It may surprise you to hear that it is planning, not knowledge that is the key to dietary success. Most of us know what to eat – we know that fruits and vegetables are good, and we know we need to move more. We know that chocolate is high in calories, and we know that if we eat less we will lose weight.
In busy, modern life, our healthy eating regimes tend to fall off track when we find ourselves hungry, without any good food choices on hand. Sometimes we may be able to ignore the hunger pains and wait until we stumble across an apple, but in more cases than not the deep desire for food sees us searching desk drawers or attacking the vending machines to feed our low blood sugar levels like a drug feeds an addict.
As such, it is the simple act of planning that ensures that we are never caught off guard and forced to rely on high calorie foods purchased away from the home. So if you regularly find yourself caught out and hungry, here are the easiest ways to plan ahead and take control of your food intake.
1. Shop once a week – basically, if the food is not in the house, you cannot eat it. Set aside just an hour each week to stock up on your dietary staples or try ordering online if you find it hard to make it to the shops each week.
2. Know your quick and easy meals – if you have tuna or salmon, eggs, cheese, pasta sauce, frozen vegetables, potatoes and tomatoes you can make five or six different meals in ten minutes or less.
3. Cook just once or twice a week – if you prepare a couple of big serves of a nutritionally balanced meals such as pasta bake, a pie or a stir fry with meat and vegetables you are guaranteed two meals during the week that you can freeze or use as leftovers for your lunch
4. Start a lunch club – if you are tired of the same old boring sandwich or salad that you bring from home, team up with a work colleague and start a lunch buddy system. This way you can bring two tasty lunches each, each week and perhaps shout yourself to lunch out on the fifth day of the week.
5. Set aside 20 minutes on Sunday night to plan the meals – make a note of each dish you plan to prepare each night so you know exactly what you need to do to prepare it when you walk in the door.
6. Keep snacks with you at all times – each morning pack a couple of protein rich snack foods to prevent impulse food purchases during the day. Good choices include a nut bar, packet of roasted broadbeans or cheese and crackers.
7. Utilise lunchtimes – if you find it difficult to plan your food over the weekend, utilize lunch breaks at work to get to the local supermarket and stock up on the foods you need during the day, and even for the evening meal.
8. Have a cook up – if the weekdays are simply too frantic to prepare any meals, cook a couple of extra meals over the weekend so you are certain to eat well for at least the first few nights of the week.
9. Develop food rules – create clear limits on when you will and will not eat certain types of food. For example, resolve only to eat out twice each week, this way you know when and in what context you will indulge which will help with your diet goals.
10. Utilise helpers – there are many mums, husbands and even friends who are often only too happy to help at home when necessary. Next time, if and when one of your support team ask if you need help, ask if they will help you with a meal or leftovers if you are finding it too difficult to fit meal preparation into your daily routine, you will be surprised how happy they will be to help.