Note: This is a guest post from my homeboy Cody Wheeler of Academy Success
No doubt about it, eating well all the time is tough, especially with how long it can take to prepare healthy meals vs. boxed meal junk.
In fact, the time shift involved is a large stumbling block for many people that have set a goal to eat better.
On Academy Success, I talk a lot about personal growth and making changes. One of the biggest steps to making any life change is eliminating failure points up front before making a change.
In this post, we’ll address how you can eliminate the failure point of not having enough time to eat well by tying in some simple, but powerful productivity and time management strategies as you change your eating habits.
By the end of this post, you’ll have a strategy that will not only help you eat well on a tight schedule, but as an added benefit, help you make sure you stick to your new nutritional goals.
Eat Like a Caveman
If you’re going to make a dramatic change in your health, Paleo nutrition is the way to go, hands down.
For those of you that aren’t familiar with “Paleo” nutrition, the simplest way to put it is “eat like the cavemen did” in their hunter-gatherer days during Paleolithic era.
They had access to fruits, vegetables, berries, nuts, and animal meats, all in their most natural form – not milk, bread, beer, soda, and all of the other synthesized and chemically-altered substances we put into our bodies today.
But going Paleo can be a large transition. A full Paleo explanation is beyond the scope of this post, but for a simple rundown, check out this handy guide.
A big hurdle with Paleo, or any diet for that matter, is the initial “getting used to it” period in the first week or so. A lot of people stumble with Paleo because it’s such a big shift from what they’re used to. If you don’t come at it with a strategy and a bit of up front preparation, it can easily result in failure.
But here’s how you make Paleo easy from the beginning.
Paleo limits many of the foods we are used to eating on a daily basis. Because of this, you can easily find yourself wondering “Ok, what the heck do I eat?” And in those situations when you’re in a pinch, it’s easy to default back to old habits. The alternative is to starve, and that’s obviously not healthy.
This is why 80/20 planning is so important.
What I mean by 80/20 planning is creating a simple meal in a few minutes so you’re never left wondering what to eat. There’s no complex planning involved here. That kind of barrier can often hinder a life change from happening.
Simply sit down with your favorite calendar tool (I like to use a Google Docs spreadsheet), and pencil in what you’ll eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner each day, along with a couple of small healthy snacks in between. This should take you no longer than 5-10 minutes for the week.
Then create a shopping list based on these meals.
If you’re new to Paleo, check out the Paleo Shopping List, and the One Week Meal Plan for an easy jump-start.
Once you’ve got that taken care of, you’re ready for the next step, actually preparing your food. This is where the magic happens.
Introduction to Batching
One of the key time management techniques I teach on Academy Success that everyone should master is called batching.
Batching is the process of completing otherwise smaller tasks together in one large “‘batch.” Most often, you would otherwise perform these tasks separately over time.
Batching does take a little more time up front, but saves you a ton of time in the long run by eliminating the switching costs that are associated with performing a task over and over, as well as the mental anguish and failures that may occur.
In the world of food preparation, and especially with Paleo, this is a gigantic key to success. Cleanup and the resistance to food preparation are two large barriers associated with nutrition plan failure.
Batching simplifies all of that by allowing you to prepare food just a few times a week, rather than dozens of times.
This helps you mitigate the risk of not having food available, as well as when you may not feel completely up to preparing a full meal.
Batching Paleo Preparation
Now you know that meal planning is essential to a nutritional change. It helps you stay away from your old habits and sets you up for success.
But batching takes meal planning a step further. Instead of just planning your meals in advance, you’re going to actually make them in advance, as far along as you can without making something that will spoil or that isn’t time effective to make at that point.
Normally you wouldn’t make a meal to full completion in this step. You want to stick mainly to preparing raw ingredients, but if something makes sense to prepare all the way, go for it.
In the image above, you can see several containers with chopped up veggies. You can do something like this in under an hour, and chopped up veggies will last sometimes weeks depending on recipe choices. You can even freeze them if you have the space.
You can do the same thing with other ingredients as well. Here are some of the typical foods you can prepare in advance for use in Paleo recipes.
- Bell peppers
- Squash and Zucchini
- Grilled Chicken
- Ground Beef
- Hard Boiled Eggs
- Nuts and Berries (these are great snacks)
- Salads and Salad Fixings (these can normally last a few days)
- Bacon (a very popular Paleo food)
- Sweet Potatoes
- Chopped up Frozen Fruit (great for smoothies)
This is a short list for the sake of simplicity, but you get the idea. It could easily be 30 lines long. All of these foods can be prepared several days in advance in a large batch, rather than hassling with preparing them one by one. It allows you to virtually skip the preparation step when you need to get a meal together.
Now instead of a meal taking an hour to complete, it’ll take you 15 minutes. You can see how this can be a huge help, especially when you’re hungry.
This will literally save you several hours per week, and will also ensure you always have food on hand to stick to your nutrition plan.
Your Next Steps
Your next steps are to think about how you’re currently preparing your meals, and how you may be able to take advantage of batching to save yourself several hours per week, as more easily stick to your nutrition plan.
Specifically focus on those meals that you love, but you dread preparing because they take so long to do. Those are usually the big wins with batching.
Couple this technique with the shift to Paleo nutrition, and you’ll be set up for a lifetime of nutritional success.
Cody Wheeler is the founder of Academy Success and creator of Output Overdrive, a full-length High Definition video course. Get your free Productivity Toolkit now and free up an extra 3-5 hours per week.