One of the questions I am probably bombarded with the most in my practice as Health and Nutrition Coach, is how to create healthy meal plans that are fun, delicious, quick and easy to make and that you can actually stick with. If you have been following me for a while, you are probably very aware of the fact that I am not a big fan of simply giving you a food plan for you to follow and adhere to. Instead I believe that for you to be able to fully enjoy and fall in love with your new wholesome ways and habits, it is crucial that these are individualised and fit into your busy life. Of course, no one is more of an expert in nailing the perfect meal design for you, than the gorgeous YOU yourself.
So, here are 5 easy strategies on how to ensure your meal arrangements are a total success and help you to embrace your new healthful life deeply and fully.
Strategy 1: Set yourself up for success
With this I pretty much mean: make accessible what you are heading for, want to achieve and is in line with your goals and make inaccessible all that is not and will deter you from your journey towards being this most gorgeous version of yourself.
So, in practice this calls for a fridge and kitchen cupboard raid. Be thorough and merciless and throw everything out that you know will not make you feel good. These foods will include foods that either cause guilt or other self-limiting thoughts, foods that lead to over-eating and binging, foods that do not nourish you but instead trigger cravings and foods that make you pile on more fat on your tummy, thighs and butts.
Then do a big food shop and refill all this newly won empty space with eats that do bring the best out in you: that is nutriments that are as close to their natural state as possible, so called wholefoods. Fill your pantry and fridge with vegetables, fruits, wholegrains, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices, lean protein, your choice of dairy, eggs and fish.
Strategy 2: Think wholesome
Instead of thinking in terms of calories or good and bad foods, contemplate foods that nourish and nurture you. With every bite, you are consuming, you want to beauti- and healthi-fy your body as much as possible. Of course, in practice this means you will want to stay away from packaged, pre-pared and processed foods more often than not and instead eat foods that look like such. Do not eat anything your grandparents would not have recognised as something edible. Instead you will want to choose antioxidizing vegetables, waist trimming wholegrains, satisfying sources of lean protein, life sweetening fruits, energising nuts and seeds and health-boosting herbs and spices.
To ensure your body is getting enough of all the essential micro-nutrients for radiant beauty and vibrant health, choose your macro-nutrients, in particular your vegetables and fruits in lots of different colours. The more rainbowy your meal-picture gets, the better for you to combat any nasty diseases, re-juvenate and allow yourself to live up to your full potential. Variety does not only allow your gorgeous self to replenish and refuel on all the key nutrients but it will also avoid boredom. And for extra wholefood fun, challenge the new healthy you to try out new foods, you have never cooked with or enjoyed just yet.
Strategy 3: Plan and prep ahead
Decide what meals you are going to cook up over the next 7 days and write a shopping list that is in line with your goals and new healthy principles. Pick one day in the week where you make time to do your big shop for the week. Stick to your clever shopping list, avoiding aisles you know could tempt you out of the new healthy-licious you and back into less beneficial patterns that do not serve you anymore. Never, ever go shopping when you are hungry and don’t become the victim of false marketing or wholesome looking packages. Just because a package is green with a big sign saying HEALTHY on it, it does not mean it truly is. Read your ingredient lists and labels to be sure and to stay in control of your healthful choices. Set time aside to prep your meals ahead. This will not only make your busy life so much easier but also keep you away from your favourite local café, vending machine or less nourishing snack option when hunger strikes. It is those prepped snacks, salad jars and wholegrain sandwiches filled with green goodness that will keep you on top of and accountable to your new healthful ways. Knowing you have this bowl of pre-cooked quinoa (or other wholegrain) waiting for you in the fridge and you simply will have to mix it up with your favourite choice of tofu, fish, egg, beans and various, delightful amounts of nurturing greens, will empower you to stay on track of your deliciously healthful journey. The same is true for cravings and you will find it has never been easier to nip them in the bud by devouring those delicious bliss balls you prepped on the weekend instead of wolfing down yet another cookie full of too much sugar and artery-clogging fats.
Strategy 4: Do not succumb to unrealistic ideas or expectations
Eating healthy has less to do with adhering to very strict guidelines and self-restriction, but far more with honouring your gorgeous body and feed it with nourishment that allows it to glow with health and beauty. This also means listening to what your gorgeous self is telling you: if dairy makes you feel bloated, wheat gives you stomach cramps, or eggs make you feel squeezy, take these signs seriously and replace those nutrients with others which your individual body actually thrives on. Along the same notes: do not simply go paleo or become a vegan, just because it is in trend. Your body might actually perform better including meat or grains and it is upon you to learn what it is your body truly needs to be able to support you at its best and make those goals of yours happen.
So, how do you know your diet is moving more into unrealistic spheres and away from a well-balanced colourful, tasty kingdom of life? Mood swings, hormones that are all over the place and cravings are great communicators that something is not quite right in your diet. Maybe there is a lack of unrefined carbohydrates in your diet, or a surplus of too many refined ones; maybe you are not nurturing your body with enough muscle-building protein, or are not eating enough calories to boost your metabolism; and are you inviting your beautiful self to enjoy nurturing treats or are you condemning everything that is sweet too harshly from your much too plain menu? Remember that whenever you are taking something out of your old way of eating, it is crucial for your success to replace this with something equally delicious, but far more nurturing new.
When talking about unrealistic expectations, it is also essential for you to make your new healthful life-style fit into your crazily busy life. That is, do not cook up or plan for a difficult vegetarian dish that takes forever on a weeknight or shock your kids with foods you know they will have difficulty with accepting and loving. Instead allow room for everyone’s needs and to grow into those new healthful habits and routines.
Strategy 5: Stick to healthful portion sizes
Even so, I do not think counting calories is part of a healthful, nurturing diet, I do believe it is important to stick to healthy portion sizes for you to totally own your new healthful glow. Over-eating is of course not only linked to your growing waistline and decreased confidence around your physical self, but it can also trigger unbeneficial pathways in your brain and body that lead to inflammation and disease.
In my experience portion size is all about habit. But let yourself not feel dis-encouraged by this: it is far easier to change these old ways of yours than you think it is. To check in at which spectrum of the healthful portion size you are at, in a first step have a good look at your plate. Would it assist you on your journey towards awesomeness to replace those giant discs with way cuter and far smaller ones? Or are you someone who loves eating out of big, deep bowls where you cannot really see how much food you are actually consuming? If this is you, it might be time to buy yourself some new, smaller ceramics.
In a next step to consuming portion sizes that promote health and well-being, I would like to invite you to divide your gorgeous, little dinner plate into 3 different imaginary sections. Half of your plate is reserved for all of those life-giving vegetables. Most of those vegetables are meant to come from non-starchy sources, but do include those other ones in smaller quantities too. The other half of your plate is to be divided into halves to make gorgeous quarters. One of these quarters gives space for all your heart-healthy, flat tummy-creating wholegrains and other complex carbohydrates. The last quarter of your dish is for your lean sources of protein. Consider including plant sources such as beans and pulses that are bursting with slimming, filling, hello-healthy-digestion fibre as well as nuts and seeds that will plump up and re-hydrate your skin with healthful fatty acids.
Creating a personalized, wholesome meal plan that fits your needs and matches your goals can be truly as easy as sticking to those 5 strategies. It does not have to be all about crunching numbers or calculating difficult percentages. I believe following these strategies is not only a far more practical and doable approach – not everyone is born as total nutrition freak, holds a dietitian degree or loves reading the latest research on diet and foods. In addition, this empowers YOU to truly take back control of your own health without having someone dictate to you what you can eat and what you should not. So, now all the cards are in your very capable hands, gorgeous, and it is up to you to give all of this a fair go. Enjoy your new delightfully healthy and deliciously tasty life.