Living a life in which diet and exercise are a part is hugely different than one that is consumed by them. You can let these things take up as much or as little time as you choose, but don’t forget that time spent on ‘them’ is time spent away from other, higher priority tasks (e.g. raising a family, nurturing relationships, starting a business, traveling, personal and career development). Moreover, thinking about food and fitness 24/7 consumes finite mental energy that could be directed toward arguably more productive use. Work smarter, not longer and you can have it all - eat well, train hard and have a life that you love beyond eating and exercise.
In today’s post, I’m going to share with you my Top 6 Tips for Effortless Eating to free up the time you spend in the kitchen so that you have more time to do more of what you love. Sound good? Ready, set, legoooo!
1. Protein, Produce and Pantry (Bulk). Preparedness starts at the grocery store but with literally thousands of products on the market, this can be totally overwhelming… if you let it be. Instead, shop the perimeter and remember our JERF principle as you put together your perfect, for YOU, eating ‘plan:’ plenty of quality protein, veggies (fiber), water, healthy fats and clean sources of carbohydrate. The crackers, cookies, chips, ice cream and bread you’ll find in the middle aisles, however Paleo, gluten- or allergen-free they may be are still treats and to be enjoyed, in moderation. Really, glorified junk food. #nothanks Bypass these aisles to save time, money and decision fatigue you’ll be faced with later if you choose to bring home half of the store.
2. Batch cook your protein. I totally get not wanting to cook (and eat) the protein you cooked on Sunday the following Saturday. *gag* But grilling/baking/cooking multiple times a day, every day may not be realistic if you find yourself busy and/or constantly on-the-go (or maybe, you just hate to cook). If I’ve just described you, consider setting aside a day or a few each week when you do have more time to prep some protein for easy meal and snack assembly through the week. Cook once, eat lots. It’s where it’s at. Not sure where to start? Throw some chicken breasts or steaks on the grill to slice and serve over salads (I prefer steaks for dinner fresh, and hot off the grill); prep chicken or turkey breasts or tenderloins in the crock pot; sauté grass-fed beef or organic (or all-natural - do your best!) ground turkey or chicken on the stove top; hard-boil eggs. Worst-case scenario? Grab a rotisserie chicken or two, dismantle and store in a Pyrex in the fridge to add to meals through the week. To my plant-based friends - you need protein, too! While a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle may make it more difficult to get your protein in, it is not impossible. It just requires that you be a bit more intentional with your food choices. Consider prepping a big batch of quinoa - while a dietary carbohydrate primarily, it does offer some protein. Buckwheat, chia, Ezekiel bread and plant-based protein powders can also contribute toward your daily protein requirement.
3. Pre-wash, pre-chop your veggies. Or, buy them already prepped. I hate making salads; also grilling and roasting veggies. And that’s coming from someone who loves my BAS (big a** salad) and #onebowlmeal’s more than anything - I eat at least one a day. But they take so long to prep, no? The time and energy saved by washing and chopping your vegetables at the beginning of the week is well worth it. Not to mention you wash your knife and cutting board just once. Team Less Mess, you with me? ;) Imma let you in on another lil’ secret of mine - if you’re short on time, food prep is really just not your thing or whatever, buy your greens pre-washed. You’ll pay for this convenience, of course, but if you “save” elsewhere (time, energy or money), it’s justified IMO.
4. Take a night off. Cooking, even for us foodies, is hard work and especially, if you have a family of mouths to feed! Throw yourself a bone every once in a while. Treat yourself and order take out, dine out, grab salad bar or make something from the freezer (see #5) to give yourself a break. Picky kids? Pizza night every once in a while is not going to kill them. Or, buy the ingredients to DIY and let them make their own. Use Ezekiel English Muffins, store-bought gluten-free dough or some combination of riced cauliflower, almond flour and coconut flour for the crust - there are tons of recipes out there (though a bit more involved than the first two options)!
5. Stock your freezer. Frozen fruits and vegetables are just that - fresh produce frozen at peak freshness and still, nutrient-dense. Steam on the stovetop then sauté or defrost in ready-to-go, microwave-safe bags. Add your favorite protein, season to taste and voila! Meals made simple. Keep frozen protein options on hand for in a pinch - freeze cryovac or freezer-safe packs of meat/fish/poultry (I love doing this when I hit a sale!) or buy pre-made turkey, salmon or mahi burgers or chicken sausages that you can easily heat and serve. If you feel so inclined, double your recipes and freeze half in individual servings for DIY convenience eating on nights when you’re late getting in, out of groceries or just plain tired. Chilis and broth-based soups and stews are great for this!
6. Convenience. Find a few real food convenience options that help you stay prepared when real food is not an option. These should be things that you love eating, that make you feel good while you are eating them *and* after and that align with your health/wellness intentions. Be your own detective and find what these things are for you, then stash them everywhere - in your desk, car, bag(s)… wherever! You don’t need tons of options, just enough to satisfy the degree of nutritional variety you desire. A few of my faves? Partially defrosted Vukoo bars (keep them frozen for optimal freshness)- think the best fudgey, but not too chocolatey gluten-free brownie-esque bar your taste buds have experienced - SIGBU is my fave! Almonds and jerky also top my list of convenient snacks for on-the-go.
If we can make the healthier choices just as convenient (i.e. available and accessible) as the unhealthy choices, we’re more likely to make them. And the more consistently we can make these choices, the more likely we are to achieve the results we desire.
“Simplifying Your Nutrition: A How-To”; Vukoo®