Eating a healthy, nutrient-rich diet is one of the hardest lifestyle changes to make for many of the people who we work with. Oftentimes, eating better does not happen because of inconvenience, whether it’s difficulty deciding what to eat, how much to eat, or finding the time to prepare healthy dishes.
In our experience, healthy eating comes most naturally when it is made convenient, or in other words, when you don’t have to think about it. We do this through planning and preparing.
While planning and preparing seem very similar, it is valuable to recognize the difference between the two to better see where you should spend more of your focus!
Planning is like writing a script. You are predetermining what you are going to do and when. This makes execution simpler because you no longer have to weigh the options and make decisions multiple times per day because you already have a game plan. When the reminder goes off on your phone or you get to your scheduled action time, all you’ve got to do is act, no thinking required!
Ultimately, planning is developing a strategy. You are way more likely to find success if you have a strategy. A strategy does not make it certain, but a lack of strategy makes failure as close to certain as anything!
Preparation is like packing your suitcase for the trip. When you are prepared, you will know how to respond to the environment. Preparation provides you with motivation. Motivation is action on reason.
Planning is your what and when. Preparing is your how and where.
If you combine planning and preparation, you have covered your what, when, where, and how. Which leaves you only missing your why. Your why is the most important determining factor of success. Without a strong why as a foundation, the rest of the process remains weak. Taking the time to determine your why will give you the fuel to continue to make positive choices, even when the negative ones seem tempting.
Let’s recap 3 take-aways for establishing healthy eating habits:
- You must define your why before you can start planning.
- Planning comes before preparing, so refine this skill first.
- Preparing is the action taking phase… AKA… Execution baby!
Now, how do you actually put this into practice?
Start by picking the least stressful day of your week (likely one where you do not work), and give yourself 30 minutes to plan the next week. I like to do this in the morning hours when I am fresh, but sometimes it makes more sense for me to do in the afternoon. In this 30 minute window, you will be thinking about the week ahead, your meetings, obligations, and appointments, and planning when will be the best time to set aside time for eating (or whatever important tasks you want to be sure to prioritize).
For me this is 8-8:30, 11:00-11:30, 2:00-3:00, 6:00-7:00, and 8:00-8:30. This gives me ample time to consume my food, and when that time is blocked I know other distractions cannot get in the way. This also gives me 5 opportunities to eat! That way I can get all the food I need to nourish myself and support optimized body function.
Once you know your time blocks, you’re going to plan what you are going to eat. You can start general and get specific as the skill improves!
A general plan might look like this:
8:00-8:30 = 40g Protein/30g Fat/50g Carb
11:00-11:30 = 30g Protein/10g Fat/20g Carb
2:00-3:00 = 50g Protein/30g Fat/ 100g Carb
6:00-7:00 = 30g Protein/15g Fat/ 70g Carb
8:00-8:30 = 20g Protein/20g Carb
And a specific plan might look like this:
8:00-8:30 = Kodiak Cake/Peanut Butter/ 3 Whole Eggs/ 2 Egg Whites/ 1/3c Milk/ Coffee
11:00 – 11:30 = Protein Shake/Yogurt/Apple
2:00-3:00 = Chipotle Burrito
6:00-7:00 = Chicken/Rice//Olive Oil
8:00-8:30 = Protein Shake/Banana
*I did not include my veggies as they are relatively negligible towards my macros, but they are a vital part of any healthy diet and for most, the simplest change to make.
This plan is specific for me and my activity level. This is 2,485cals and that is fine for me on a non-workout day.
Now that you have practiced planning for a more successful nutrition plan, you can implement the same thing into your work week. But why stop there? This time blocking exercise can be used for anything that you would like to make a priority in your life. Time-block your family time. Time block your workouts. You can get more and more detailed over time and before you know it, you’ll be a success machine!
When it comes to preparing, you’ve got a lot more flexibility. Here is what you want to know though.
Prepare the meals ahead of time, especially if they drain you.
- Cook in double batches and have the same dinner every 2 nights.
- Cut up all of your veggies for the week so you simply have to toss them onto a cooking sheet or into a pan.
Set up your environment.
- This might mean putting a sticky note on your computer monitor, on your steering wheel, or on your bathroom mirror, every day that reminds you to eat or setting reminders on your phone.
- It might be keeping your protein powder out on a counter to cue you to make a drink and stay on track.
- It might also include getting rid of distractions, like closing your email when you aren’t using it (time-block when you can engage in email).
- It may also look like setting most everything out on the counter the night before to streamline the making of breakfast (Disclaimer, don’t leave perishable food out overnight… I feel like I shouldn’t have to say this, but you never know anymore!)
Being productive and efficient with your time is most definitely becoming a lost art in our society. There are so many distractions that consume our time in small enough windows, that we do not realize the compounding impact they have on us. By planning and preparing ahead of time, when you have the energy and mental capacity to do so, you’ll make eating healthy an easy choice, making it a sustainable change!