My guess is that because you’ve taken the time to read this you are a busy person juggling the demands of family and working life with trying to eat a varied nutritious range of foods?   

I also suspect that you will have seen umpteen pieces of advice from teeny tiny bloggers and celebrities advising you what they eat that makes them look the way they do and that – given a team of chefs, a PA, a personal taxi service and at least 36 hours in the day, YOU TOO CAN LOOK LIKE THEM!

Well forgive me for being outspoken but it’s rubbish.

Ditching sugar forever, cutting out all gluten (unless you have a medical reason that requires it), giving up all alcohol is never going to be a sustainable way of living; that is, if you want to enjoy life!

There is no single food that is bad for you. What is not so healthy is an obsession with calories or cutting out a particular food type because someone somewhere did just that and now they feel amazing.

It won’t last.  Just like diets.

In fact there is some research that says restricted eating, or diets do the opposite. Fiona Willer, an accredited practicing dietician says “People who diet restrictively tend to have concrete beliefs about the value of different foods, eating behaviours and body shape that are more extreme than non-dieters.  Frequent weight loss dieting has been associated with increased morbidity and mortality risk, reduced bone mass (even in obese populations) and increased cortisol production, and is a strong predictor of weight gain over time.”

The key to optimal health is to have a balance of exercise, happiness, rest, nutritious food, enduring relationships and that means if any of these things are missing, our health will suffer.  Managing a busy week of commutes, meetings, after work events and childcare can leave trying to maintain a healthy range of foods at the bottom of the list of priorities.  We can improve this by trying to plan ahead.

Umm … how many Facebook posts have you seen where a beautiful smooth chested male (with no children, mothers in law, name labels to sew on etc) tells you how to plan your meals for a week.  But who really has time to fill 21 small plastic boxes with breakfast, lunch and dinner a week in advance on a Sunday night, especially when you can never find the right lid to fit and Poldark is on the telly?  So once again it’s all about balance.

The combination of a lack of time, inspiration and knowledge can leave us eating the same 10 or so meals week in, week out because it’s easy.  So we are already planning, just planning different things.  By making a few changes to what and how we plan, we can make a big difference to our energy levels, quality of sleep and feeling of general wellbeing, plus reduce the frequency we eat foods that offer little or no nutritional value.  

Obviously every family is different and has it’s own likes and dislikes but these are some things you might try within your week.

That first drink of the day

Is your morning routine actually making you feel worse? Try replacing one of your caffeine loaded drinks with something else. Hot water with a slice of lemon stimulates hydrochloric acid (HCL) in the stomach which is needed to aid the digestion process.  If your immediate answer is ‘No thanks!’, just try it.  Often we drink something without actually registering the taste, so it is just habit.  Save the café latte for a time when you can really savour and enjoy it.

Breakfast – what do you eat?

If the answer is nothing, that is like taking the car out with no petrol in it.  It won’t go very far and neither will you.  If you can introduce some protein into your breakfast you will feel fuller for longer and won’t find yourself grabbing a donut to go with a skinny cappuccino mid morning.  Overnight oats can be made in bulk, enough for three or four days, just sprinkle seeds, nuts or fruit before eating.

Lunches

In my house we start eating soup in September and finish in March.  It’s so easy to whizz up a filling nutritious bowl of soup with a few ingredients or buy a ready-made soup in a supermarket.  The fact that it is portable makes it a great option for taking to work and eating ‘al desko’ if you have to.  If soup doesn’t tick your box, save small portions of your evening meals and take them to work.  It’s surprising how a mini version of an evening meal can be very sustaining at lunchtime, so much more so than a stick of celery with cottage cheese.

Snacks

There are going to be times when you really need a sweet fix to boost your energy levels.  But as you get used to banning the process of counting every calorie and start to make better food choices those energy slumps get fewer each day.  When they strike it is nice to have something which will give you a slower release energy boost.  I have an oaty power-bar recipe which I can vary by adding cocoa, seeds, fruit and nuts to.  I make a batch of 30 bars at a time and freeze them so I always have them to hand. There are so many recipes available I’m happy to send out mine if you’d like it.

But let me tell you: cake is good!  Chocolate is fabulous and my life would be so much more boring if I never ate it again.  Again, it’s all about balance.

Evening meals

The most common scenario is that we arrive home from work so hungry we could eat the squashed banana in the bottom of our child’s school bag.  That’s when it all goes wrong isn’t it?  One quick cracker with cheese can’t hurt, just the last glass of wine left in the bottle to wash it down and before you know it there doesn’t seem to be any point making a healthy meal.  As autumn arrives, that dusty slow cooker at the back of the cupboard can really help.  Arrive home to the smell of a warm chilli or curry and there won’t be any need to hit the snacks.  I just chuck everything in the pot first thing.  I don’t brown any meat or fry any onions, just bung it in, cover with some liquid and go.  There are loads of recipe ideas on the internet so why not have a look?

Finally, keep hydrated

Keep a bottle of water on your desk and aim to drink around 2 litres each day.  Yes, it might mean a few more trips to the toilets but as sitting is the new smoking, that increased movement can only be a good thing!  And what about the glass of Bubbles?  Yes – enjoy it, not every day but with bubbles should come friendship, laughter and fun and that’s all part of the healthy balance of life so go for it!