Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Ten on Tuesday | Eating Healthy All Week

Last week, a lady behind me in line at the grocery store complimented me on the pile of produce, grains and other healthy food choices I had placed on the conveyor belt. Her words inspired me to start sharing more about our gluten free lifestyle and the way that we shop for, prepare, and eat food in our home. While I happily share what I know in person, it hasn't been a widely discussed topic in this space. 

Working long days for the past two weeks has reminded me just how important it is to eat healthy and balanced meals. So, this week's Ten on Tuesday is dedicated to just that  - eating healthy all week long.

1 // Create a meal plan for the week and try your best to stick to it! 

Though the concept seems like it would make little difference in your week, meal planning is a great way to save time and eat better during the week. On Sunday mornings, I take the time to plan our meals for the week. In our house, lunches are always the same (which I’ll get to in just a moment) but we like to eat a variety of dinners. During the week, I use bloglovin to save my favorite recipe posts for inspiration since I personally find Pinterest frustrating since many great pins lack the correct recipe source. After making a tentative schedule for the week, I look at the recipes in depth and take the time to create a grocery list. I find it most effective to create my grocery list by section of the store, produce/dairy/frozen. While dinners and events do come up, sticking to a meal plan helps in fighting the urge to eat out.

2 // Speaking of groceries, buy lots of produce and always start your shopping trip in this section of the store. 

Our produce for each week includes tomatoes, onions, avocados, spinach, baby carrots, celery, apples, bananas, and watermelon at the very least - depending on the season or the meals we are planning for the week, leeks, sweet potatoes, strawberries and other produce could be added to the list. I always start my trip in the produce section because fruits and veggies take up a lot of space in my cart. Seeing a full cart makes it easier to pass by the snack foods and groceries that we don't need.

3 // Portion snacks - especially fruits and veggies - for the week.

After getting groceries put away, my first order of business is to wash and portion all of our produce. Having a pineapple or watermelon in your cart is great but at home, these things won't get eaten unless they're easy to grab. Open a bag of chips or cut up a watermelon? Yeah, that's what I thought. In addition to portioning our fruits and veggies, I also divide up chips, granola, and sweets. I'm dangerous with a whole bag of chips and so having individual sized snacks is a great way to maintain reasonable portion sizes. Plus, it makes packing lunches at 6am that much easier.

4 // Add greens. To everything.

Did you know that four cups of fresh spinach only has twenty calories? Dark leafy greens are also full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. For breakfast, I put spinach into quiches. At lunch, I use leaf lettuce to keep my turkey and swiss sandwiches from getting soggy - a real bonus. For dinner, spinach is added in handfuls to pastas and risottos (adding a lot of nutritional value without a lot of added flavor) while protein heavy meals are paired with simple salads. Greens are affordable, low calories, and easy to incorporate in your diet.

5 // Make breakfasts ahead for the week.

In our house, breakfast is the only meal that we make ahead but it is perhaps the most important part of our "healthy eating" steps. On Sundays, I take the time to bake veggie-rich quiches or breakfast cups for the week. With my new job, I am up by 5:30 and prepping ahead is the only way to ensure a hot, filling, healthy breakfast. If you aren't a fan of hot or large breakfasts, yogurt with granola and fresh fruit provide quick, no-prep breakfast options.

6 // Pack lunch! 

I can't emphasize this enough! With food allergies, this point is even more important for us. Packing lunch allows you to eat healthy, to save money, and to have more time during your lunch for errands, reading, or relaxing. Lately, we have gotten in the habit of picnic lunches as often as possible. Today, we were lucky enough to share our lunch hour with sandwiches in a Santa Fe park. I always try to pack a sandwich, fresh fruit, and either chips, crackers, or pasta salad. I may also sneak a little mini-snickers bar in there but hey, everything in moderation.

7 // Keep a drawer at work stocked with healthy snacks.

Healthy shelf-stable snacks include roasted and salted almonds, homemade trail mix, and granola bars. GoPicnic also makes great meals that can be stored in a desk drawer for a last minute lunch option. In addition to keeping snacks at work, I've learned to throw a snack or two in my bag and in the console of my car. Being gluten free means that I can't just grab cookies from a vending machine or french fries at a local restaurant - but even without allergies, having snacks on hand prevents you from grabbing unhealthy treats or spending unnecessarily.

10 // Try to eat more often. 

There is controversy over the best way to schedule meals - three times a day, four times a day, six times a day. When it comes to this, I will say this, listen to your body. I am an avid breakfast eater but I find that my stomach starts to growl around 10. Likewise, after a ten hour work day, I find that I'm often starving before I finish my hour drive home. For me, eating three meals a day and snacking at least once between meals helps me feel energized and full throughout the whole day.

8 // Drink lots of water.

It is said that due to evolution, the human response to thirst is so weak that many people mistake it for hunger. This time of year, especially in the desert, drinking water is easy. That being said, many people don't realize how much water they need to drink. A good rule of thumb is to take your weight in pounds, divide it by half and this indicates the ounces of water you should be drinking daily. For instance, a 120 lb individuals should drink approximately 60oz or nearly a half gallon of water. This water requirement calculator can help provide you with a more tailored and accurate recommendation. I make sure to fill my water bottle for the drive to and from work and find that drinking during my work day keeps me awake and attentive. If you aren't a fan of straight water, try lemon or other fruit infusions!

9 // Drink less caffeine!

If you are someone who drinks caffeine with multiple meals each day, try cutting back slowly. For instance, I used to drink an iced chai in the morning with breakfast and often a soda with lunch. Now, I try to limit myself to one or the other, and usually not every day. Drinking less caffeine will eventually make it easier to wake up naturally, will keep you more hydrated, and will make getting to sleep easier.

So tell me, what are your techniques for eating healthy during the work week? None of these are "unique" or "new" ideas but instead, great reminders. Do you create a meal plan for your week? What kind of snacks do you keep at work? I'd love your suggestions! 

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