I’m not going to give you recipes and diet tips. What I am about it building new habits. Specifically this can be useful when it comes to eating more healthfully. What follows is a set of guidelines that you can use to live more fully into the rest of your life.
Meal Prep. Meal prepping is simple. All you have to do is pick a recipe you like, double or triple the ingredients, and eat that same food several times throughout the week.
Instead of cooking meal after meal throughout the week, meal prepping begins by intentionally making more or “batch cooking” your meals for a few days or a week. That way you’ve got meals on hand for easy breakfasts, lunch during the work day, or dinner. It might look like chopping extra veggies and stashing them in the fridge or cooking extra portions of proteins and freezing them for quick assembly at a later date. This technique will save you money in the long run, but does require up-front planning and prep work.
Track it. Tracking your food intake instead of following a specific “diet” and you’ll lose more weight and keep it off.
Studies repeatedly show that without following a particular diet, overweight people who tracked daily food consumption using free apps lose more weight than those who do not track. You don’t have to use an app, a journal or spreadsheet can work just as well. The key is to notice.
It’s most helpful if you begin with personal goals and measures coupled with learned skills and guidance along the way to be most successful in staying consistent. (https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/02/190228154839.htm)
Swap it. Craving a treat? opt for low-sugar fruit like berries over a candy bar, sparkling water instead of soda. You can still indulge but plan for a better option.
Plan for the worst. Look ahead at your day or week. If there are late nights, tons of meetings, lots of driving, envision how you will handle optimizing nutrition and energy on those days. maybe it’s cooking ahead of time and packing to-go meals and snacks. This will not only help you nutritionally but also with spending less overall on food items. Eating out is expensive on the body and pocketbook.
Plan meals around protein. Ideally each meal you consume includes high quality protein. How much and what type of protein will depend on your individual needs and preferences. What protein does is maintain and enhance muscle mass, which is especially important for aging bodies, and it helps keep you feeling full and energized for longer. (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14557793/)
Try something new. This could be a new meal, vegetable, cut of meat, cooking method. Cooking can get mundane and eating the same thing daily might deter you from sticking with your long-term aspiration. Not only can changing things up break up the boredom, it also invites creativity and a diversity of foods helps diversify the gut microbiome.
Budget wisely. I am a big fan of tracking things and food budgets, while seemingly restrictive can be hugely helpful in keeping nutrition on track and interesting. First, if you track your spending on food, you might notice that you eat out a lot and could easily afford more nutritious food simply by cooking your own food. Next, now this does require more time, if you shop sales at food markets, you will likely save a lot of money IF you stick to buying the on-sale items. This also allows you to choose a variety of items you may not normally choose and forces you to get creative in meal planning, which admittedly might not be for everyone.
Emphasize probiotic, pre-biotic fiber and polyphenols. Creating a healthy gut microbiome is not only key to better digestion, it is also key to better muscle and brain function. (https://www.nia.nih.gov/news/unique-gut-microbiome-patterns-linked-healthy-aging-increased-longevity)
Know your genes and eat for them. Instead of following the latest diet trend, base your nutritionally planning on what is best for your unique body. While some people might not embrace the thought of genetic testing, it can be quite helpful in determining things like carbohydrate tolerance and whether saturated fat is healthy or not for you.
Identify food sensitivities. I’ve spent a long time with food diaries and elimination diets to identify foods that my body does not tolerate. While tedious, this process has helped me to feel much much better physically and mentally. If you suspect that you might be reacting to certain foods, I highly recommend working with someone skilled in this sort of detective work. While you might feel as you are going to be deprived of your favorite foods, think about what you are gaining as a result – resilient health for the rest of your life!
Instead of proving yet more recipes, diets and prescriptions, the key take-away here is to gather data, look and listen to what your body is telling you. Do this before making changes. Then as you begin to change things, do it with love, stay curious and adapt as you need to adapt. I’ve spent years going through this process and it’s been daunting, but I’ve learned so much along the way. My passion is in living to the best of my capacity to the end of my life and educating others to do the same.
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