One of the fundamental skills that has served me well, is the bravery to invent things in the kitchen.
Let me expand on that a little bit. I am the youngest in a family of 3 boys. My mom is a retired teacher and taught home economics for the majority of her career.
Some of my favourite past times are spent in the grocery cart or tagging along as we price checked different items across 2 or 3 stores to get the best deal.
As a young kid, my brothers were already moved out, so some of my responsibilities were to prepare supper for myself and my mom and dad. I never liked following recipes, and so I did a lot of inventing which has continued into my adulthood.
When I am stressed, it may sound silly, but I tend to go to the grocery store. For me, it's not necessarily about stress eating, it's moreso about finding myself in a routine that feels like home. Walking around a grocery store, as weird as it may be to other people, feels familiar to me, because of the number of times I went with my mom as a little kid.
Having said that, there are most definitely times when I DO stress eat, and I'll go to the store on a mission for a few goto highly palatable foods.
So I want to tell you about some of the things that I do to be proactive.
Over the years, stress eating has changed for me.
It used to mean, crushing a tub of ice cream, or buying enough chips for the week instead of just for an evening.
Now it means having a big bowl of oatmeal with my favourite protein powder mixed in, topped with greek yogurt and some homemade apple sauce.
Or sometimes it means chopping up a potato and making some fries.
It gives me that same sense of coziness and familiarity, but the nutrition benefits are dramatically different. The latter is also much more satiating.
A big component to staying on track for nutrition for me is in the things that I buy at the grocery store.
I look at it this way. If you have a limited budget, you'll want a majority of your budget to be dedicated to items that are high in protein. This works for anyone.
A guideline for protein intake that I usually use is 0.7-1g per pound. So if I was to weight in at 190 lbs, I would have a tendency to aim for 180-190g of protein per day.
A lot of people may find that when they take a really good look at their protein intake, they might only be hitting 60g per day. So try to set incremental goals. Try getting 80g per day for a while, and working up gradually.
If you are interested in the studies around protein, my favourite resources are Dr. Ben House and Dr. Mike T Nelson. In short, not only is it quite a challenge to overconsume protein, the amount of protein one would have to consume in order for it to risk their health would be significantly higher than 1g/lb.
Anyways, back to grocery shopping.
If you are vegan, you can grab some cans of chickpeas and some lentils to start off your grocery haul. Start your grocery trip by sourcing out the items that are your highest protein source before you get distracted by anything else. This ensures you are stocked with the items you'll need to stay on track with your goals. Worst case scenario, you forget to pick up salad dressing.
If you are an omnivore like myself, you might grab some lean meat, chick peas, lentils, high protein pasta, eggs, greek yogurt, and then go from there.
If your home is 80% stocked with food like this and then 20% with food that makes your life a bit more fun, you're likely to stay on track simply based on what you have quick access to.
When I feel snackish, I eat a carrot. If I'm craving something else, I drink some herbal tea first. Sometimes it's just a passing thought, sometimes it's time for a meal.
In my fridge and cupboards, I always have a variety of protein sources, I always have coffee, I always have vegetables either fresh or frozen, I always have fruit. The rest can be hit or miss if it needs to be, but you want to be consistent in your supply of the other things or you're likely to throw your hands up in the air and order in or get take out.
I challenge you to identify some of your favourite quick foods. I'll help you by sharing some of mine.
I like McDoubles, Pizza Pops, and Oreo Cookies. Weird, hey? What awful foods for someone in the fitness industry to be interested in eating.
How do I work around this? Well first and foremost, I practice moderation. I identify that these are my foods that are less nutritious that make my life feel a bit more normal, so I have them maybe once a week.
Secondly, if I come across a situation where I feel like having them more frequently I begin to innovate.
Just yesterday, I made homemade cookies. 1 cup whole wheat flour, 3/4 cup brown sugar, 1 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp salt, 2 tsp vanilla, 3 eggs, 1/2 cup steel cut oats, 3/4 cup butter.
They filled the cookie void, had better nutrition than Oreos, and it was kind of cool to make them myself.
Let's say I wanted burgers.
The other day, I actually made Tuna Patties.
I'll share the recipe:
3 Cans of Tuna
1 Can of blended chickpeas (drained and rinsed )
I cup whole wheat flour
Franks red hot seasoning
Then I fried them until they were nicely browned and was able to make about 7 really good sized tuna burger patties.
I could do something very similar with beef. I could even choose my favourite cheese, etc, and make something homemade that would be just as good as any other home cooked meal nutrition-wise, but with the appearance of a comfort food.
Nutrition shouldn't be restrictive, it should open up your world to all kinds of possibilities. It should be an opportunity to be a logistics champion. Know how many eggs you plan to eat, or know how much meat you need or know how many servings of vegetables you'll require and purchase them on your grocery store visit.
By being aware of what your requirements are, for the meals you will inevitably require, you are better prepared to succeed.
Understand that we're all human, we all like what we like, and if we find a way to eat it in moderation, there's nothing wrong with it.
Figure out the things that you like to eat, and more likely than not, if you are open to the different ways you can cook and bake, you can likely come up with something that is much more nutrient dense if made at home.
Look at the differences between white flour and whole wheat flour. Look at the differences between fizzy drinks. All of these things will contribute to the bigger picture that defines our track.
For me, being on track, is being around what would be my energy balance. On days where I am less active, I tend to intake less calories. On days where I am more active, I don't go out of my way to eat more calories, but more often than not I have an extra serving at one of my meals.
It's easier if you have an understanding of what's going into your meals. When you cook and bake, you get to see the nutrition information, the calories, the protein, the fat, the carbohydrates. You get to see the magnesium content and the iron and the calcium.
Same goes for grocery shopping. You are in the driver seat. The more you know, the more straightforward it all becomes. The best way to get better is to put effort in. Learn a recipe that helps you reach your goals or practice regularly buying food that supports you towards your goals.
This entry got pretty rambly, so if you have any questions make sure to reach out to me firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks for reading!