Today, we're going to tackle the mother of all nutrition questions: "How in the world am I supposed to eat well, take care of myself, and do all the things I know I need to be doing when life is just plain CRAZY?!"
We're going to give you a playbook to set your life up so that making healthy, nutritional choices becomes easy. Yea, I said easy!
Let me be clear: easy nutrition takes some foresight and some ground work, but if you put the time in, and are willing to build the skill set, you really can do this...
Now, before we jump into the "how to" on making nutrition easy, we must first explore an important concept to this philosophy: healthy, solid nutrition habits are a skill.
Yes, a skill. Healthy nutrition habits are not something that just happen. They're practiced. They're developed. They take awareness to create.
Let's step outside of nutrition for a moment and work through this concept in another way...
Let's say you are asked by a friend for some advice, "Hey, I want to be really good at playing basketball, but I've never played before - I don't even know the rules - where do you recommend I begin?"
What would be the first action you recommend your friend take?
Would you say, "Hey! You should sign up for a basketball league that meets twice a week. The games are intense, competition is high, and you'll be playing with some really talented folks."
Ehh...probably not, right?
Even if you personally knew nothing about how to teach basketball skill, I'm going to guess you wouldn't recommend your friend start at this high level.
What you might recommend instead is they watch a basketball game on TV and learn the rules. Then, learn how to dribble. From there, learn how to pass. Then, to shoot. Then, learn how to play defense. Next, how to read plays. You get the idea.
What you're doing here is recommending your friend learn the basics and build from there!
Nutrition is no different. Yet, it's so common for us to want to jump right into the big leagues without setting a strong foundation. We all want to be "dunking the basketball" in two weeks.
Just like any sport, musical instrument (any talent), it takes a foundation of skills and practice to excel. Solid nutrition is just a series of well practiced skills, nothing more.
So, if you're really ready to excel at this nutrition thing, take few steps back and consider what the most basic habits are that you are not consistently doing. Let's focus there first. Then, we can start to learn how to shoot, pass, and play in some more competitive games.
Again, building the skills that result in healthy, automatic nutrition habits is the secret sauce.
Start at the foundation, and build on it.
In my year long nutrition coaching program, I have my clients focus on developing only one new habit at a time.
This is what I'm proposing you do too.
A. you're actually learning how to do this nutrition thing within the constraints of your life (rather than forcing yourself to adhere to a 30 day eating challenge that will never be sustainable in the context of "regular" life).
B. so you don't feel overwhelmed by changing 20 different habits at once. In fact, research has shown we are more successful in the long run when we bring our focus to changing only one habit at a time.
Just look at the success rates of adopting new habits from the book "Power of Less" by Leo Babauta:
1 new habit at a time: 85% success
2 new habits at a time: 35% success
3 new habits at a time: <10% success
Don't make nutrition more challenging or more stressful than it needs to be...
Now that we've worked through the idea that solid nutrition is actually a series of practiced skills and habits, let's look at a simple progression you can work through (one step at a time) that can help you set up a life of nutrition ease.
Step 1: Make time to plan.
Set a time each week to plan your meals and get clear on "challenging" events for the upcoming week.
This step is crucial.
It allows you to be proactive in your life, rather than reactive to the craziness life can bring.
Skip this step, and you'll fall right back into old patterns in no time...like grabbing the Dunkin' Donuts breakfast sandwich because you forgot to prep breakfast the night before or swinging by the drive through because you have no lunch and only 30 minutes to eat before getting to your next meeting.
Here are some printable templates designed by one of my nutrition coaching clients for you to use:
Step 2: Get clear on your trouble spots.
List all the times and places in your life when it would be beneficial to have accessible and healthy snacks available.
Just focus on snacks here for the moment. We'll get to meal prep down the line.
Think of ALL the possible places it might be beneficial for you to have snacks ready.
Maybe all you need is an apple ready to throw in your bag each day to replace the 10:30AM donut run... or a bunch of bananas sitting on your desk each week to choose over the cookies your co-worker brought (again) for someone's birthday.
We'll get to the specific food items in a moment, for now, only get clear on the times and places in your life where healthy snacks will be welcome.
Step 3: Build a healthy (and easily transportable) snack list.
List out all the snacks that you deem healthy and accessible. Make these items a part of your regular grocery shopping list.
Fruit is king here. Apples keep very well for long periods. Bananas are great too, as long as you eat them within a couple of days.
Here are some other snack ideas to help get the wheels turning:
Oranges, carrots, sugar snap peas, almonds or peanuts, hummus for dipping, celery and peanut butter, cucumber slices, beef jerky (don't get too crazy on this one, but it's better than a bag of chips!), the list goes on and on...
Step 4: Grocery shop your snack list.
Buy the snack items you listed in the above step. Practice building the habit of bringing them to the places you want to have easy access to healthy foods (home, work, commutes, ect).
Let's pause for a moment and notice something very simple, but very powerful.
In order for this process to work, you have to consistently go back to Step 1: make time to plan.
You could successful work through all the steps, have awesome health and transportable snacks ready to bring with you anywhere.
But, if you're not consistently making time to identify when you need to use these items, it will all be for naught. And, you'll end up throwing loads of rotten food away on a regular basis...sound familiar?
Once you master these four steps, we can then move onto more advanced meal prep strategies.
Step 5: Invest in the proper tools.
In order to properly meal prep, you must have the proper tools. Start with: pots and pans to cook large quantity meals in and glass tupperware.
Go out and buy what you don't have. I highly recommend these glass tupperware containers for MealPrep.
Step 6: Create your recipe book.
Research meals and make a list of meals that you will:
B. can be made in large quantities
If they can be frozen for use later, this is a big plus, as it means less cooking in the long run.
Here's a printable template you can use to keep track of your top recipes, create a grocery list, and schedule your weekly meals:
Step 7: Get meal prep time on the calendar.
Schedule a time (or a few times) each week that you cook and meal prep larger quantities of food for the rest of your week.
Important note: be realistic. If you know that every Wednesday night you come up exhausted from work and never feel like cooking, don't say that this is the day you're going to meal prep!
While everyone's schedule is different, weekends tend to work well for most, as it's the easiest to time in the week to block out an hour for cooking and meal prep without interruption.
Step 8: Complete the meal prep.
Cook your meals, split them into portioned containers, and use them for quick lunches, dinners, ect. You're done!
Now that I've outlined 8 steps to this process, I have a request (one that you might not like...) I want you to only focus on steps 1 through 4 for the next two weeks.
Don't worry about the full meal prep...yet. First, get really good at planning your meals each week and setting up "healthy food oasis's" across your life.
Get good and consistent with the first 4 steps before jumping into the more advanced meal prep activities...
And yes, still do Step 1, even if you're not doing full meal prep yet.
Planning your meals might look like: Ok, on Tuesday I'm going to be rushed for lunch. Rather than finding myself in a bind and grabbing the first thing I see, I'm going to plan on ordering the Salmon Salad online and have it delivered to the office. All while making sure I eat the apple I brought at 10AM, so I'm not incredibly hungry...
Get the idea?
By practicing this process and building the skill of meal planning, you'll have healthy food options available wherever you go, whenever you need, making healthy nutrition easy.
Start at the first step. Move to the second step. Master each step, one at a time. Finish at the final step.
Making nutrition easy is just one component of the needed skill set to be successful at eating well.
In my year long nutrition coaching program, we take exactly this approach to nutrition, but on an even lager scale.
Lift weights for a year straight? You're going to build muscle. We build your nutrition muscle, one step at a time, one habit at a time, one day at a time.
What to make nutrition even easier?
Stop counting calories, tracking your food, weighing your food. Cutting out food - carbs, fat, sugar, fruit - stop it!
There's another way. It's much simpler. You'll:
- never have to enter your calories into a pesky app again
- always have this guide with you, make it as convenient as possible
- learn a sustainable way to properly portion your food and you can begin using this skill immediately
- save a TON of time and energy, while actually getting lasting results
We call it the "hand portion" method. Get your FREE "hand portion" guide here.
Are you ready to achieve amazing results?
This is the exact approach to nutrition coaching I take with my clients. For one year, I'll take you through a program designed around behavior-oriented goals that add up to some INCREDIBLE transformations.
Here at Andrew Leonard Coaching, I partner with busy, everyday folks ready to make real, sustainable change in their nutrition & fitness practices.
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Whether you're tired of yo-yo dieting, feel too busy to commit to an extreme exercise program, or are just starting your nutrition journey, we'll provide you a sustainable path and unprecedented guidance through our coaching.
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