Sticking to our health and fitness plans can certainly be a challenge. Take a second and think about all of the things that sidetrack us — birthdays (and their encompassing cakes), work lunches (a.k.a. ordering from your nearby pizza place), and don’t forget about post-work trips to the bar to let off a little steam at happy hour.
As you can see, there’s a bevy of things that can derail in our everyday lives. So how do we stay on track to ensure we maintain that beach body all year long? Well, first things first: set the ground rules and be SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound):
Plan & Prep - Some weeks will have their fair-share of temptations, especially when the holidays roll around. Parties, celebrations, dinners or travelling for business typically requires you to eat out for nearly every meal. Take time to map out the week by planning what meals you may indulge in, and simply prepare the rest. Multiple take-out days? Pack a healthy lunch. Have a sweet tooth? Satisfy the craving with a piece of dark chocolate instead of chowing down on cake. Take time to research restaurant menus in advance; that way, you’ll be set to make the right decision when you travel.
“Be the Change…” – That’s right. Quoting Gandhi. It’s more than likely that you aren’t the only person at work trying to be healthy or lose weight. Be their Sensei by offering to find healthy alternatives for the next lunchbreak. Have a wellness committee? Start one! They create the opportunity for employees to eat well, be social and stand up from their desk every now and then.
Track Food AND Progress – The word “track” doesn’t have to be scary or tedious. To handle any lingering temptations and sporadically treat yourself, it’s important to be cognizant of what you’re eating, as well as how much. That means tracking food on a regular basis, and recording your results (current weight, measurements, energy levels, etc.) each week. Whether you decide on tracking or not, you should at least be conscious of how many calories you’re consuming — that way you know when can indulge a little bit.
Now, you may be saying, “It’s nearly impossible to stick to a program since my diet is so different from my spouse’s and my kids.” We hear you. It’s hard enough to meal prep well on a regular diet. But when you have to take into account other factors, like no meat, or low carbs, or even family-friendly requirements, it’s near impossible. And to come up with new ideas, week after week, so that you don’t have to eat the same food for months? Who has the time for that?
Luckily, we do. We pulled together our favorite resources from all around the web for your specific diet.
Family-Friendly Meal Prep
Cooking for a whole family is tough. Meal prepping for them is even tougher. Luckily, lunch boxes are perfect for meal prep.
- Family Fresh Meals has meal plans already made for you, treats to enjoy on cheat days, and tips on how to balance it all.
- MOMables also has awesome kid-friendly specialty meal plans for grain, dairy, and meat free diets!
- Check out The Every Mom’s Food & Drink section—it has tons of ideas for kid- and family-friendly meal prep ideas and recipes.
Trending Diet Meal Prep
There’s nothing wrong with trying a new diet on for size. When we’re talking “trending” diets, we mean the stuff that’s gotten big in the last few years: paleo, keto, and Whole 30.
Paleo Meal Prep Resources
What’s Paleo? Paleo excludes grains, dairy, and processed foods (it’s meant to model how early humans used to eat—lots of veggies, meats, fish, and fruit).
- They had us at Almond Butter Berry Breakfast Bars.
- These guys have everything, from the containers you should have to multiple meal prep ideas for multiple diets. Check out their Keto and Whole 30 sections, too.
- Delicious ideas that aren’t just for runners. Yes, please.
Keto Meal Prep Resources
What’s Keto? The ketogenic diet is based off of a ratio system: you get 75 percent of your calories from fats, 20 percent from proteins, and just five percent from carbs.
- This one’s pretty straightforward!
- This blog is best for beginners who want to meal prep on keto (and learn lots of additional info on not only keto, but how to fuel right, stay healthy on the diet, and find other resources!)
- This blog focuses its efforts on biohacking—or hacking the body to help it reach its peak performance. There are tons of options for keto eaters as well as other diets, like paleo, dairy-free, and grain-free.
Whole30 Meal Prep Resources
What’s Whole30? Whole30 is a diet that consists only of whole foods—like paleo, it excludes grains, dairy, processed sugars, and alcohol. Unlike paleo, it allows you to use salts and spices to make your food more flavorful.
- What better place to start than the actual Whole30 site?
- This article includes an awesome collection of recipes from around the web.
- Seems counter-intuitive, but since paleo and Whole30 are on the same wavelength, Our Paleo Life gives a ton of great insight. Better yet, this blog has four weeks of meal prep already planned out for you.
Lifestyle Meal Prep
Whether your body or taste buds need vegetarian, dairy-free, or gluten-free options, there are tons of lifestyle blogs that can lend a hand. Here are some of our favorites.
- For Vegetarians: Check out this curated list of vegetarian blogs—all of them have amazing recipes and quick meal prep ideas that will help you get creative on your meat-free grind.
- For Dairy-Free Diets: GoDairyFree has a ton of recipes that promote (and support) a dairy-free lifestyle, whether that’s because of lactose intolerance or otherwise.
- For Gluten-Free Diets: WhatTheFork’s gluten-free blog network has resources for people with Celiac disease, gluten intolerances, or those who are just trying to work gluten out of their diets. This is an awesome place to start.
Budget-Friendly Meal Prep
There’s no way around it: buying groceries is expensive. And we often buy more than we need. It’s okay to prefer the alternative food regimen to paleo and keto: the Cheap Diet. And, surprisingly, it’s easier than it might seem to eat healthy on a low budget. Here are the places we turn to if we’re looking for a low grocery bill.
- Inexpensive meal prep ideas that don’t sacrifice taste or health. If you thought that you couldn’t get a ton of flavor with low-budget meals, think again.
- They’ve since turned into a cookbook (that's how you know they're good). This blog gives you meal ideas that are all under $20.
- Don’t be fooled by this blog’s lack of glamour. What it doesn’t have in flash, it makes up for in humor, good food, and great stories. Spend some time here—you won’t be sorry.
As you can see, changing your diet doesn’t mean you’re necessarily limited. There’s still a bevy of healthy and fun food options out there for you — options that would still allow you to hit your weight loss or healthy eating goals. It simply starts with small changes to your diet. We’ve put together a list of easy changes that you can make to everyday food options, that will get your advanced weight loss kicking into high gear.
Ditch Ice Cream for Frozen Banana Bites: If you have a sweet tooth that cannot be satisfied, try throwing your ice cream carton right in the garbage. Because we’ve got the definitive sweet-tooth frozen treat that satisfies your craving without the calorie guilt. Check out the recipe here.
Ditch the Butter in Baking for Apple Sauce: That's right — it’s not an old wives' tale. For baking recipes that require butter, you can instead add low-calorie, all-natural apple sauce. It tastes even better!
Ditch the Maple Syrup and Blend Some Fruit: Love a heaping sticky puddle of maple syrup on your protein pancakes? Us too. But you can substitute crushed or blended fruit for the same flavor punch without the added calories.
Ditch Bread for a Lettuce Wrap: If you bring your lunch to work with you, cutting out the sandwich can seem like a hard ‘no way’. Enjoy the fullness of your sandwich without the added calories and carbs when you substitute bread for a lettuce wrap. Need some inspiration? Here are 15 Healthy Lettuce Wrap Recipes.
Ditch the Mayo and Add Avocado: No one likes a dry sandwich. But instead of plopping a spoonful of mayo on your lettuce wrap, try spreading some avocado for added flavor and healthy fats.
Ditch Your Morning OJ and Make a Smoothie: If you drink a glass of orange juice every morning, what you’re really drinking is a glass of sugar. Instead of wasting those calories, try removing your morning toast and OJ and substitute with a filling and healthy morning smoothie. Check out some recipe ideas here.
Ditch the Chips and Go for Pistachios: If you reach for the bag of chips for a salty craving, try substituting with a handful of healthy nuts, like peanuts, cashews, almonds, or pistachios. While nuts are high in calories, they are linked to healthier body composition and are packed with nutrients. Your bag of chips is not packed with anything but regrets.
Minor changes could be the key to helping you reach your weight loss goals. Of course, every diet should be paired with a healthy exercise routine. Giving your body the proper fuel will give you the energy you need to get moving. Nervous about what you may be eating? Be sure to stay away from a few specific foods that could derail your progress.
Common Mistakes Made During A Weight Loss Challenge
Frozen meals - We love convenience, but frozen meals are packed with sodium to preserve the meals longer. What does that mean for your weight loss challenge? The added sodium can cause you to retain water feeling extra bloated. Not a great feeling when you want to stay motivated to achieve your goal. Instead, prepare your own meals making extra so you can freeze a single meal to have later in the week.
Carbs only - Gone are the days of carb-only snacks during a weight-loss challenge! If you’re trying to lose weight, you’ll want to snack smarter. If you’re feeling something crunchy, try a rice cake with peanut butter, or whole grain crackers with a little cheese. You’re snacking will be more well-balanced combining carbs and protein for a higher nutrient value that carbs alone.
Snack bars - Snack bars are not welcome near your next weight loss grocery list. They can be deceptive in claiming high-fiber benefits, which is great to leave you feeling fuller longer, but you can consume a high fiber snack from fresh fruits and veggies instead. This will help you remove a lot of added sugar and fat from your day.
Juice and artificially sweetened beverages - Really, anything besides water should be out of your mind if you are working towards a weight loss goal. Removing sodas and juices from your diet will help you crave them less, so you don’t have to worry about drinking added calories and sugar. Instead, try adding citrus fruit, mint, or berries to your water. You’ll be surprised by how many natural flavors you can make yourself! We love making iced tea and only using muddled berries and mint as a sweetener!
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