When I was a child, I loved going grocery shopping with my mother. I often played “supermarket cashier” with a calculator and a toy cash register in the kitchen. As an adult, I enjoyed playing “store” with my own kids as well, after all, they had way cooler cash registers with barcode scanners!
But let’s be real. There are times when grocery shopping can be a real chore. And lately, I’ve found myself suffering from “dinnertime cooking fatigue” where I literally have no idea what to make. I find myself trapped in “food ruts” where I just keep eating the same things day after day. Can you relate? Well, I can tell you we are not alone! This affects SO many people who I’ve worked with, in fact, I hear about this every week.
Trying to break away from routine food habits can be a real challenge when it comes to eating healthier. And it’s almost always due to a lack of time for healthier food preparation or just not knowing what to make! This can lead to turning to that same ‘ol box of mac and cheese, hot dogs, frozen dinners, sandwiches with deli meat, canned soup, cereal, or whatever we can find in the fridge, right?
Most of the people I talk to whether in groups for a presentation or individually when I’m coaching, struggle with the amount of time they have to devote to cooking in their lives. What they eat is oftentimes looked at as an afterthought, something they fit in only after more important responsibilities are met at work or at home.
Consider these statements: I’ll grab something when I can. Can you pick something up on your way home? I’ll just eat something later. Do you want to grab a bite after work? We can grab something on the way.
Do these statements sound like eating healthy food is prioritized? Sometimes, just finding the time to eat can be a challenge. And when this happens, we often “grab” any kind of food when we’re hungry and it’s often unhealthy. And by doing so regularly, we can set ourselves up for frustration over our weight, the inability to sleep, feelings of anxiety, bad moods, and a cycle that can trap us.
Realistically, I don’t think the hectic pace of our lives is going away any time soon, do you? Sure, there are days during the week when we all need to “pick something up” by eating out, in addition to maybe going out to dinner over the weekend. But this shouldn’t be the norm. Pick a reason why: expense, calories, artificial ingredients, too much sodium, eating too quickly, or families no longer eating together.
Simply put, what we eat must be made a priority – if we want to get healthier and feel better. And one of the best ways to do that is to plan ahead by engaging in food preparation.
I’m sure you would agree that a little bit of thought and effort in food preparation is time well spent when it comes to healthy living. (And it will decrease the amount of money and time you spend in drive-thru lines as well.)
Food preparation can be done anytime you have the time to do it. For me, setting aside a few hours over the weekend works best. I do freezer cooking with a group of friends occasionally, by preparing a week’s worth of meals over the course of a few hours on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. We simply choose a date when we can all get together and decide on the healthy recipes we are going to make. Then we split up the ingredients and cook together in the kitchen.
With busy lives and families, it’s a great help for all of us, giving us time to catch up as well. This can also be done just as easily by yourself. Even if you cook up a big batch of steel-cut oatmeal, brown rice or quinoa, chop some fresh vegetables, or bake several chicken breasts in the oven, it will help you during the week to eat healthier and, you will be able to provide an answer to that “what’s for dinner” question!
Another solution utilizing food preparation that doesn’t involve cooking ahead, is to simply think about what you like to eat and consider how you can incorporate those foods into a number of healthy recipes. Get those foodie gears grinding and be creative! Start by making a list of your favorite foods and really give this some thought. Think about things like colors and textures in addition to flavors as well.
To simplify this further, narrow the list to four things or four “main course” items, then find a variety of recipes for those four items. For instance, if pasta is one of your selections, choose a variety of recipes for pasta that you think you would like. I found 27 different recipes online for lasagna… just think, you could eat different versions of lasagna for almost a month! (And gain 20 pounds but that isn’t the point!)
Next, put some time into creating your weekly meal plan and then shop for the ingredients at the store. Plan for as many dinners as you can but be realistic. Perhaps you can start by planning for two, which is great, because any healthy changes matter. Additionally, think about what you can do to change up the recipes you chose by using different sauces, spices, or add-ins for flavor, and put those things on your list as well. Be inventive!
Eating healthier is all about enjoying food more, not less!
Using the example of pasta, try different types of pasta noodles, prepare the dish with different kinds of sauce, vegetables, or cheese, and instead of ground beef, try seafood. And don’t forget to use your dinnertime leftovers for lunch! You can add almost anything to an omelet as well, which I did here.
It isn’t difficult to find several recipes for the four items on your list which should hold you for quite a while. And this cycle can be changed up anytime by simply choosing four more general food categories with corresponding healthy recipes. For example, the next group might be soups/stews, flatbreads, eggs, and salads.
Don’t forget to try new fruits and vegetables too! This is a great way to switch up staple items like bananas, apples, potatoes, and corn. I certainly get in food ruts with these items as well. Try to visit a new store or take a trip to your local farmer’s market to learn about different kinds of fruits and vegetables that may be locally grown. I wrote about a trip to the farmer’s market recently, which concluded with that egg concoction up there… but believe it or not, that omelet was good!
Fruits and vegetables work great as sides for your recipes too, and there are many different ways to prepare them. Did you know there are 31 ways to make green beans?? And 50 ways to leave your lover? (Sorry, couldn’t resist!)
I hope these ideas will be helpful to you if you have been thinking about eating healthier. Breaking out of any routine isn’t easy, so make sure to give yourself credit for any efforts you make. Then use your progress as your motivation to keep going. Above all, associate positive, happy thoughts with your diet and exercise routines and your brain will follow, leading to real changes in your life for the better.
Wishing you the very best in health and happiness,
Check out this very informative article for more information!
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