Summer is coming to an end, and if you're like me, you're feeling like...WHERE did it even go?
We ate, we drank (well many of us did anyway), we relaxed, and then we ate some more. And now it’s time to get back on track (sorry...I'm not the happiest about it either!).
The reality for many is that September and October can be one of the most stressful times of the year. The new school year and/or coming off of summer vacation brings changes to routines, homework, the start of fall activities, lunches to make, forms to sign, bedtime routines to enforce, etc., etc...yikes! Just the thought of it all is overwhelming. As a mom of four small children (one school aged), with a full-time job, trying to start a business, and a husband who also works, I know how hard it can be. And as a dietitian I also know how important good nutrition is and that it can become a real challenge when everyone is so busy.
Relaxing and indulging is always great, and needed at times, but we all know our bodies and our minds feel MUCH better when we’re into a healthier routine (and research shows this as well). We don’t have to be perfect of course (and never do)…but if we can get back into a healthier routine than what we might have let ourselves get into over the summer, our bodies and minds will thank us.
Here are 7 steps to get you back into a healthy routine this fall:
Summer happened. Over-indulgence happened, you might have eaten more than you should have, drank more than you should have, stayed up later than you should have, exercised less than you should have…but now we need to re-focus. For our own sanity of course.
Draw a line in the sand.
Don’t beat yourself up for letting loose over the summer or on vacation. Simply get back up, dust yourself off and get focused.
2. Plan (I know…hear me out first though)
A little planning now will save time in the long run. So, what can you do? The main thing – and yes, I know you’ve heard it before – is to plan, plan, plan.
I can hear you saying: “Ain't nobody got time for dat!” (or, is that saying too old now?)
But anyway, know this: by investing time to plan ahead you save time in the long run and reduce stress during your very busy days (and who couldn't use that?).
Do you already grocery shop weekly? Take a few minutes before heading out to scan the contents of your pantry and fridge. Take note of healthy meals your family already likes to eat and make sure you have the ingredients for those. When we are busy we reach for what is convenient to eat so make healthy foods the convenient choice.
Better yet – bring less amounts of less healthy choices into your home in the first place (because I would never tell you that you have to completely give up things you love, just have less of it, and have your diet be overall healthier items).
Prep at least one batch of a food item each week. You can slowly work towards prepping more over time, but for now, I would start off small. Pick a couple of instances during the week where you find you don’t make the best choices or when you're just too rushed (e.g., breakfast, snacks, or suppertime), and then 1-2 items (starting off) to prep to help during those times.
Choose a day of the week (e.g., Sunday, or even a couple hours on Saturday and a couple on Sunday) and prep one or several items.
Meal Prep Examples
The below examples could all be done at once, or just try 1-2 at a time. Flavour with the basics to your taste (small amount of salt, pepper, garlic powder, cumin, curry powder, red pepper flakes, thyme, Italian seasoning, etc.) and different epicure seasonings to make things easier, and you can get more experimental with your flavourings over time.
Example 1: Cook a whole chicken, and several chicken breasts. This could be used for lunches for everyone, and perhaps 1-2 meals depending on how many you make.
Example 2: Cut up veggies such as carrots, peppers, celery, etc. These can be used as snacks to have with hummus, or to be quickly boiled, sautéed, or steamed in the microwave to have with a meal.
Example 3: Cook a large batch of quinoa (or any other grain such as bulgar or wild rice). This could be added to salads to make more filling, or as a side with a meal.
Example 4: Roast a large amount of veggies – e.g., sweet potato, peppers, squash, etc. to use as sides for meals throughout the week.
Example 5: Cook a large amount of ground turkey to use for sauces and other dishes throughout the week.
You get the point! There are tons of ways you can make your week a little easier, so try just prepping one thing for now, and go from there.
3. Make Eating Healthy, Easy (Most of the time, at least)
Healthy snacks and meals don’t have to be difficult. Some suggestions for healthy snack choices (can combine 2-3 of these for a balanced, filling snack):
vegetables with hummus, tzatziki, or guacamole;
yogurt (Greek yogurt is my fav because it is higher in protein and more filling) with berries and/or nuts and seeds;
whole grain crackers or pita with hummus or tzatziki or guacamole;
canned tuna and salmon with crackers;
dried chickpeas; or
energy balls such as the ones here.
Simple meal ideas include (can be combined with some of the snack ideas above for a balanced meal):
After shopping spend some time washing fruit and vegetables and place them within sight in the fridge. Prepare baggies of cut up fruit and veggies to make it quick and easy to grab them for lunches and snacks.
If you have kids get them involved in meal planning and preparation. As their skills increase they’ll be able to take some of the work off you and they will be learning important life skills to keeping themselves healthy as they get older.
Get everyone to pack lunch (yes, that means you too!) right after dinner when leftovers are at hand and you have more time. Keep reusable containers, ice packs and insulated bags around to make this job easier.
Yes, all these things take a little investment of time and effort. The payoff is well worth it for you and your whole family.
Cooking for the Rushed – Sandi Richard
Saving Dinner – Leanne Ely
4. Hydrate (Easy enough, right?)
Make sleep a priority. As relaxing as summer days can be, many can still end with the feeling of exhaustion (especially when you need to start getting back to a routine!).
When your body is low on sleep, it becomes easier to make poor eating choices. You’re also less likely to get back into your workouts if you don’t give your body a chance to rest.
Aim for getting a full 8 hours of sleep each night. Hey, I’m a busy working mom, I understand that it can be hard to shut off at night and get enough rest. For tips on getting into a healthy sleep routine, visit here.
6. Practice Mindful/Intuitive Eating
Tracking foods and counting calories/macros works great for some (I work with many people that have success with this, and it helps keep them accountable), but for others, it just stressed them out (especially when life is busy enough already!).
Mindful/intuitive eating can help take some of this stress away. It involves re-learning to trust our body’s natural, engrained, physiological ability to eat the right amount of food that our bodies need. Mindful eating is the opposite of dieting. In diet land we might look to external rules to tell us how much to eat such as calories, points, blocks. Intuitive eating instead encourages us to look within ourselves and use our own internal cues of hunger and fullness to guide us in knowing when and how much to eat.
Here are some tips for mindful eating:
Start tuning into your gut when you’re eating, and recognizing the feelings of fullness. What do they feel like? Do you know what they feel like? If you’ve had a difficult relationship with food in the past or have been dieting for a long time you may not be able to feel or know what hunger and fullness feel like to you. That’s perfectly okay.
Check out this hunger and fullness scale, that can help you map out what hunger and fullness feels like to you. And the cool thing about these is that there are no hard and fast rules here. You get to decide how hungry you want to be before you start eating. You also get to decide how full you’d like to feel when you finish.
If you find the hunger tool isn’t helpful to you in determining when you’re hungry, or if you would like to explore other strategies, check out my services, contact me if you have any questions, or book a free 15-minute consultation!
For more info on mindful eating, check out this article by Huffington Post.
7. Increase Your Activity (Even if it's just a little bit!)
"Physical activity helps:
healthy growth and development
prevent chronic diseases like cancer, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease
make us stronger
give us energy
decrease stress, and
prolong independence as we get older." (Public Health Agency of Canada, 2011)
If you are looking to get active or increase your physical activity, don’t worry about how much you ‘should’ be doing. There are lots of recommendations or guidelines like 10,000 steps or 30-60 minutes of cardiovascular exercise a day, but these are medium or long-term targets to try to work towards.
Start out by assessing how much physical activity you are currently doing and set a small and reachable goal to build from there. Once you achieve that goal, provided you are ready to take on more, set a new goal to achieve. Build gradually and only take on more if you’re confident it is something you can achieve and maintain!
Focus mostly on establishing a routine for your activity first and managing your schedule and other commitments to consistently support this. Once you have a consistent routine in place, try to increase how much you are doing (up to a point). Lastly, focus on increasing how hard you are working. This will give you more bang for your buck!
Overall - congratulations! You're doing your best in this busy and sometimes hectic life. Try not to stress (for tips on managing stress, visit here), and just do the best that you can do! That’s all anyone can do. Let’s work on loving ourselves and our families first, and then slowly make small changes that will add up to BIG results over time.
Need help identifying a personalized nutrition strategy that works for you? That’s where I come in! I am trained to provide you with the BEST nutrition advice, to fight through all of the misinformation out there, and can help you with healthy weight loss, sports nutrition, healthy eating and meal planning, digestive wellness, food allergy and/or disease management, and more! Contact me today if you have any questions, or book a free 15-minute consultation!
Easy-Peasy Egg Muffin Cups (With as many, or as little ingredients as you like)
Here is a SUPER easy recipe that you can prep many of on Sunday and have for breakfasts and/or lunches and/or snacks throughout the week? (For your children, or for anyone else in the family!). Use as many or as little ingredients you like; you can even make some of the cups plain, and some of them have all of the ingredients.
Double or even triple the recipe depending on how many you want to make. Extras may be stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to a week, and in a freezer-safe container in the freezer for up to a month. Microwave thawed egg cups on high for 45-60 seconds or until hot.
Cooking spray (or small amount of oil)
6 large – egg
1/4 cup – milk
1/8 teaspoon – salt
1/8 teaspoon – black pepper, ground
1 medium – bell pepper, red (optional)
3/4 cup – spinach (optional)
1/4 cup – cheddar cheese, shredded (optional)
1/2 cup mushrooms, sautéed (optional)
Spray muffin tin(s) with cooking spray (or wipe with a small amount of oil on a piece of paper towel) and preheat oven to 375°F.
Whisk the eggs and milk together in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
Dice the bell pepper into small pieces.
Fill muffin cups 3/4 full (with as little or as many additional ingredients as you like) and bake for 20 to 25 minutes until centers are set and no longer runny.
Allow to cool slightly before serving.
Do you struggle with knowing exactly what foods will help you reach your goals? Download the exact grocery list that I provide for my clients to help them reach their goals, for free here!
Want answers to your food, nutrition and wellness questions? Join Sustain Nutrition's free online Facebook wellness community! Link to access the group is here.
For more information on the healthy weight management, nutrition, education and counselling services Sustain Nutrition offers, or to book a free 15 minute consultation, visit here.
Felicia Newell is a Nutritionist, Dietitian (candidate), Food and Nutrition Expert, Health Coach, and a mom of 4 boys under 6! She is also the owner of Sustain Nutrition. Felicia wears many hats, and knows what it is like to try and live healthy in a busy world, where our environments aren't always supportive of making healthy choices.
Life is busy, confusing at times, and full of contradictions, especially in the world of health and wellness. Felicia is passionate in helping others fight through the misinformation out there, and to navigate life and health, but most importantly, to enjoy the crap out of it while doing it.
She has over 11 years of education and experience in Nutritional sciences. Between completing her Bachelor and Masters in Nutritional Sciences, working at a food security research centre, teaching university courses, years of nutrition counselling, and being a busy mom of 4 young boys, she has the passion, skills, education, and experience to help others reach their health and nutrition goals.