Have you ever skipped breakfast because you were in a rush – and ending up grabbing a mid-morning candy bar to stave off hunger?
Have you ever wished that you had something healthy for lunch – when your canteen seems to specialize in greasy fried foods?
Have you ever phoned for a pizza just because there was nothing in the fridge?
Most of us have fallen into these traps at some point, often when we’re busy or stressed with a number of work and life pressures. The key to succeeding long-term with healthy eating is to get organized: to plan ahead to ensure that things go smoothly.
Organizing Your Whole Week
It pays to think ahead a bit when you’re dieting. I like to do this on a Sunday afternoon – usually a quiet time in the week for me. Good things to consider are:
- What meals will you be eating this week? What groceries do you need to purchase, and what do you already have in the cupboards?
- Do you have food on hand to make simple lunches to take into work (or school)?
- Will you need to eat out at any point during the week (perhaps for a business event, or when meeting up with friends). If so, plan to make sensible, healthy food choices for the rest of that day to mitigate any damage caused by indulging more than usual while you’re out.
- Are there days when you’ll be too busy or tired to cook an evening meal? Can you prepare extra food a day or two before so that you have something on hand that just needs reheating?
Organizing Your Day
How often do you resolve to get up earlier, and to have plenty of time to exercise and eat a healthy breakfast in the morning? And how many times do you manage it? If you find it hard to get going first thing, try getting as much preparation as possible done the night before.
- Put your cereal box, bowl and spoon ready in the kitchen – and make sure you have milk in the fridge (a 7am dash to the corner shop won’t help your morning run smoothly).
- Prepare a fruit salad the day before, and refrigerate overnight – a quick, simple and healthy breakfast.
- Measure milk and porridge oats into a large jug and keep it in the fridge overnight. In the morning, you can just zap it in the microwave.
Many of us waste money and eat unhealthily at lunchtime because we end up buying sandwiches from supermarkets, or grabbing the meal of the day at the canteen. It’s almost always healthier and cheaper to make lunch at home: you’ll know exactly what’s going into it.
- For a simple no-preparation lunch, cook extra when you make your evening meal and take a “doggy bag” of leftovers the next day.
- Chop up salad or make sandwiches the evening before: they’ll keep overnight in the fridge.
- If you are buying a sandwich or salad from a supermarket, check the labels for fat, sugar and calorie content. Many stores do “healthy” ranges, which can cut the calories in your lunch in half.
If you find yourself surviving on microwave meals, or regularly eating out just because you can’t find the time or energy to cook, plan ahead with your evening meals: don’t rely on feeling inspired when you get home!
- Make sure you’ve got enough basic foods in the cupboards and fridge (Mike wrote a great list here) to make a simple meal at any time.
- Where possible, make double portions and freeze half. This works especially well for curries and pasta sauces. You’ll save yourself a lot of effort on busy nights if you can get something healthy and homemade out of the freezer.
- Get other family members or housemates involved in the cooking. Don’t rule out using your children to help: they could wash vegetables, fetch and carry, and set the table. Take it in turns with your partner to cook the evening meal, planning around the nights when you or they are likely to be busy.
How do you organize your day and your week to make sure that you can stick to your healthy eating plans without life getting in the way?