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If there’s one “secret” I have to living a healthier lifestyle, it’s the importance of planning ahead. How many of you have done one of the following before:
1. Went to practive or the gym right after school/work starving because you forgot to pack a snack?
2. Came home after a long day at work or school, without eating anything since lunchtime…and being so hungry you eat half your pantry before even starting to cook dinner?
3. Hit snooze too many times or slept until the very last second, causing you to run out of time to prepare anything for breakfast?
4. Told yourself on a Sunday or Monday – “I’m going to eat healthy this entire week!”…Then the weekend comes around and you hadn’t planned that far, so you get completely off track of your goals?
5. Failed to pack a lunch resulting in you having to stop for fast food?
6. Went to the grocery store hungry, causing you to buy way more than you intended (and more unhealthy items than usual)?
7. Went to a party starving, causing you to try every type of dip, dessert, etc.?
See a trend? Failing to plan your meals can lead to unhealthy choices. Have you ever heard the saying “if you fail to plan, plan to fail?” I can’t stress enough how true this statement is. Here are some tips to help you perfect the art of meal planning:
1. Breakfast: If you like sleeping to the very last minute and don’t have time to prepare a breakfast before work, set out a banana and granola bar by your car keys so you have an easy on-the-go breakfast on your way to work or school. Or try my recipe for mini egg quiches – easy to make a dozen on the weekend and grab-and-go all week long.
2. Lunch: Instead of grabbing fast food over your lunch hour, make enough leftovers the night before so you’re guaranteed a healthy lunch. If there’s no fridge or microwave at work, make a wrap, salad, or sandwich and keep in a lunchbox with an ice pack. You’ll be amazed at the money you’ll save by bringing your own lunch everyday!
3. Weekly Meal prepping: Use Sundays, or whichever day you have off of work to prep your meals for the week. Need ideas? Use a crockpot to make 8 mornings worth of steel cut oatmeal using my recipe here. Crockpot cooking helps keep meat moist and requires very little time on your end. One of the easiest things you can do is toss in several chicken breasts (will need to cook longer if frozen), your favorite vegetables and seasonings, and a little bit of low-sodium chicken/vegetable broth or even water just to keep it moist. Separate into Tupperware containers and you have lunches for the entire week! You could also try my simple crockpot turkey chili recipe.
4. Snacks: Pre-slice your vegetables and fruits and keep in airtight containers at eye level in the front of your fridge. They should be the first items you see when you need a quick snack! Having pre-sliced veggies also make it so simple to create omelets, salads, casseroles, soups, anything! If you feel you don’t have time to slice your own fruits and veggies, most grocery stores sell pre-sliced from their kitchens…although this is more expensive, the extra cost is worth it if it means you’ll be more likely to eat more fruits and vegetables!
5. Snacks: Keep snacks that don’t require refrigeration (such as Lara bars, Kind bars, nuts & seeds) in your car for your drive home after work so you won’t be starving by the time you get home and begin cooking dinner. You can pre measure single size portions (1/4 cup) of nuts and separate into Ziploc baggies. Keep these snacks along with peanut butter and fresh fruits in your locker/gym bag so you are prepared for practice.
6. Dinner: If you are making dinner at home, plan what you will be making the day or two before so you have a list (or bring the recipes) when you head to the grocery store. And never go to the grocery store hungry! This can increase impulse buying. Check out my blog post on grocery shopping tips here.
7. Dinner Out: If you’re going out to dinner…text your dietitian! But seriously, this is the number one service my busy, traveling athletes ask me to do for them. If you are too busy to look at the menu, nutrition facts, or photos (for portion sizes) online beforehand, I look over all of this for you and give a list of the healthiest options.
8. Parties: If you’re going to a party/social gathering where you know you’ll be tempted by junk foods, eat a healthy meal so you don’t arrive hungry. Also, bring your own healthy snacks like a veggie tray with my hummus recipe, or a fruit salad with my yogurt fruit dip recipe.