Nutrition and healthy eating is often the base of most resolutions. But if you’re like a lot of people, you’ve already forgotten the resolutions you made on January 1st. The good news is that having a really good meal plan can help you stick to your healthy eating resolution long term!
Which foods belong in your fridge when you have a family that often has to eat on the go? As long as you start with a healthy core diet — consuming lots of fruits and vegetables and colourful food items, while going light on the saturated fats and desserts — then it’s up to you! To help you out, we have come up with 10 practical suggestions for meal planning and improving your diet. And they’re actually doable!
1. Make your breakfast fast and healthy. Cereal is an excellent choice for all ages. (Note: Each meal should have at least three food group choices — so add a fruit!) Bran cereals are the best. They are loaded with fibre. All-Bran cereals offer nine to 14 grams of fibre per serving. If you don’t like the taste of these cereals, try mixing them into your favourite cereal! High fibre foods can sometimes cause discomfort if exercise is done too soon after consumption, but if your practice or game is in the evening then breakfast is the ideal time to take in a higher amount of fibre.
2. Bring on the Beans! Beans are the #1 athlete superfood. They are the perfect protein/carb combination for after a workout. They are not only inexpensive, but also packed with nutrients. Here are a few tips:
- Serve beans instead of the common side dishes, such as rice and potatoes
- Mix beans into your pasta sauce
- Make a bean dip for your vegetables
- Put some beans on your salad every day
- Heat up some chick peas so they flatten with a fork, add some cumin and garlic and eat with pita bread
3. Sip Smart! Don’t drink your calories. Keep the high calorie/low nutrient value drinks out of the house. Juice is an easy go-to, but eating the fruit itself is much better for your health! It takes at least five oranges to make a cup of orange juice, but you wouldn’t eat five oranges in one sitting. Keep to water (and sugar-free tea and coffee for adults) during the day.
4. Make smart sandwiches. Sandwiches can be a great way to load in some vegetables. Aim for a mostly vegetable sandwich and add some hummus, nut butters or light cheeses for flavour. Otherwise, use last night’s meat leftovers instead of processed deli meats. For a change, try a salmon sandwich instead of tuna! This will provide a lot more Omega-3s which are extra important for athletes who are breaking down their muscles more than the average person.
5. Be snack savvy. Think of two food groups for snacks. If it’s part of a food group, then it can be considered a good snack. Aim for having at least one vegetable or fruit at each snack.
6. Finish the day with fruit! Fruit can make a great dessert. Although some athletes can afford the 500+ calories that are found in most common desserts, there is very low nutrient value in those choices. If you’re looking to improve your performance, you want to get in as many nutrients as you possibly can. At restaurants, look for fruit on the menu and, at home, eat some berries or make a light apple crisp.
7. Choose two types of colourful vegetables at lunch and dinner. Aim to cover half of your plate with vegetables. This way, you will have at least four servings of vegetables a day. Think of potatoes as the starch of the meal, rather than your vegetable. Although potatoes aren’t bad for you, they have higher calories and are not processed in the body in the same way that other vegetables are.
8. Involve your family! Most kids love to cook and to help out in the kitchen. They just don’t like to be told what to do! Let them choose the meal and you, as the parent, can be their helper rather than being the one in charge.
9. Plan ahead! Choose a day that is less busy to plan your meals for the week. Write them down. At the same time, make a grocery list. If you have some extra time once a week, make some large meals that you can put in the freezer for quick meals or portion it out right away into containers for fast lunches. Bagged salads, frozen vegetables and cans of beans are something to have in your house at all times.
10. Never skip a meal. People who eat their meals regularly tend to have a healthier weight than those who skip meals. Aim for three to four food groups at every meal and eat either a snack or meal every four hours. For the really active hockey players, never go longer than three hours!
You may know what you should be eating and how often you should exercise, but the fact is, it is not easy to change one’s eating habits. The key to being sure you will make the changes is to get yourself motivated and to follow these simple strategies every day.