Nutritionist’s guide to healthy meal planning
In Australia right now, a third of us get our daily intake from junk food, while less than seven per cent meet the standard vegetable consumption requirement and less than half eat enough fruit, according to the latest Australian Health survey.
While we know all the grocery shopping rules (like avoiding supermarkets when hungry and steering clear of the junk aisles), keeping to strict guidelines is easier said than done.
Cue – the top of the crop Sydney nutritionists. With the New Year well and truly behind us, it’s time to take action and make healthy resolutions that will last.
Read on for how to do the prep work and make healthy meal plans that stick.
1. Stick to a list
“Plan your meals in advance and write your shopping list to ensure you have everything you need for the week,” says Bodypass’ resident nutritionist, Rachel Javes. “If you write your list when you’re feeling motivated to eat well you’ll be less likely to stray when at the supermarket and faced with other tempting options.”
Note: “When preparing your shopping list make sure you choose plenty of healthy snacks too including nuts, hummus, seeds and veggies.”
2. Stock up on superfoods
“Superfoods have large doses of vitamins and minerals that can help us fight off diseases and live a longer, healthier life,” says Melanie Lillis nutritionist for UFC Gym.
“To get the most out of each meal, I add the following to my diet each day – a good dose of kale, spinach and spirulina in a morning green juice, a handful of blueberries and almonds and a green tea for snack times, a few pieces of chopped sweet potato and a sprinkle of chia seeds with lunch and lentils, garlic and beets with dinner.”
3. Buy basic staples
“Always have a few staples on hand so you can whip up a healthy dinner in no time,” says Javes. “A few key ingredients I always have on hand are haloumi, quinoa, eggs, lentils, hummus, zucchini and feta”
4. Go natural
“By only having healthy foods in your cupboard it decreases late night snacking (which often tends to be in the form of cookies and chocolate),” says Lillis.
“Fill up your cupboard with delicious natural foods like fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds and protein such as lean meats, tofu and tempeh.”
5. Prioritise prep work
“As soon as I get home from the supermarket I chop my veggies into sticks for snacks so that I have them for me and the kids,” says Javes. “I also will roast veggies on a Sunday night so they can be added to a salad for easy lunches during the week, and I cook quinoa and boil eggs in advance as they’re the perfect breakfast/lunch accompaniments for on the go,” says Javes.
5. Read up
“Get excited about your meals ahead of time by looking through a few recipe books and finding some new recipes that you haven’t tried before,” says Javes. “It’s easy to stay focused on health goals if you have delicious meals planned.”
6. Manage your macros
“A lot of people make the mistake of not balancing their macro-nutrients in meals each day. If our bodies are lacking in a main nutrient we can suffer from a range of different health issues such as fatigue, weight gain, headaches, joint pain, moodiness and much more,” says Lillis. “Our main three macro’s are – protein, carbohydrates and essential fats. My favourite macro-nutrient balanced meal is some grilled Tempeh (protein) with brown rice (carbohydrates) and avocado (essential fats) and a side salad.”
7. Titillate taste buds
“Don’t be fooled into thinking you can’t get creative,” says Lillis. “Play around with different herbs and spices to keep your taste buds interested and your mind on track. It can totally change the way the exact same meal tastes.”
8. Freeze away
“Where possible always make double quantities of a meal and freeze it. It only takes one late night at work to throw your eating plans out of the window so having healthy available in the freezer will stop you giving into temptations,” says Javes. “Good examples are some frozen poached chicken, some brown rice, dahl, vegetable chilli or curries.”
9. Keep your gut happy
“The digestive system is the cornerstone to health – it plays a major part in weight loss or gain, energy and serotonin levels, immune functioning, nutrient deficiencies and cravings,” says Kristin Fulton, Pressed Juices Nutritionist.
“Add more prebiotics to your food (fruits and vegetables high in soluble and insoluble fibre) and probiotics (e.g. miso soup, kimchi, sauerkraut and kombucha).”
10. Become BFFs with a juicer
“Juicing is one of the easiest ways to get a whole bunch of amazing nutrients into your body in one hit,” says Lillis. “Not only will a green juice set you up for the day, it also helps fight sugar cravings. Remember to try and stick with the 80/20 rule- 80% of the ingredients should be veggies and 20% should come from fruits.”
Lillis’s quick green juice recipe
1 handful of spinach
1 handful of kale
1 bunch of mint
Blend and serve.
11. Be your own health advocate
“What works for your friend/colleague/sister/boyfriend won’t necessarily be the same health formula that will work for you,” says Fulton.
“We are all biochemically individual so eating healthy largely relies on tuning into your own body and what works for you. After making a meal, notice how your system reacts after certain foods – are you left feeling bloated and with a seemingly endless chatter in your mind about when you can have your next treat? Or are you left feeling energised yet relaxed as you carry on with the day’s activities?”
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