Meal prep. You just have to do it. It’s drilled into us by our coaches, diet gurus, and lifestyle experts; if you don’t meal prep you will fail your diet. Come lunch time, you’ll find yourself cruising the parking lots of fast food establishments trying to justify what you can get away with, knowing that all your options are bad. On the drive over you tell yourself you’ll have the “fresh” salad with a side of apple slices, but when you arrive you’re hungry and stressed from rushing through traffic in the off chance you’ll have time to actually eat the food you’re about to purchase without being late getting back to the office.
The combination of stress and hunger changes your perspective on life. Suddenly, the immediate need to satisfy your cravings becomes more important than your goals. You end up leaving with a grease stained bag of burger/fries and a milk shake, just like all the other addicts in front of and behind you in the daily line-up of self-compromise and frustrated lives.
Had you meal prepped, you wouldn’t be in this situation. Your already prepared lunch would be with you, ready to be popped into the microwave and enjoyed in-office or perhaps a nearby park bench. The daily scramble for lunch and the ensuing lunchtime traffic rush are avoided. Lunch is now a stress reducing activity as opposed to a stress inducing one.
We call this controlling your food environment. Those who’ve read my work recognize it as a foundational strategy for battling sugar and processed food addiction. Any coach, diet guru, or lifestyle expert who tells you otherwise is not worth your time. They may say some inspiring words that give you warm fuzzy feelings, but will ultimately fail you while having profited from your struggle.
Most of us are stress eaters. Stress triggers in us a desire to eat foods we perceive as comforting. That’s why controlling your food environment is such a crucial part of combating your Sugar Demons.
But I have another trigger, leisure time. It’s derailed my progress more times than I can count. Typically on weekends.
If I happen to have a whole lot of free time to spend in the recliner watching Netflix, there’s a good chance I’m going to snack while doing so. “Stop eating in front of the TV!” more good advice from well meaning experts. But how? I’ve struggled for years trying to break this habit and to this day I can’t sit through a whole movie without feeling the urge to snack. Even with my Sugar Demons conquered, the urge to snack whenever I sit down to watch TV remains. So I stopped fighting it. There are some strategies in my book for avoiding spending too much time in front of the TV, but darn it sometimes you just want to binge watch some baby Yoda!
Instead of banging my head against a wall AND making leisure time into some epic internal struggle, I just changed up my tactics. Now, along with meal prep for the week, I snack prep with healthy foods that won’t derail my diet.
“But I barely have time to meal prep, now I have to snack prep too?” Relax, most of this stuff requires no actual prep work other than plating what you picked up at the grocery store. Snack prepping is going to serve a dual purpose. Not only will you avoid turning to processed foods in your down time, but you’re going to get way more vegetables into your diet.
If you’ve already read my book on sugar addiction (and if you haven’t please go do so right now) you know I’m pretty neutral about whether or not you eat vegetables. The reason for this is because I want to make going sugar free as simple as possible, which means making meal prep as simple as possible. I don’t want anyone quitting on themselves because meal prep is too much hassle. But at the end of the day, eating more vegetables can’t hurt you, plus you can use them strategically as a filler to displace other less healthy options. Think of them as green water and eat as much as you want.
Here are a few examples of “snack” foods so you can enjoy leisure time without derailing your progress:
1. Vegetable tray with olive oil & balsamic vinegar. Ever eat at one of those Americanized Italian chain restaurants that puts out a plate of olive oil swirled with balsamic to dip your bread into? Who hasn’t? Often it’s the best part of the meal. Do the same thing with the olive oil but switch out the bread for vegetables. Broccoli, cauliflower, baby carrots, celery, mushrooms, all of these go great with olive oil. Not a fan of balsamic? Just sprinkle some salt and herbs on your oil for a more savory mixture.
2. Sweet and salty. This one is even more simple than the above example. Fill one side of your snack tray with dill pickles and the other with carrots. You can switch back and forth between the salty flavor of the pickles and the crunchy sweetness of the carrots.
3. Kimchi and peppers. This one requires you to rough cut a bell pepper, but it’s totally worth the 2 minutes of prep work. Cut any color bell pepper into big chunks the size of a potato chip. Use the “pepper chips” to carry large, heaping scoops of kimchi into your mouth. Also works with guacamole.
4. Chips and guac. Thin slice a bunch of cucumber, beet root, golden beet root, and tomatoes into “chips”. Dip the chips in the guacamole. Easy peasy.