Lifestyle changes can upend your nutrition plan. No matter if they're as big as a pandemic (and the ripple effects of working from home, maybe losing a job, worrying about the health of loved ones...) or something smaller (like bringing your outdoor workouts inside for winter), fluctuations in one aspect of our lives can throw other things in our lives off.
To help you stay on the healthy eating path – and in turn support your mental and physical health – try these six tricks.
1. Set Meal Times
As many of us discovered the past few months, when you are home all the time, it's often too easy to eat all the time. One thing that can help is to have set meal times. For example, breakfast is at 8 a.m., lunch is at noon, 3:30 p.m. is a small afternoon snack, and dinner is at 7 p.m.
For one, this can help you make a mental shift. If you're tempted to head to the kitchen for a snack, but it's not one of your designated meal times, remind yourself that it's not time to eat yet and get distracted with work or a household chore or something. Over time, you will be able to distinguish true hunger from boredom hunger.
Also, the timing of our meals helps to synchronize our internal body clock, or circadian rhythm. When our circadian rhythms are off, it can lead to weight gain, problems with concentration and mood, and even diabetes. Keeping a consistent meal schedule sets your body into a rhythm. It will get used to eating at the times you choose, eliminating fake hunger and helping your digestive system work better to process your meals.
2. Schedule in Wellness First
When life gets crazy, our self-care can get the short shaft. So when you make your weekly schedule, block out time for things that support your mental and emotional health, such as journaling, meditation, walks outside, or a cup of coffee in complete silence. Do this before you schedule work calls, appointments, and other tasks. And if someone requests a meeting during your wellness time, decline. Keep these slots sacred. It will help manage stress levels, which in turn will help you stick to your healthy eating plan.
3. Prep or Get Prepped
Having healthy food on hand is essential to nutrition success. Take time on the weekends or evenings to clean and cut vegetables so they are ready to eat when you are ready to eat. You can also roast or steam veggies ahead of time, as well as cook lean proteins and healthy carbs. Then, come meal time, all you have to do is portion out a little of each and add a healthy fat like a vinaigrette or avocado, and you have a complete, balanced meal. If you aren’t going to take the time to prep your meals, consider buying prepared foods at your local supermarket.
4. Track Your Actions
Life might be too hectic to count calories and macros, but tracking keeps you on the right path. Find something to track related to your nutrition. Consider more basic things such as if your meal contained protein and vegetables, if it was void of refined grains and carbs, or if you pre-planned your meal. Pick one thing and note every meal in an app or food log.
5. Leverage Convenience
When you're in the middle of uncertain lifestyles changes, consistently getting ample protein at every meal, day in and day out can be challenging. You need simple, healthy options. Leverage protein powder as a quick, easy, and complete source of protein. You can mix a powder with water and have it with a meal or make a smoothie for a filling snack.
6. Support Your Body’s Microprocesses
Little hinges swing big doors. This is why it is important that you don’t neglect the micronutrient (vitamin and mineral), antioxidant, and nutrient needs of your body. Especially since, when you’re under a lot of stress, your body can have increased needs of things like antioxidants and vitamins. Aim to eat at least one vegetable (preferably more) at every meal, and a veggie or fruit at any snacks. To fully cover your bases, you may want to add a greens powder to a glass of water once a day. It certainly won't hurt and probably will help give your body that extra something it needs right now.