The problem: You’re busy. You have to work, organize family activities, run errands, and make time for exercise. When do you decide what to eat? If you’re like many people, you don’t think about your next meal until you’re starving. And then you might be tempted to hit the fast food drive-through or the office vending machine for a quick fix. But if you’re trying to lose weight, you know this isn’t a good diet strategy.
The solution: Plan ahead. If weight loss is your goal, you should never be caught off guard and hungry. A little forethought is all it takes to create meals that will keep you satisfied and your hunger at bay. It doesn’t have to be difficult or time-consuming either.
Here are a few reasons that planning your meals in advance can help you lose weight more easily:
- Keeps your hunger under control. Fuel your body at regular intervals to tame your appetite and make it easier to stick to your diet. When you’re not starving, you’ll be able to resist the office candy jar or the coffeehouse muffin.
- Easier to monitor your calorie intake. Advance planning means you can decide how many calories to eat at each meal, then prepare food that meets your goals. It’s easier than trying to add up calories throughout the day.
- You’ll be less likely to binge. When you plan your meals in advance, you can add in your favorite treats or schedule a special cheat meal and still meet your calorie requirements. You’ll stay in control of your choices and be able to enjoy your food without guilt or anxiety.
If you’re following a meal plan, you’re probably trying to eat more often throughout the day to keep your metabolism up and your blood sugar stable. This might seem overwhelming at first, but all you really need is enough tasty food to meet your calorie requirements and stay full until the next time you eat. Here are five tips for planning your meals in advance to keep your energy up and your hunger at bay:
- Cook in bulk. When you prepare meals, make double and freeze half in individual containers. Use the weekends (or any free time during the week) to plan your meals with your family. Decide what you’re going to eat, then shop accordingly so healthy food is always on hand. As you prep for one meal, cook more vegetables and meat than you’ll need, and use the leftovers in the next day’s food plan. You can also chop extra vegetables and store them raw in the refrigerator for a quick salad later.
- Portion food into single servings. Measure out cereal, nuts, vegetables, and fruit into bags or containers and your protein or meal replacement shake powder. When you’re in a rush to leave the house, just toss what you need into your bag or car. You can also keep protein bars on hand for a convenient on-the-go snack.
- Bring one container; eat twice. If you’re going to be at work all day, bring one large container of food and eat half at lunch and the other half later in the day. It’s one less meal to plan.
- Keep it simple. You don’t have to prepare a multicourse feast five times a day to eat well. When you’re on the go, choose things that are portable and don’t require a lot of fuss, like:
- hard-boiled eggs and whole-grain toast
- oatmeal with berries and nuts
- grilled chicken and a salad
- canned tuna or chicken and brown rice
- sandwiches on whole-grain bread or wraps
- nuts and dried fruit
- string cheese and whole-grain crackers
- yogurt and fruit
- protein powder (Proflex)
- vegetables and hummus
- Attain Meal Replacement Shake (take one of the new single-serve packets or a scoopful in a plastic bag or your shaker cup)
Anticipate busy days. If you know your kids have soccer practice every Tuesday evening, then make that night’s dinner quick and easy. Perhaps that becomes your cheat meal and you order pizza (better yet, have the ingredients on hand to make your own healthy version. The kids will love creating their own pizzas). Or you can simply defrost a meal you’ve frozen ahead of time, so it’s ready to throw in the oven when you get home. Plan ahead so your busy schedule doesn’t get in the way of your weight loss
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