Although we should all strive to live a more balanced life, I know it can be hard at first to acknowledge that change is necessary. It's always fun for me to reflect with Karel (and through my old blog posts) on our own personal journey with nutrition and training. I can think back to when we were dating....we both trained twice a day, we couldn't go to bed without a bowl of ice cream and we ate out at least once a week (Panera was our favorite place). Almost 6 years ago, we didn't recognize the importance of eating for health for our main focus was on training and we had plenty of "excuses" to enjoy the foods that we craved.
As we started to enjoy a more wholesome diet, we found our cravings for sweets, processed "healthy foods" and starchy carbs begin to change and despite no considerable change in training volume, we slowly found ourselves gravitating towards more plant-based, "REAL" food meals. Of course, with me being a vegetarian, my diet was a bit more plant-strong than Karels, but with only meat and fish as the only differences in our diet, it was important for me to start bumping up my creativity in the kitchen.
Now, our build and peak training is more quality and less focused on volume, we are stronger, faster and more powerful than ever before (likely due to an increase in metabolism due to nutrient filled meals and frequent whole-food snacking) and I feel we are both really living life to the fullest.
I think it is important to understand that we are all in our own journey. While some of my creations impress even myself, I didn't always eat this way. Over the past 6 or so years, I have made very small changes in my diet which relfect my overall health and athletic performance. The funny thing, however, is that with every small change I always wanted to embrace a healthy relationship with food and to discover what it is in my OWN diet that will improve my triathlon/running performance as well to reduce risk for illness and disease. I can honestly say that I never want this journey to end. I love finding new ways to enhance my "creations" as well as finding ways to fill my body with a variety of nutrient-dense foods.
In your journey, consistency is key. You first have to be OK with change and to realize that it takes time for the body to respond to favorable changes. Next off, you have to enjoy your changes. Although I highly recommend dedicating 30-60 min a day, most days a week, to meal preparation (aka cooking at home), don't put so much pressure on yourself that your meal needs to be perfect.
Here are a few suggestions to prepare a head of time (or to have on hand) so you can make QUICK, plant-strong meals. Taking a little time to grill, defrost, or cook a few of these items can make your life a lot easier when it comes to making a wholesome breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Fruits and veggies
Any kind and lots of variety!
To save time:
Frozen (non salted)
Non fat milk (no sugar added)
Hard boiled eggs
Non fat yogurt (no sugar added)
Part-skim cheese or Cabot cheese
Fresh fish and lean meat (for non vegetarians)
Tuna, sardines (for non vegetarians)
Make a head of time for easy portion control and to increase fiber content in the diet. I encourage 2-3 servings of whole grains a day.
Containing gluten (which is a protein): Wheat, spelt, kamut, farro, durum, bulgur, semolina, barley, rye, Triticale, oats (oats are gluten-free but may be processed with gluten)
Gluten-free: Corn, Millet, quinoa, brown rice, Montina, sorghum, teff, wild rice, oats
*If you are choosing to be gluten-free for reasons beyond celiac disease or gluten intolerance, it is important to include 2-3 servings of whole grains in the diet for heart health. Recognize that many processed Gluten-free products are high in sodium.
I recommend 1/2-1 tbsp oil or 1/2-1 ounce fats (ex. nuts, cheese) at most meals so that at least 20-30% of the total dietary calories are from fat.
(many proteins will contain fat to help meet needs)
From Mayo clinic:
Monounsaturated fat: Olive oil, peanut oil, canola oil, avocados, poultry, nuts and seeds.
Polyunsaturated fat: Vegetable oils (such as safflower, corn, sunflower, soy and cottonseed oils), nut oils (such as peanut oil), poultry, nuts and seeds.
Omega-3 fatty acids: Fatty, cold-water fish (such as salmon, mackerel and herring), ground flaxseed, flax oil.
Enjoy my 5- minute meal!
Leftover grilled tempeh
Black beans (low sodium, rinsed from the can)
Tomatoes (roma, I chopped them)
Hard boiled egg (made ahead of time, I always have at least 1/2 dozen in the fridge)
Onions (I chopped them)
Dressing: my current favorites are tahini paste, grapeseed oil and olive oil. Take your pick!
Fresh shredded mozzarella