In my rad job at Choices Markets I help people decipher nutrition info. Every. Single. Day.
I have a couple of lifesaving tips which I regularly share with clients.
(I would call them "hacks" if I was a millenial. But I'm not. So I won't)
The number one thing that I recommend, whether you just want to get into some new healthy habits, or you have a diagnosis that means you gotta make some serious changes, is...
Meal Planning is so awesome - for your health, your wallet, and the planet.
Why Meal Planning Rocks...
For your health:
Let's be honest. The vast majority of us know what we should be eating. More vegetables. Less processed food. Less tubs-of-ice-cream. So why is it so bloody hard to connect what we know to what we do???
The answer isn't super straightforward, and I would argue that our very broken food systems, the insane amount of advertising, and the abundance and easy accessibility of cheap, processed food are all major contributing factors.
When I lived in New Zealand (where these problems still exist, just to a lesser extent than in North America), I found it easier to eat more simply. It also helped that dipping EVERYTHING in Ranch dressing was not a part of the culture there. Damn you and your deliciousness, Ranch. (Also - how is "ranch" a flavour? It is like the flavour "blue". Terrifying.)
Anyways, aside from these massive cultural and societal influences, another major reason that we don't eat the way that we feel we should is because we just aren't prepared.
We wake up with a massive to-do list already buzzing around our heads. We've gotta get the kids organized (or in my case, just myself, which seems to be enough!) and get out the door to work. So we grab whatever is quick and easy for breakfast.
Then we are at work and it's busy and we don't have any food with us so we think we'll be "good" by skipping a morning snack and just have a coffee instead.
PS - I hate when we judge ourselves as "good" or "bad" based on what we eat. We have to eat to survive, people. It is ok.
But then it is lunchtime and we are absolutely starving and in this moment we run to our closest food-like-outlet and grab something that we maybe know isn't so great but damn it looks good and I'm just so freaking hungry that I'll deal with the consequences later.
Cue: 2pm bloating and feeling like needing a nap. Followed shortly by another coffee to try and mitigate said sleepiness and also to maybe get those bowels moving.
Ok. Work is over. Now it is time for Oh-Shit-What-Am-I-Going-To-Make-For-Dinner syndrome to kick in. Grab a cooked chicken from the supermarket (great choice). Throw together a salad. Ahhh.
Whew! Day is over. Made it. Feeling snacky now and I have that ice cream in the depths of the freezer. Just have some, you know, as a reward.
Sleep. Do it all over the next day.
Soooo maybe that feels a little dramatic and over-exaggerated. But I seriously talk to people who operate like that on a pretty regular basis. No wonder we all have adrenal burnout! (A topic for another day).
Now, let's investigate what meal planning looks like in practice. It's not an easy way out or a shortcut - you gotta do the work, no apologies for that.
24 hours in the life of a meal planner. Sunday to Monday, to be specific.
Look at meal plan and decide what to eat for the next 3-7 days.
Make a grocery list (or in my new meal plan - it is made for you, even better!). Go to the supermarket and buy exactly what's on that list. Or better yet, shop online so you're not distracted by the sales and the chocolate aisle.
Spend an hour or two prepping food. Chopping veggies, making a big, filling salad for lunch. Making healthy snacks rather than pretending you're just not going to be hungry at 10am.
Wake up the next morning to your overnight oats which are pretty much ready. Eat a decent breakfast and get out the door.
Have a healthy mid-morning snack before you feel so hungry that you want to devour all the cinnamon buns that cross your path.
Eat lunch. Because you have it packed and ready, take it with you to the park near your work and take your shoes off and eat in the grass. Take some deep breaths. Look at how zen you are!
Feel pretty decent all afternoon because you didn't eat a bunch of processed crap for lunch. Have an afternoon snack if you are hungry, or don't if you're not.
Head home and make your dinner. You know what you're having and you know you have all the ingredients. Make enough for lunch the next day, or have leftovers enough to put in the freezer for a quick meal.
Whew! You made it. Feeling snacky? Pull out the tasty and healthy snacks you organized yesterday.
Ok so I recognize that this may seem a little idealistic, and this is probably a little regimented for most people to be able to do all the time. But as a person who meal plans probably 70% of the time? I can tell you it works.
I eat what I buy. I prep food. I have healthy options available to me, and I have less unhealthy options around. The end. Not magic, just a bit of prep and planning.
And the great thing is that once you have these habits in place, then it becomes second nature.
It is the creating the habit part that is vital.
And that's the part that can take a bit of practice. The good news is that a new habit is only new the first like 3 or 4 times you do it. Then it is just normal.
*If you're sick of reading, sign up to my newsletter here to find out about my meal planning program, which can seriously help you make this a thing you actually do!*
Why Meal Planning Rocks...
For your wallet & the planet:
I'll keep these bits brief though I have a lot to say about both of these topics!
When you plan your meals and buy only what you need, you save money. That's it. So much of what we buy we either don't need - like that 12 pack of chocolate bars from Costco; or we waste - like that 12 pack of cauliflower from Costco. (No offense to Costco, it is a great place to buy bulk for non-perishable items. But seriously do we need that much ketchup? I don't think so).
With meal planning you are buying the fruit and veggies that you are actually going to eat. So you waste less - which is not only good for your budget but also good for the planet.
According to many sources (including one of my faves, David Suzuki #celebritynerdcrush), close to HALF of all food produced world wide is waste. "...discarded in processing, transport, supermarkets, and kitchens". That makes me want to cry.
To me this also discredits any argument that increased food production is the answer to "feeding the world"... we don't have a food production problem, we have a food distribution and waste problem. A rant for another day :)
So in a sort-of-long nutshell, there you have it. My best "hack" for eating well.
In conclusion - Food is important.
But somewhere along the way we have turned this thing that we need to do to survive - to keep our bodies functioning and to KEEP US ALIVE - and turned it into a hassle. A sidenote.
Preparing, cooking, and eating food has become an activity that we do in parenthesis (), rather than giving it the headline it deserves.
I want you to feel less stress about food and your choices and your body, and spend more time enjoying food and all the experiences that you get to have in your body.
Want a hand? I got your back! After years of creating meal plans for my one-on-one clients, I have decided it is time to get some meal planning programs out to the world!
Sign up for my newsletter to get the inside scoop on my brand new Online Meal Plan program, coming soon!***
Plus get tons of healthy meal ideas for free, just 'cuz.
And if you have questions or concerns or just want to say hello, please email me! Would love to hear from you.