Like most people I find it incredibly hard to stick to eating a clean, wholesome diet all of the time. A busy lifestyle, the convenience and cost of junk or stodgy food and social events mean that it is far easier to go off track than to stay on course. However, over the years, particularly as a personal trainer, I have truly connected to how food is fuelling my body and moved away from several non-serving habits.
Here are my top ten hacks for breaking poor nutritional habits so you can get on track to leading a healthy, more energised life:
1. Keep It Simple
There's so much noise and conflicting advice around nutrition. Government guidance, the latest fad diets, product marketing tricks all lead to much confusion and can be quite overwhelming. My advice is to simplify your week. Identify what you like to eat, what sustains you, what time you have to purchase or create meals and plan your "perfect" nutritional day around this. Then repeat that daily until you are in a good consistent routine. Add variety into your meals as and when your routine is set.
Still too overwhelming? Just focus on getting one meal e.g. breakfast dialled in and then take it from there.
2. Know Your Daily Consumption Levels
Spend some time to understand what your personal consumption levels are and what foods (and drinks) will help you attain those levels. Identify how many calories you should be eating on a typical day so that your intake matches your energy output or activity levels. Does your "perfect" day meet those consumption levels. If not make adjustments.
3. Plan Your Week
Set aside some planning and food preparation time each week. Initially to decide on your "perfect" day and then to identify if this day is easily repeatable throughout the upcoming week.
If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail
Set yourself up for success by organising your food in advance. Have a set day that you go shopping, order an online shop or batch cook meals. Time planning and organising here will save you time throughout your week.
4. Plan for your Plan to Fail
We all have the best intentions at the start of trying something new but with any new resolution there comes a time where we slip back into old ways. Deeply engrained habits are hard to break especially if they have been undertaken for many years and may have emotional connections associated with them. So plan for your "perfect" day or week to fail and develop a what if scenario around this.
For example if your "perfect week" involves cooking a fresh meal every weekday but you get to Wednesday and you just don't have the time or capacity to do this. Maybe your typical action in this situation is to order a takeaway which normally takes you completely off track and away from your healthy habits and might even derail your week. So plan for this. Research what takeaway meals will keep you on track or store a certain number of healthier microwave meals for this occasion.
5. Invest in Your Kitchen and Streamline Solutions
What are the pain points of your nutritional habits? Lack of time, money, energy?
Until recently I didn't realise how much my old kitchen environment was hindering my healthy eating habits. The washing up was a constant effort, I couldn't find anything with ease in our cupboards and fridge and our kitchen utensils, pots & pans were just awful to cook with.
Various kitchen upgrades over time have massively helped me to create a better environment and develop a 'want' to be in the kitchen to cook. These have included the purchase of a dishwasher, new storage solutions where I can compartmentalise different foods in our cupboards & fridge, really gorgeous pots & pans (that I want to cook with and keep clean!) and developing enough space to have a permanent dining room table.
Work Smarter not Harder
Identify the sticking points in your week and develop a solution around them. This doesn't necessarily need to involve a large outlay of money but could involve things like having family members to help out in certain areas or organising your space more productively.
6. Batch Cook or Chop where you can
I am not a fan of batch cooking food for the full week and storing it. However I know this is a go to for many people who lead a busy but healthy lifestyle. My preference is to cook excess of the meal the night before so I can then have this for either lunch or dinner the next day. An element of freshness still then remains and then that also gives you respite from cooking the next day.
Another hack that I have found useful is batch cutting food. When I unload my weekly shop and put the food away in my cupboards I will use this time to batch chop certain foods e.g. vegetables so they are quickly accessible as and when I need them.
A great time saver for when you don't have the energy for the triple C - chop, cook & clean!
7. Mindfully Connect to Your Food & Drink (Become a Fuelometer)
Today's world is super fast paced and often we are all moving from task to task without much thought. This also means that more often than not we are not dialled in to what we are consuming and how this is fuelling our bodies and minds. Are you aware of what foods sustain you for longer periods than others? Knowing this and having an understanding of how your body reacts to certain foods is very powerful. It isn't all about grabbing the lowest calorie option to meet your consumption levels. Far from it!
8. Have a Detox Week
This doesn't have to be a full blown detox of all non-serving food and drink unless you really want to go for it. Detox weeks can be used to understand your relationship with certain food and drink that you and your body have become accustomed to. Whether out of habit, convenience, comfort or addiction. Understanding how your body and mind latches on to and reacts to certain food and drink substances is very powerful. Particular power comes from an ability to take control over this.
9. Focus on Your Drinks
Are you hydrating your body appropriately through your drinks? How are your drinks affecting your energy levels? Are you relying on certain drinks to stimulate your day?
Sugary drinks, highly caffeinated drinks, calorific drinks can all have a massive knock on impact to the food you want to consume, your energy levels and how you generally feel on a day to day basis. When considering your "perfect" nutritional day also have a focus and plan your hydration intake.
10. Reset & Refresh Often
Identify the low fatigue points through your week and plan in some refresh and reset time around this. For example I have a particularly busy Wednesdays with back to back sessions from 6am through to the evening. Thursdays I am therefore a lot lower in energy, the house is normally quite disorganised and food is starting to run low. I therefore use part of my Thursday morning to reset where I plan in a smaller food shop to top up the cupboards, set aside some organisation time and allow myself to chill for a moment so that the rest of my week isn't derailed.
Don't just think in weekly blocks identify your needed reset points within the week.
I go into greater detail and provide useful tools and resources to assist the development of a healthy, self serving lifestyle within my 28 day nutrition kickstarter course. This is a regularly run, online course. To find out more and to book your place on a upcoming course click HERE or visit https://www.theboxportsmouth.com/nutrition