep is worth the money. It might just mean the difference between a delicious, nourishing, physique-friendly lunchtime salad and another regrettable fast-food run.
Google “healthy meal delivery” in your area and see what pops up.
The bottom line: Do what works best for you — your life and your goals.
You can mix and match all of these food ritual options, in any way that works for you. Anticipate, plan, strategise. Have fun!
Want help improving your eating, your body, and your health?
If you need help making nutrition and exercise a permanent part of your life, we’ll soon be accepting new clients into our Nutrition Coaching programme.
If you’re interested and want to find out more, I’d encourage you to take one small step today and schedule a FREE Nutrition Consultation with us today.