The buzz of summer is coming to an end, and while transitioning into a new season never goes quite as planned, there are some smart ways you can capitalize on the change of pace to get back to healthier eating habits. Whether you’ve been off track for a week, a month or maybe even longer, try implementing these effective strategies that can yield big improvements to your nutrition.
Designate a day and time to plan and prep
Put your plans to paper. A little visual organization with a wall calendar goes a long way, specifically when it comes to planning out the family’s schedules, appointments and social events and how they may influence meal plans and grocery needs for the week. What typically works best for me is to plan four meals for the work week, with leftovers being used for lunches. Be sure to write down your workouts on their designated days as that can significantly impact what foods you pack for the day.
Pick a day to take food inventory and make a grocery list. For me, I do this every Sunday and hit the store for all of my staples and meal-specific food items. Planning beforehand allows me to shop with purpose and stick to my list. As a result, I avoid over-purchasing, which can lead to poor food choices and food waste. Your first go-around will take some extra time (or if you’re getting back into the habit) but the more you do it, the more efficient you will become.
Pick your protein and veggies. Wash and cut up vegetables. Hard boil your eggs. Fry your bacon and/or grass-fed beef. Anything you can do now to minimize prepping, packing or cooking meals later in the week will help so much. One of the biggest complaints I hear about vegetables is that they always go bad or aren’t convenient to grab on the go. If you wash them and cut them up (maybe even pack several plastic “sandwich” bags or small Tupperware containers) as soon as you get home from the store, you’ll be more likely to grab them or eat them for convenience when you are in a time crunch! While it costs a little more, if you’re tight on time and still want that convenience factor, you can always buy pre-cut veggies too.
Pack food the night before
Alleviate stress from your morning routine. Each day has its own unique demands, so plan your snacks and meals accordingly the night before. By packing what you need the night before you’ll be less frantic getting ready in the morning and will have a little more time for more useful things like enjoying breakfast with the family or taking some time to meditate or write in a gratitude journal. Being prepared will also guarantee that you aren’t walking into the day empty handed, which can increase the chances of reaching for any type of food that’s within reach even if it’s unhealthy and has low nutritional value. Plus, when the lunch hour strikes at work, you’ll be proud of yourself for sticking with the lunch you brought instead of ordering a less-than-stellar lunch from a local fast food restaurant or delivery service.
Prioritize a quality sleep routine
Get in sync with the sun and go to bed when it does, aiming to get at least 7-9 hours of uninterrupted, quality sleep each night. Without adequate sleep, hormones can become imbalanced and lead to overeating, increased stress, weight gain, blood sugar problems and other health complications, including cardiovascular disease. Specifically, our appetite-regulating hormones, ghrelin and leptin, are profoundly influenced by sleep duration. Leptin is a hormone that signals satiety or the “I’m full” message to our brains, while Ghrelin is our “hunger hormone” that signals to our brains that we’re hungry. During sleep we produce fresh neurotransmitters that help regulate hormone production, so when we don’t get enough of it, these hunger-hormone messages can get thrown off and lead to things like overeating.
Establish a successful morning routine
Set the tone for the rest of the day. Whether you consider yourself a morning person or not, having a consistent go-to routine when you wake up can be a major indication for of how the rest of your day will turn out. By starting your day on the right foot (for me it’s always getting in my protein shake along with taking my supplements) you’ll be in such a better position to make healthier decisions throughout the day. When clients incorporate fitness into their morning routine or prioritize a high-protein breakfast, they’ve experienced first-hand how it has set them up for success for the remainder of the day. For me personally, on the days I don’t get my shake and supplements in, I tend to be more stressed, my energy feels off and my cravings increase.
Bring back family dinner
Reclaim the dinner table. You (and your family) deserve this time. Understandably, for some this may not be realistic to do on a daily basis but start out by picking one day a week to start easing your way into this habit. While life can move fast, this is a great time to slow down and spend quality time with family (putting down those phones) and start to practice mindful eating. By doing so you can bring awareness to your hunger/full levels and slow down your rate of eating to aid in digestion and prevent overeating. This simple act of sitting together for a meal doesn’t have to be a lengthy event—even 15-20 minutes may suffice.
Focus on one thing at a time
You can do anything, but not everything. Rome wasn’t built in a day and getting back to a consistent and healthy eating routine doesn’t work that way either. While it can feel overwhelming to consider all the tips and tactics out there that you can adopt, it’s so important to take the process in stride and at a pace that works best for you. By trying to do too much too soon, the chances of giving up and landing back at square one tends to go up significantly. Start on a few key habits to incorporate into your routine, and as you get the hang of this, gradually include other habits that build on the ones you’ve already mastered.
I hope you find these strategies helpful – and remember, you can always email our team of Registered Dietitians to discuss how you can enhance your current nutrition plan or how to get started with making a personalized nutrition plan that gets you back to a healthy eating routine.
In health, Anika Christ – Director – Digital Programming & Events – Life Time Weight Loss
This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.