We all know that we should eat better, but the mass of information out there makes it confusing. Unfortunately, many companies make millions of dollars on keeping you confused about what to eat. It allows them to create products and “systems” that they convince you are necessary to lose weight. This intentional complicating of a pretty straightforward concept makes people’s heads spin, and many just throw their hands up and give up (typically after spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on what they’re told will “change their lives”).
The truth is, eating better is easy. The key tricks: Plan ahead and keep things simple.
Prepare in Bulk
Preparing food in bulk at the start of each week is one of the best ways to make sure you always have healthy food at the ready. When we are hungry, we tend to go for what’s there. If we have healthy food on hand, it’s easy to grab and eat it. Block out some time to go grocery shopping and to prepare most of your food on Sunday. You may need to add in a 2nd day of the week (Wednesday or Thursday) to do another batch, depending on how well your food stays. While many people feel they “don’t have time” to do this, you actually save time in the long run by not having to throw together meals, scour the refrigerator and pantry for something, and by not having to spend time trying to make something every single day. Cooking full meals from scratch each day wastes lots of time and is a great way to make sure you fall off the band wagon.
Keep Food Choices Simple
Food will often be best when prepared the easiest way. That means most of your prepared food should be done in the simplest way possible without complicated recipes. Bake potatoes, boil rice, grill chicken, and roast vegetables (or buy frozen vegetables- more on this later). Keep them in containers in the fridge and they will hold for three to four days. You don’t need to season the rice or the potatoes at this point, you can do that when you are portioning out your meals. For now, keep it simple. The point of cooking in bulk is to have stock items on hand that you can quickly turn into meals.
Have fun with the chicken (or whatever proteins you choose. Steak or fish are also good choices on occasion). Try to season it in a different way each time and come up with a few ways that you like it. Some tried and true favorites are lemon-pepper, lemon-ginger, taco inspired seasonings, or Mediterranean inspired seasonings. The point is that you can use variety with seasoning to keep things interesting. Protein is the only thing you want to season at this point, but cooking it with seasoning makes a world of difference in the taste department.
Portion your Meals Out
Once you have all of your food made you can then either keep it in containers, or portion it out into meals right after you prepared it so you have meals ready to go. Either way works, but taking the 15 minutes to portion out your meals means one less step as you’re heading out the door for work or upon arrival after work. This also allows you to vary seasonings on rice, potatoes, or veggies if you want. At this point you can also add fats to your meals if need be. Drizzle on some oil (be mindful of how much, a little goes a long way), add some avocado, or pack a handful of . nuts and you have a balanced meal.
This is also a good time to think about frozen vegetables. Frozen vegetables will help keep your meal cold while in your lunch bag and will be ready to be eaten by the time you are ready to eat the meal.
Use your Hand as Portion Control.
A very easy way to keep portion sizes under control is to use your hands as measuring tools. You always have your hands with you and they are specifically scaled to you.
Here is how you want to gauge each meal:
- Protein should be about the size of your palm.
- Vegetables should be about the size of your whole hand.
- Carbohydrates should be about the size of your hand if you were to make a cup with it.
- Fat should be about the size of your thumb.
It’s as easy as that.
Put a Lid on It
Eating better is truly that simple. Forget all the gimmicks out there. Eating nutritious foods 80% of the time (with some room for desserts/more decadent foods) and keeping portions in check is the easy formula to eating better. Plan ahead and prep your meals on designated days. You don’t need to have all food prepped, either. Prep the meals that you know you don’t have time to make on-demand, and leave room for fresh meals when it makes sense for your schedule. This saves tons of time and makes eating healthy a normal part of every day.
Start changing your eating habits now and watch your results in the gym come back ten fold.