Here are some tips to help ensure that your food choices are not made without proper planning and consideration of what you are eating.
Think about what you want to eat in the week ahead
Decide on some healthy meals that you really find delicious or some new dishes that you would like to try. Get ideas for different recipes, from books, magazines and the web, have a look at our recipe ideas to get inspired — be adventurous and try something new. Go through the cupboards and fridge to see what you have in and get creative.
Write your menu
Now for some planning. With the recipes you have chosen, sketch out a weekly plan deciding which dishes to eat on which days. Think about what days you will be particularly pushed for time and choose something to prepare that will fit easily into that time frame without too much hassle.
Display your menu
When you are done, display your menu somewhere where you can easily see it, like on the fridge door or a kitchen cupboard — this will serve to inspire you. You are less likely to grab a less than healthy snack when the prospect of a lovely nutritious meal is written in front of you. Also, with any luck, someone who is at home before you might just start preparing it!
Make a list of ingredients
With your weekly menu decided you need to make a shopping list of all the extra ingredients and any other things you will need. This may seem obvious, but this is a definitive list — if it is not on the list, you don’t buy it — simple as that! This is a great way to avoid any temping treats sneaking into your trolley which may inevitably sneak into your mouth!
Time to shop! Get everything on your list and DON’T stray from it! Obviously, if you are shopping for the family or others there may be extra things that you do need to buy. A little tip to help you through — choose family treats that are not your favorites —you are less likely to stray then. Anyway — why not think about getting everyone involved in your healthy plan?
Now with your fridge and cupboards stocked, and armed with your daily meal plan, you are ready to take on the week ahead. But if you do find your enthusiasm and motivation waning here are some further hints and tips to help you through.
Make a packed lunch
If you are out during the day, get into the habit of having a packed lunch. A packed lunch on hand will serve to curb unhealthy choices that are often made during rushed lunch hours — and it will save you money.
Prepare meals ahead
Where possible, prepare your packed lunch for the next day the night before when you are preparing your evening meal — just make a little bit more salad, risotto, steamed veg or whatever you are having. This just takes the hassle out of having to prepare food twice and let’s be honest, the last thing you are thinking about when you get up in the morning is what to have for lunch!
Have an emergency snack box
We have all done it — arrived home famished and reach for a quick fix to get us back on our feet. More often than not the foods we crave and ultimately grab in these situations are the naughty ones — the odd cookie that inevitably leads to another, and another! Having a snack box, can stop your cravings in their tracks and won’t ruin your appetite for the meal you have carefully planned for later …
Chopped raw veg like carrots, celery and peppers are the obvious alternatives but can be a little uninspiring, so make up a low-fat cheat’s raita dip with some natural yogurt, lemon juice and just a touch of mint sauce (any old jarred stuff will do) and lots of ground black pepper. Alternatively, try fruit that you can easily grab — a handful of grapes or berries are a great quick fix. Pumpkin seeds, unsalted cashew nuts and dried fruits are also good sources of nutrition when you are feeling flakey!
Dealing with a meal out
If you are out for a meal, before you get to the restaurant, have some sort of plan of what foods to select, opting for the healthier alternatives. After a glass of wine or two your good intentions may be harder to follow. If you have a firm idea before you go of what to order you will less likely stray. You can even go to the extreme of getting the restaurant to fax or email the menu so you can decide even before you get there — extreme I know, but all in aid of sticking to that healthy eating plan.
When starting out on a healthy eating plan, the first few weeks are the hardest, both you and your body are adjusting to different regimes but it is really important to get organised, have a plan and stick with it. You and your body will soon slip into the routine and reap the benefits.