Sometimes even the healthiest intentions and goals can be compromised if you’re not suitably prepared. Forward planning your nutrition is incredibly important and yet is often overlooked by many people who then find themselves wondering why they can’t stick to their healthy eating principles…
Sticking to healthy habits involves investing a little time to plan your weekly nutrition, just as you plan the rest of your weekly routine. The following tips offer a foundation on which to build your weekly menu – so all you need to do now is decide which tasty Fitter Food recipes you wish to include!
1. Do That Healthy Food Shop!
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Benjamin Franklin
At the beginning of the week when you get your diary out to start planning your meetings or gym sessions set time aside to:
- Plan your meals for the week and write a shopping list.
- Order in your shopping online or pencil in some time to pick up the essentials.
- Ensure that no matter what you have eggs, spinach, avocado and some fresh salad in stock for an emergency omelette and salad should the occasion arise.
This is simple stuff but so many people we work with mention that missing that vital weekly shop means they deviate from their healthy intentions by resorting to convenience foods and snacks. With awesome online facilities offering a wide selection of local and organic foods your shopping needn’t be much further away than a few clicks of the mouse and will ultimately determine your menu for the week.
Some people have even mentioned they feel ‘accountable’ to their shop, once all that fresh, healthy scoff is in your cupboards you can’t let it go to waste. It might sounds slightly bonkers but if rocket is staring at you every time you open the fridge you might feel a bit more compelled to make up that side salad. After all – see more greens, eat more greens!
2. Plan Regular Proteins and Rotate Them
When planning your menu for the week it’s important to ensure each meal offers a serving of protein. Regular protein consumption is hugely important in keeping blood sugar levels stable. This will support a healthy body composition and help to avoid inflammatory elevation of our hormone insulin. If you prefer a smoothie to start your day then ensure you add a scoop of protein powder, nuts, seeds or an avocado to hit your daily protein needs. Similarly as it really is soup weather right now (which is an awesome way to get your 5 a day) try and add some meat, fish or stock/broth to your soups to increase the protein content or just dunk a chicken drumstick in it!
Another important consideration when you are deciding what to cook up for the week is that you need to vary your protein intake on a day-to-day basis. Studies have shown that our gut bacteria are happiest when we’re munching upon an extensive variety of foods so it’s important we don’t live off chicken and salmon all week. Similarly if we over consume a protein by eating it too frequently there’s a possibility of developing a food intolerance. In fact your body may have decided milk is an ‘enemy’ as the structure is similar to something your immune system has decided is an invader. Every time you drink milk (or eat milk chocolate) your body may launch an immune response leaving you feeling..well not so hot! If you only drink milk once a week it might not be so much of a problem but if you start every day with a milky brew or latte you could be asking for trouble.
Most foods have a protein component that we may react too. Don’t worry, it doesn’t mean that all food is causing you any serious harm – the message here is instead to rotate your foods as much as possible so there’s no harsh reaction. So for example, if you eat salmon for dinner on Monday, you may want the leftovers for lunch on Tuesday too but then it would be wise to leave 2-3 days before eating salmon again. Try and avoid eating any single food every day.
Keeping a food diary for 1 week is a great way to evaluate how many different foods you eat and whether some are making a daily appearance. After assessing your intake why not try a week of eating foods you’ve never tried before; wild meats, different seafood and some more exotic fruits or vegetables. In general when planning your weekly meals make a conscious effort to rotate all your foods, it doesn’t need to be followed religiously but will ensure you consume a greater variety of foods which will help keep your immune system happy and will also encourage you to explore new recipes.
3. Get Essential Omega’s In
When reviewing food diaries from our clients we’re always chuffed to see the appearance of Fitter Food firm favourties including Fitter Fajitas, Peri Peri Chicken and Brunch Loaf, however, there is often a significant lack of omega 3 rich fish, especially amongst the blokes.
Balancing our bodies profile of these two polyunsaturated fats cannot be emphasised enough for any health or body composition goal. It’s believed a ratio of 1:2 or 1:3 (Omega 3: Omega 6) is most desirable. Hopefully by now you’ve ditched the vegetable oils like sunflower, safflower or soya oils which are excessively high in omega 6.
These oils are often preferred commercially due to their lower cost so even if you’re following Fitter Food principles but sourcing all your food from food outlets, restaurants, cafes and takeaway’s, then your consumption will more than likely still be too high. At the beginning of the week pencil in 3-4 servings of oily fish (salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines and herring).
Then over the next few weeks try out the following:
We have more awesome omega 3 recipes in our latest book Fitter Food: A Second Helping which has a whole section on fish.
Reducing your omega 6 intake is also vital so favour animals that eat grass. If an animal is fed on cereals like corn its cells will contain higher levels of omega 6 which will affect the fatty acid profile of your own cells when you eat it. Lamb, beef and wild meats are traditionally raised on grass, whilst poultry and pork are farmed on a grain based diet. Don’t forget nuts and seeds may also be high in polyunsaturated fats; almonds, Brazil nuts and walnuts are higher in omega 6. Macadamias, hazelnuts and cashews are lowest, whilst pumpkin, chia and hemp also offer some healthy omega 3 fats.
4. Leave Some Space For Liver
It’s easy to miss this one off the menu both intentionally and unintentionally!
Liver and other offal meat isn’t many peoples dish of choice, which is slightly tragic given that organ meats are one of the most nutritious foods you can eat. Just a couple of servings each week is enough to make a difference to your nutritional status and help limit your risk of deficiencies. We’re not suggesting your start dunking liver soldiers in your boiled egg (although that is a great idea!) but maybe start by trying a couple of servings of liver pate in your weekly snack stack. Or finely chop some liver into your favourite burger mix or add to your bolognese or chilli. Organ meats are packed with minerals like phosphorus, iron, copper, magnesium, iodine, calcium, potassium, sodium, selenium, zinc and manganese and provide those much needed fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. They’re also packed with all the B vitamins.
Organ meat consumption is also important to ensure we consume the correct balance of essential amino acids (constituents of protein). They offer a different array of amino acids to muscle meats and as we have established with nutrition balance and variety are the key to optimal health.
5. Plan Some Pleasure
When putting together your weekly menu it’s also wise to include some pleasure foods or drinks including desserts, alcohol or a couple of servings of dark chocolate. If you deprive yourself too much of the things you enjoy you might find you crave them even more and ultimately end up giving in and face planting into a whole cheesecake. Many of these pleasure foods can be enjoyed healthily, in moderation, so portion control is also key and planning can help with this.
Set time aside to bake some Banana Loaf or make some Almond Cookies so you can take these out with you whilst meeting friends for coffee and won’t be tempted by the refined alternatives. We often take our own MnM’s to the cinema.
You’ll be pleased to know most of the desserts in our Fitter Food book can be frozen, so once you’ve made a batch simply divide into individual portions and freeze the rest. That way you can grab a serving when you’ve decided you’d like to have a dessert without overindulging as soon as they have been made!
Similarly with quality coffee or alcohol, decide when you might want to enjoy these and set time aside to savour on an occasion that suits it. By doing this you’ll also find you only need a small amount to get the same sense of satisfaction and pleasure.
For more recipe inspiration check out our second book Fitter Food: A Second Helping which is packed with hundreds of awesome recipe ideas to help you stay on track.
The book also contains a free 2 week planner, crammed full of Fitter Food to get you started.