Surrounding Yourself With Healthy Food You Crave Is The Secret To A Healthy Eating Habit
There are two key situations that make healthy eating easy enough to stick to: Ensuring you have pre-prepared meals that you can grab-and-go when short on time, and stocking up on healthy core ingredients you can whip together when you have time to cook.
Taking the time to prepare your own food and knowing that you are feeding yourself properly is incredibly powerful for the soul. If you're doing that for your whole family then it is a priceless gift to those you love.
From our resident Holistic Nutritionist, Ciara Foy:
"I have spent literally thousands of hours in small intimate spaces talking with my
clients about their deepest darkest fears and listening to all the reasons they
"can't". I am focused on helping you make small positive changes on a daily basis
that will help you build your confidence and make you truly believe YOU CAN!"
If you are reading this then you are taking the first step in learning about what foods are right for a healthy lifestyle. You care enough to learn and improve, despite how busy your life is, and you should be applauded!
Food preparation is one of the most asked about topics at BodyRock, so we thought it was time we shared with you how we approach a week of healthy eating and how you can do the same.
As with anything new, the best way to approach a big problem or challenge is to break it down into smaller pieces that are easier to accomplish. It's also important to lay out your goals and match your strategy to your goals.
Here are the meal prep goals we suggest for most people:
- You should find your food delicious
- Your meals should be extremely healthy
- The meal plan should support your level of daily exercise
- Your choices should help sustain or advance your desired body shape
Some people are happy eating the same thing every day and just see food as fuel. In our experience, ourselves included, a variety of delicious options is what makes the habit really stick!
Throughout the past 7 years of delivering health and fitness advice to BodyRockers we have learned that a flexible meal plan is what keeps us engaged and happy with the process. We need to have a range of options and know that no matter what we choose (as long as it sticks to the key rules in Step 1 below) it will be supporting our eating goals.
The challenge with all of this is efficiency
. How do we have a variety of tastes and experiences without being inefficient with our time OR with our money?
Absolutely key to being time-efficient and cost-effective is planning the week around core ingredients that can be put together in different ways to make drastically different meals and which utilize pantry staples that can be purchased in bulk, stored dry, or frozen. Remember the first two key situations we mentioned earlier?
With all that in mind, here are the 5 Simple Food Prep Steps We Live By:
STEP 1: Pick The Meals Ahead of Time
Sounds simple, right? It's amazing how quickly things go awry if you skip this step! We end up with missing ingredients, or a lack of motivation because we are hungry and can't decide what to cook. So commit some time to plan the whole week.
We find the best success with BodyRockers comes with eating smaller meals more often throughout the day, rather than having 3 large meals a day and nothing in between. In general we portion things out as 5 meals a day when working out.
During your planning phase for the week, always remember the key components of a healthy meal (for women):
1 palm of protein dense food
1 fist of "starchy" vegetables OR low/medium glycemic fruit OR whole grain/low gluten/gluten-free whole grains
Unlimited amounts of green, leafy vegetables
1 entire thumb of healthy fat dense foods
If you keep all this in mind it becomes pretty easy to break down what kinds of food you need to have around to complement your meals and make sure they are complete and healthy.
Kick off your morning and stay full for hours with this sweet treat. It literally tastes too good to be true, but we swear it's nutritious and healthy. Feel free to substitute non-cow dairy yogurt.
3/4 cup plain low-fat plain Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon of honey
1/4 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice
3/4 cup of Kasha
1/2 cup of canned pumpkin
Mix yogurt, honey and pumpkin pie spice
Take a glass or a bowl and layer the mixture, then the granola and the pumpkin
Make extra and store in the fridge for a fast and delicious snack later on.
A light and refreshing salad that's easy to make and can be enjoyed any time of year. For a gluten-free option, use quinoa and top it with the salad.
3/4 cup non fat or low-fat plain Greek yogurt
1/2 large cucumber, diced
1 tablespoon fresh dill
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
salt to taste
pepper to taste
1 6" pita or 1/2 cup quinoa
Mix yogurt, cucumber, dill and salt and pepper in a bowl. Mix well.
Preheat BBQ to medium/high heat. Brush pita with olive oil on both sides. Place pita on the grill for 2-3 minutes on each side.
Cut pita into quarters and dip in yogurt mix. Alternatively, plate half a cup of quinoa and spoon on salad.
This is a perfect meal for a busy day. If you have time, you can roast a chicken yourself, but if not, just grab a ready-roasted chicken at the grocery store. All you have to do after this is steam some mixed vegetables of your choice. Save the leftover chicken for another meal.
1/2 skinless small chicken
2 cups mixed vegetables
If you are roasting the chicken yourself, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and cook for 1-1 1/2 hours
Be sure to check the chicken regularly. Baste the chicken every 30 minutes.
Steam the vegetables on the stove top.
Season with salt and pepper to taste.
STEP 2: Build a detailed grocery list that includes the pantry staples you might not already have
For the main meals, this is straightforward, but if you are being efficient and making variations on a theme, such as different smoothies from the same base, then you will need to think about supplies.
Things like fruit toppings for oatmeal, chia seeds for smoothies, frozen fruits, canned tuna, avocado, canned beans. You'll need these things for your snacks or quick meals. So think it all through and how often you will eat each snack.
Add some new meats, vegetables, and fruits to your freezer each week so that you have supplies should you need them. Sometimes life intervenes and you won't be able to get fresh ingredients. Having shelf-stable and frozen back-ups means you don't have to break your healthy eating habit.
Give yourself lots of ways to avoid ordering in that pizza or grabbing that white bread sandwich.
Here are some ideas of what to keep around, depending on what foods you enjoy:
- Canned beans
- Seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, hemp, chia)
- Frozen veggies
- Frozen fish (you can buy fresh but it goes off fast)
- Unsweetened Almond milk
- Spinach, kale, collard greens etc for smoothies and salad
- Fresh and frozen fruit
- Protein powder
STEP 3: Spend Some Quality Time Finding Your Food
Depending on where you live, your options may be limited. You may have a farmers market or a Whole Foods nearby, or you may be limited to regular grocery stores. Regardless, it is important to kick the habit of making the grocery run a chore that needs to be accomplished quickly and without care.
Change your mindset to one of curiosity and interest. Read the labels, understand where your food is coming from and what has been added to it. Learn more about what common labels mean, and use your knowledge to select the healthiest foods.
Peruse the aisles and discover new foods and flavors that can add exciting new dimensions to your meals. If you become learned and knowledgeable about food then you will take pride in the selection and preparation of food.
This psychological shift is immensely powerful in maintaining your healthy habit!
STEP 4: Prepare the Meals!
This is where we find our efficiency and can scale our efforts. If you aren't working to a plan right now then you probably come home each night and feel overwhelmed with choosing what is for dinner and then have to prep everything from scratch. Or worse still, you give in and order fast food.
If you can set aside 2 hours every week (we try to do it on the weekend) then you can prepare
larger portions of your meals in one go and store them for the week. That makes busy evenings a lot more manageable. If you have pre-peeled and cut veggies in the fridge then it is super easy and fast to steam them for dinner, or pack them with hummus for tomorrow's lunch. If you cook meats in bulk and then store them in the fridge then you can have them cold with a salad, or easily stir them into other recipes with minimal prep time.
The initial outlay of money and time may seem overwhelming, but you have to look at the big picture. $100 in groceries buys you a lot more meals than if you give in and get a sandwich from the local cafe and a couple of fast food dinners. Plus the 2 hour time commitment to prep can make your evening meals super fast, leaving you more quality time with your family and to devote to working out. Making full meals every day adds up to much more than 2 hours over the week. And all that is without even talking about the massive difference in quality nutrition that you are gifting to your body by preparing fresh ingredients without additives, sugars, and preservatives.
As you get used to shopping and eating this way you will learn how to save money more and more, and you will find ways to be more efficient with your food prep. The money and time you are putting in will stand you in good stead as you get older and older, reducing health concerns and medical costs as you age! It's a false economy to think that you can't afford to eat well!
For us at BodyRock, it isn't always easy. Some of us have children, some of us do a lot of travelling, we have hectic filming schedules, there are dogs to walk, and lots of work goes into building all the content we deliver to our devoted BodyRockers. Sometimes we fail to live the way we teach you to live. That's OK. We always get back on the wagon and keep doing our best. Not only do we do it for ourselves (and for you), but those of us with children want them to grow up with a skillset and desire to only do the best for their bodies.
What does a weekly food prep look like?
As with anything, you have to make it enjoyable. If you look forward to preparing food, rather than dreading it, then you will really kick-start the healthy eating habit and get so much out of it! Making it enjoyable is a very personal experience. Think about an environment that makes you happy.
Maybe you put on your favorite music (we use Google Play Music on a smartphone, paired to a little bluetooth speaker), have your favorite tv show or movie on in the background (tablets are great for this), get the kids to help (meld quality time with getting things done), light some scented candles... whatever works for you.
- When it comes to prepping the meals, think in batches, and what you can be chopping while other things are cooking.
- Look at your recipes holistically and note down all the ingredients that need similar preparation. For instance, you can find all the vegetables that need to be chopped for all your recipes and then get them all in the sink to wash.
- While you have sweet potatoes and chicken baking in the oven, you can be chopping all the veggies and portioning them into different bowls for each recipe.
- Remember to cut some extra veggies like carrots and celery to put into the fridge as quick snacks. We always always always make better choices if we can just grab veggies from the fridge and eat them right away. You can put them in zip-loc bags or in containers filled with water. This works really well for carrots and celery to keep them fresh.
- When you have the oven on, try and get a few dishes in there at the same time to save on energy. You can easily roast meat, vegetables, sweet potatoes, and a lentil shepherds pie at the same time, using the same power!
- Try and rinse bowls and utensils you are finished with as you go and pop them in the dishwasher. One of the most discouraging things about mass food prep is the clean-up afterwards, so make it easy on yourself by keeping your work area clean as you go.
Staying on track
As you get into the habit of prepping food, keep finding ways to make it interesting and exciting. Shop for really cute containers that stack nicely in the fridge and freezer. Ask for a high quality chef's knife or mandolin for your birthday. Laminate your recipes to keep them clean, attractive, and functional. The key is to make this a part of who you are and treat yourself with things that help you maintain this healthy lifestyle. It is extremely rewarding!
A Sample Day of Clean Eating
We get a lot of comments and questions from BodyRockers about the nuts and bolts of a healthy diet. They are working out with us every day but aren't seeing the weight loss they are aiming for. This is 90% down to what they are eating.
Different people have varying allergies or food intolerance, dislike certain foods, don't understand how much they should be eating, when they should be eating, when they should be working out, etc. On top of that, many have been given a lot of bad information by a dysfunctional dieting industry!
Let us de-mystify as much of this as possible for you! These are the methods we have found that have worked so well for so many BodyRockers. Of course, there are always those that are special cases and need personalized diet plans, but this works for the majority of people:
Everyone is different. There is no prescription for exactly what you should eat every day. You have to learn your own body and apply our guiding principles in a way that works for you.
Don't count calories.A calorie is a very misleading metric. It ignores nutrition content. You've heard of empty calories, right? It's just not a good way to help you decide on what to eat! Add to this that counting calories is soul-crushing and you'll see why we don't recommend it! It's good to have an idea of how many calories you should be consuming, but don't be obsessive and focus more on nutritious foods.
Your body has built in mechanisms to let you know when you've had enough. When you eat nutrient-rich foods you will be surprised how quickly you feel full. Portion control becomes almost automatic as long as you follow our general guidelines in step 1 above.
Don't shy away from real whole foods that contain carbs or fat. Low fat butter, for example, is not good for you. These "low-carb and low-fat" packaged foods are processed and are a nightmare for our health. Follow the guidance in step one in terms of which carbs and which fats to eat and in what quantity and you do not have to worry about gaining weight!
If you are working out (you are, right?) then you need carbs and protein before and after your workout. This does not mean you have to buy protein powder and have a shake! That's a fine option if you enjoy the shakes and you are buying a powder that is not full of nasty processed additives, but you can also get the same preparation and recovery from a well balanced meal!
If you workout in the evening, you still need to get some complex carbs and protein afterwards. As long as you are eating healthy whole foods then don't worry about eating in the evening. It will not make you fat!
The important thing here, as we keep saying, is that we are enjoying what we eat
and are making it easy for this approach to food to become a lifelong habit. This means we don't starve ourselves, we don't skip meals, we don't over-eat, we don't eat processed foods as a rule, and we always feel satisfied and energetic!
One Day Meal Plan
Here's what a day of healthy eating looks like when combined with a workout. The times are totally up to you, this is just a real example of how we ate one day this week:
(7am): Granola Pumpkin Parfait
(9:30am): Green Smoothie
(Noon): Easy Bean Salad
(3pm): Persian Cucumber and Yogurt Salad with Pita
(6:30pm): Roast Chicken with Veggies
OK, I'm salivating just thinking about those meals, and that is the way it should be! These meals are all nutrient rich and balanced and they are absolutely delicious. When you start craving these meals then you know the healthy eating habit is here to stay!
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