No more excuses - meal planning

Sitting down to a home-cooked meal in the evening is not an everyday occurrence for many people in our society for a variety of reasons; being too tired or hungry, wanting something easy, needing something quick and convenient, feeling too busy, not knowing what to eat or not liking to cook.

As an athlete, you already have so much to squeeze into the day that it’s easy to see why dinner may be an afterthought, especially if you have been up since 5am or you are finishing an evening workout around 6:30 or 7pm. 
But, that's not a good excuse. 

Let's get serious...
You aren't too busy to train so it's all about priorities when you say you are too busy to cook. 

As an athlete myself, I can empathize with how overwhelming it can be to plan nutritious meals, every day of the week and still squeeze in workouts. And this is in addition to work, family and everything else on a never-ending to-do list. 

I realize that I do not share many of my meal creations on this blog but I have to be honest with you, I'm passionate about healthy eating and I love sharing my food pics but my job is not a food blogger. And I also don't like to measure food and make my meals precise for you to replicate.

I am a board certified sport dietitian who spends all day helping athletes maximize performance by personally addressing and tweaking lifestyle, nutrition and sport nutrition limiters.

I regularly share my food pics on Facebook with the hope that you can be inspired to prepare healthy and satisfying home-cooked meals that will work for your active lifestyle but I never want you to feel overwhelmed when it comes to food shopping and food prepping.
There are hundreds and hundreds of food bloggers with amazing pictures, stories and recipes of food.
You should have no problem finding recipes that will work for you...but the key is making the time to actually prep and cook those meals. 

As far as I know, athletes love having a plan to follow so if it works for you to have a training plan, consider a meal plan to guide you in a successful week of eating. 

There’s no need to be obsessed with food as you need to let food enhance your life, not control your life. And there is nothing wrong with the occasional off day of eating. 

I actually feel that allowing yourself an "of" day (ex. breakfast for dinner, yogurt, granola and fruit for lunch, PB & J and a smoothie for breakfast, etc.) can actually keep you on track for healthy eating the rest of the week. It's kinda like a vacation from "typical" eating.  

Above all, you should love to eat and your meals should work for your health, body composition and performance goals. 

Place a similar amount of passion, effort and enthusiasm into your daily diet (and fueling regime) so that you can experience the rewards of having a healthy, nourished and well-fueled body. 

Here are a few of my meal planning tips that will work for your busy lifestyle. 
But in order to make them work.....
 make an effort, not excuses. 

1. Prepare meals on the weekend and always plan for leftovers. A little meal prep goes a long way. Dice, chop, wash, cook — do as much as you can when you have the time so you at least have options for a upcoming meal. Don't overwhelm yourself. Plan for 2-3 days and then do a light meal prep to last you the rest of the week.

2. Prep a meal before a workout.
You don’t want to finish your workout hungry with no patience to meal prep. Prepare as much as you can before working out. This is a game changer. You won't believe how your food choices will change (and how less complicated "healthy" eating can be) when you know that a meal is prepared before you workout. More often than not, if you finish a workout hungry, you will almost always go for what's quick and easy and not always healthy or performance enhancing and find an excuse or reason to eat it (even though you know you should be eating something healthier.)

3. Have a menu for the week.
Knowing what you will eat for dinner (and breakfast, lunch and snacks) will ensure you have those items available. No need to make this menu extravagant, just make a plan. Theme meals or staple meals work really well, especially when you are getting started with this habit.

4. Allow yourself one night a week to get a little help from a pre-made or semi-homemade meal.
Sure, you could dine-out but let's be honest, eating out takes time and it's expensive...you have to wait for food, eat and pay and travel to and from the restaurant. Consider getting help once a week (Wed or Thurs) from a salad bar, pre-made meal option from the grocery, pick-up/take-out healthy item or making something super easy and semi-homemade. Make sure this meal works for you as your meals should never make you feel guilty or should negatively affect your next days workout. 

5. Use your time wisely
Think about your entire day (M-F) - when do you have the most free time? And by free time, this means watching TV or spending time on your smart phone/computer at home. Could you make more time in your day?
Hopefully, there are times when you are home and you can find 10 to 30 minutes in the early morning, when you get home from work or in the evening that you can do some cooking or prepping. Oftentimes, the cooking and meal prep is an afterthought and athletes get busy doing something else or feel too exhausted and hungry to do anything but sit.....and eat something convenient.
As an athlete, food should be high on your to-do list. This means eating, cooking and planning. 

You know how important consistency is with training and you love the results when you follow your training plan.
Put that same focus and attention on your eating habits as you do with your training and you will find yourself doing amazing things your healthy, well fueled and nourished body.