Ep #13: Make Healthy Eating Simple & Ditch the Food Drama

Strong as a Working Mom with Carrie Holland | Make Healthy Eating Simple & Ditch the Food Drama
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Do you want to eat more healthily but don’t have time to meal prep? Do you want to eat better at home but don’t like to cook? Eating healthily should not be complicated, so why does it seem so overwhelming to so many of us?

We’re picking up where we left off last week with nutrition, and this week, I’m offering some ideas on how to make things simple when it comes to eating healthy. There are lots of ways to make eating healthy simple, but you have to try out what works for you, because when we simplify our nutrition, everything falls into place.

If you want a different outcome, you have to do something different, and that’s what I’m encouraging you to do this week. I’m giving you some ideas to help you eat at home more often, save time prepping meals, and eat healthy, even if you don’t like to cook. I’m showing you how to feel better about the food choices you’re making and giving you some concepts you can implement today to simplify your eating.

If you like what you’ve been hearing, please review the show. Your suggestions have inspired episodes and will help me make this show better for you. Want to get the word out to other working moms who want to feel strong inside and out? Share this podcast with a friend by texting a show link, sharing a screenshot, or posting a link on your social media, and help other busy working moms feel better and change things up.

Be sure to tag me on Instagram or Facebook so I can follow along and engage with you!

What You Will Discover:

  • The first thing you can do when you are trying to eat better at home.
  • Some benefits of constraining your food and how to get started.
  • How simplifying your nutrition is like decluttering your home.
  • A simple math formula to help you eat more healthily.
  • Why you do not have to produce a pulled together dish or recipe to call it dinner.
  • How to eliminate the need for end-of-day decision making about what to eat for dinner.
  • What it takes to start doing things differently.

Listen to the Full Episode:

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Featured on the Show:

Full Episode Transcript:

You’re listening to the Strong as a Working Mom Podcast, episode 13. If you want to make eating healthy more simple, I’ve got some ideas for you.

Welcome to the Strong as a Working Mom podcast. If you’re balancing career, family, wellness, and some days sanity, you are in the right place. This is where high achieving, busy working moms get the tools they need to eat, move, and think. I’m your host, physician, personal trainer and Certified Life Coach Carrie Holland. Let’s do this.

Hey, how are you? What’s new, what’s good? So, what’s good here is that I have officially ended the launch period for the show, as it has been up and running for just over eight weeks. And, I just want to take a second to say an enormous thank you to those of you who have sent messages or emails, or have left reviews and comments about the show.

This was a huge step for me, And I really appreciate your support as I’ve gotten the show off the ground. And for those that have submitted reviews for the contest, I’ve chosen the five winners of the Wellness Journal, and I’ll be reaching out to you to get those to you.

I just want to say an enormous thank you to all of you who have left a review. And if you haven’t, please do. So, my goal was to get to 100 reviews, and I did. And now I’m staring down 150, and I would love your help getting there. And truthfully, all of this is to say, I am humbled and so grateful to have this opportunity to bring the show to you. I’ve really enjoyed hanging out with you every week.

All right, so let’s pick up where we left off with nutrition, last week. So, we spent the last episode covering areas where clients often get tripped up in their nutrition. So now, building on that, I want to offer some ideas on how to make things simple.

So many of my working moms want to eat better, but they struggle with how to simplify it. I’m going to put a plug-in for keeping your eating and your nutrition simple. If you’ve been hanging out with me at all, by now you know a few things. One, I don’t cook. Two, I eat about 99% of my meals at home. And three, I really love simple.

When I think about simplifying nutrition, I liken it to the clutter in your home. So, think about clutter; think about what it feels like to walk into your home when things aren’t put away. Or, when you walk to your desk at work and there are papers all over the place. Or, when you open your sock drawer and you cannot find a blue sock, right?

When it’s cluttered, and if there are too many things all over, it just doesn’t feel good. Apply this idea to your nutrition. When you have too much going on, and you try to do too much using too much, it can totally backfire. And when I say too much, I mean a number of things; spending money on ingredients that you throw away, or planning for elaborate meals that don’t end up happening because you just don’t have the time, or having too many requirements around your food.

And what this all adds up to is this; when you make your nutrition complicated, it becomes hard to eat healthy. So, what I have found, time and again, coaching my clients, is that when we pare things down and we really simplify nutrition, things start to fall into place. And that’s what we’re going to talk about today.

So, by the time we’re done chatting today, you’re going to walk away with a couple of ideas that will help you eat at home more often. Save time preparing your meals. Eat healthy, even if you don’t like to cook, like me. And, feel better about the food choices you’re making.

I’m going to call on the wise words of architect Mies van der Rohe, and use his words as our guiding principle; less is more. And truthfully, this is a motto in our house. It applies to glitter, Elmer’s® glue, sprinkles on cookies, Pokémon™ cards, really, most anything.

So, let’s talk about how to make your food simple. The first thing you can do, when you’re trying to eat better at home, is constrain. What does that word mean? I think of it as paring down and limiting options for yourself.

And the best analogy I can think of is this; imagine what it’s like when your kid is shopping at Target® with a gift card. So, I don’t know if you’ve ever done this, but if you give them free rein over the aisles to pick out a toy, if they’re anything like my kids, you know you’re going to be there for 30 minutes while they hem and haw, and walk up and down every aisle twice, decide first on a skateboard, but then maybe a walkie talkie. And by the end, you’re about to lose your mind.

And the same idea holds true for your food. If you have a ton of spices in your pantry, or tons of ingredients in your fridge, with no clear plan, you may be, like my kid in the toy aisle at Target. Looking, but not really sure what to do, going back and forth, and ultimately wasting a ton of energy and time on what could be an easy decision.

Now, imagine if you constrain yourself to a handful of grains, lean proteins, fruits, and veggies for the week. Imagine opening that refrigerator and seeing a few simple but healthy ingredients. So, how would that feel? Generally, it makes decisions easier because you’re giving yourself less options. It saves you valuable time and brain energy. It’s reducing the clutter.

And let me be clear here, when you’re giving yourself less options, make sure those options are food you will actually eat. Don’t buy veggies you don’t like, don’t buy cottage cheese if you know there is no way in heck you can get yourself to like it. Okay?

How do you do this? How do you constrain your food? Pick. Pick a number of proteins, and grains, and vegetables, have that be your go-to grocery list. And then, you mix and match; you mix and match those proteins, grains, veggies, and fruits. And then last, and most important, you commit to eating those foods.

Remember, your meals can be a sum of their parts. It does not have to be pulled together in order to count it’s dinner; a salad plus a piece of protein, boom, you’re done, there’s dinner. This does not have to come from a recipe to count. It doesn’t have to be a casserole. It does not have to be a composed dish; it’s just dinner, done.

The other benefit of constraining, is that it saves you from having to buy tons of ingredients that go into one, and maybe only one, recipe. So, I’m all about lemongrass, but if you use it only once to throw it away, slimy and nasty at the end of the week, maybe think twice before sticking that in your fridge. Okay, so those are fun for the weekends, if you’ve got time.

But during the week, keeping your meals to simple combinations of grains, veggies, fruits, protein; there you go, that gets the job done. Alright, so next, I want to introduce the idea of meal prep, preparing your food. Okay, so before you freak out and tell me you don’t have time to meal prep, I agree with you. You’re right, you don’t have time to meal prep, you don’t. In fact, I don’t know a single person I work with, who has time to prep her meals.

But here’s the truth. If it is a priority for you to eat better, and eat at home, then you will find a way to make some form of meal prep a part of your routine. Unless you have a personal chef, or someone who can do all of your cooking for you, having some sort of system for meal prep will be a worthwhile investment of both your time and your energy. Okay.

So, let me be clear, because often when I discuss meal prep with clients, they come in with this preconceived notion that it’s going to be rows of Tupperware® containers that you schlep out chicken, broccoli, and brown rice, and slam in the freezer. And if you were a bodybuilder, maybe that would be true. And I’ve been there, done that.

But meal prep does not have to look like that. Okay, meal prep can be something as simple as taking a container of meat, dividing it in half, making turkey burgers with half of it, and the other half into taco meat. Or, maybe you make a double batch of soup; keep half of it out and freeze the other half. Or maybe, you just wash and chop your carrots and peppers and veggies when you’ve got time, so they’re ready for the rest of the week.

This does not have to be an all-or-nothing task, that requires you spend three hours of your Sunday in the kitchen. It can be as short and simple as washing and cutting veggies, and that most definitely should not take you three hours.

So, here’s the thing, if the idea of meal prep seems totally daunting to you, and you have no idea where to start, try this: What is your limiting reagent? I’m going a little crazy here, because normally I find a math analogy to throw in, but today’s chemistry, just go with me. If you remember from chemistry, the limiting reagent is the reactant that you run out of first, that prevents any further chemical reaction from happening. So, if you want to make a taco salad on Thursday, but you’ve used up all your ground turkey by Wednesday, even though you’ve got the lettuce, tomatoes and the salsa, then turkey is your limiting reagent.

Or, if you want to have stir fry on Friday, but you’re in a rush between your kids sports practices, and you’ve got no time to wait for rice to boil, then the rice is your limiting reagent. So, think about your weeks and what they look like. And, what is the limiting reagent for you? Is it a protein? Is it a green? Is it that you run out of fresh vegetables? Whatever it is, find it and make that your focus of your meal prep.

So, this does not have to be a project. So many of you, when you think of meal prep, you think it means hours in the kitchen. But that’s where applying constraint, now you know why explained it first, will help you. Constraint + meal prep ═ easy dinner, done. Whoo, there it is. There’s that math for you.

Okay, so here’s my challenge: Chop some carrots. Get a container and chop some carrots for the week, that’s it. Or if you hate carrots, try peppers. I don’t care. Find one vegetable that you can commit to eating as a snack, and have it ready in advance.

Just see how it goes for you. That’s it. And then, you can build from there. Meal Prep does not, and it should not, should not be complicated. And the more you can do ahead of time, the better. All right?

So next, think of your plate in terms of fractions. So, if the idea of pulling a meal together seems overwhelming, don’t do it. Instead, think of your plate in terms of fractions. So, a quarter of it protein, half fruit and veggies, and another quarter for a grain. This does not have to be complicated. I have said it before, I’ll repeat it here, you do not have to produce a pulled together dish to call it dinner.

If any of you follow me on social media, and have seen the meals I make for my kids, it’s essentially a protein and a grain on half the plate, and the rest is a rainbow of fruit and veggies. You will also note, that I always arranged the fruit and veggies in rainbow order. It is a thing, I have some OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), it’s a problem. But it makes the plate look so much prettier, in my opinion.

So again, if you are someone who does not enjoy cooking and, if when you open your fridge, even if it’s constrained, you freak out at the idea of pulling dinner together, like me, calm down. All right, go back to your basic math and just make it happen.

Salad, farro, a piece of fish; you’re done. A turkey burger, Ezekiel™ muffin, plus a plate full of fruit and veggies; done. Don’t overcomplicate it. Make the meal, a sum of its parts, and no one is grading you on this, I promise.

All right, so I’m gonna build off of that and suggest chop, don’t cook. Meaning, have a salad for dinner a few nights a week, seriously. I’ve said it before, I will say it again, I don’t cook. I grew up in a home where I was basically shooed out of the kitchen. And at this stage of my life, I honestly don’t have much of an interest in learning how to cook.

That being said, I do eat 99% of my meals at home, and I eat pretty healthy. And, how I do this is by chopping. So, all this is to say, pulling out your pan is not necessary. If you can use a knife then you’re capable of pulling together dinner for yourself, and I am proof of this; a salad can be dinner. And if you’re scoffing at this, please check out some of the salads I eat. They’re huge, they most definitely take up more than half my plate and they take a while to eat.

And so, here’s why I love salads. They’re versatile, I’m not talking about just Romaine and cucumbers here, you can add beans, or meat, or veggies, fruits, cheese; you can make it into a meal. And if your salad is big enough, it’s going to take you a while to chew and it’s gonna keep you busy.

When you load your salad with a variety of fruits and veggies and proteins, you are getting a meal that is full of fiber and micronutrients. And salads are a high-volume, low-calorie food. Meaning, you can eat a ton of salad for not a ton of calories, depending on what you put on it. And the lettuce, like a tortilla or pasta or bread, is basically a vessel for whatever good stuff you put on top of it. So, get creative. Find a protein; precooked shredded chicken, marinated tofu, buffalo tempeh, that works. Remember, it does not have to be fancy. And the best part of this, is that it takes under 10 minutes, and there are no pots to clean up, you’re done.

So, another concept I want to introduce to you, is to eat the same things regularly. And I will admit, I catch some heat for this one, but I’m going to stick with it. So, I mentioned constraint as one of the first things you can do to simplify your eating. I’m going to make it even simpler and suggest that you start eating the same things regularly.

And there are a number of benefits to doing this. It makes your grocery shopping pretty easy. You don’t have to waste time and energy trying to decide what to eat. And generally, if you eat these things regularly, they should be well stocked in your kitchen.

And if you are somebody who tracks your food, it’s easier to copy and paste that meal that you have, repeatedly. And this is not to say that you need to track, but that’s one of the benefits if you are somebody who tracks.

So, if the idea of eating the same thing regularly seems impossible to you, consider this, start with breakfast. Okay, so I have clients who will have eggs and toast, as an example, for breakfast every day. And then, when they get sick of it and they can’t stand the sight of another egg, they will switch to overnight oats with protein powder, as another example.

Okay, so if the idea of eating the same thing multiple days in a row is not palatable to you, try a rotation instead. We have a number of dishes in our house that we repeat regularly; tofu tacos, turkey burgers, salmon, Buffalo tempeh, those are some of our favorites. We have those weekly here.

So, we may have tofu tacos on Monday, and turkey burgers on Tuesday, and then repeat the cycle on Wednesday and Thursday. This helps for meal prep, it also helps for constraint, it just keeps things easy. And because we’ve been doing this for years, our kids are used to it.

You know they ask for tofu tacos, now? It’s their favorite, who would have thought? What you’ll see here, is that many of these concepts feed into each other. So often, by constraining, you can find meals that you like, prep them ahead of time, and then eat them throughout the week. It’s easy. You’re eliminating the need for end-of-day decision-making when you’re tired, and frankly, you don’t want to think anymore.

And if you’re thinking to yourself; I need variety, that is totally fine. But consider this, there is literature that suggests that greater dietary variety leads to sub-optimal food choices, like processed food, refined grains, sugar sweetened beverages. Meaning, when people are exposed to a wider variety of foods, they were likely to make poor food choices, eat more calories, and ultimately gain weight.

And what’s even more fascinating, is that the studies repeatedly showed that these people grossly underestimated the number of calories they were taking in. It’s fascinating. So, what I would do here instead, is this, pare down and simply say; I’m going to eat a variety of fruit and veggies. Go with what’s in season. Make your produce be where you get variety.

And then next, semi-homemade is A-okay, all right. I have said this before, you do not need to be a chef or even know how to cook, in order to be healthy. So, I will be the first to admit that sometimes we have veggie burgers. We try to limit our intake of processed food, but sometimes things just go sideways and we eat veggie burgers, but our go-to is not takeout.

Our go-to is a veggie burger and cut up vegetables for the kids, salads for the adults. And there are days when we have pre-marinated buffalo tempeh with an enormous salad. This is not perfect. It is not made from scratch, but it is also not a burger and fries. This is not to say, don’t ever eat out, okay.

But I will use our house as an example. Just a few weeks ago, my kids got coupons from Jimmy John’s™, from the tutoring center. And you know, the second they got their hands on those coupons, they started asking when we were going to use them. So, we did, we got them subs. We didn’t get them a soda, they didn’t get the cookies, they just got the subs.

And then, we brought them home and filled the rest of their plates with fruit and veggies. It was a mix of takeout, plus fruit and veggies that we had at home. And you know what? It took less than five minutes to chop those up, and everyone wins.

The point here is, that your meals can have processed food, or takeout, but you can still achieve balance by adding to it with stuff that you chop up at home. Your meals can be semi-homemade. In fact, I’m pretty sure there was a Food Network® show by that title, Sandra Lee, I’m all for it; semi-homemade, that’s okay.

I don’t want to be naive here and assume that you’re never gonna get takeout or restaurant food. And that’s not the point, you absolutely can and should do that. But it’s all about balance. Okay.

So, now that I’ve gone over some of the concepts and ideas that I use, and that my clients use to make eating healthy more simple, consider this: Can you implement any of these, at your home, to make your nutrition simpler? Meaning, can you constrain or meal prep? Or, build your plate out with fractions? Or, chop and have a salad? Or, eat the same things regularly? Or, have some of your meals be semi-homemade?

And here’s what I will commonly see: I will go through this exercise and brainstorm with a client, and we’ll come up with a number of ideas. And one-by-one, she’ll shoot them down and say something to the effect of; there’s no way I can constrain. We are not a rotation family. We need something different every night. I don’t do meal prep. I can’t plan ahead. We don’t eat vegetables.

Here’s what I want to point out; in order to get a different outcome, you have to do something different. And in order to do something different, you have to think differently. Here it is, there’s your thoughts, again. This is not to say you have to do any of the things that I have suggested.

You don’t have to do any of these. These are simply concepts and tools that I have found to work for many of my crazy busy moms, who really wanted to change the way they eat and have more healthy meals at home.

However, if you’re resistant to changing the way you eat, because it’s not something you’re used to, or you’re not a family that eats vegetables, or you’re not someone who meal preps, or you are someone who must have variety, ask yourself this question; what is the result that that kind of thinking produces for you?

If you think to yourself; I’ve never constrained my food before, or I am not someone who meal preps, or I don’t eat veggies. Those are all examples of using your current identity to predict your future. And when you think this way, you’re going to find the evidence to prove yourself correct.

Meaning, if you think there’s no way you can have salad for dinner, you may feel irritated or frustrated or deprived, and then say ‘screw it’ and go get takeout. And, you just proved yourself correct. Right, it always goes back to your thoughts and feelings. If you think you are not someone who eats vegetables, you will prove yourself correct.

And if you want to change that, you have to decide to believe something different. So often, we are so resistant to change, but doing the same thing and eating the same way, keeping those same patterns that led you to be overweight or eating unhealthy, those habits will need to change in order for your health and your weight to change.

And, it all starts by thinking differently. My coach said this once, and it was most definitely some tough love here, but it really sunk in and I want to share it here. “You can’t eat whatever you want, whenever you want, and expect to have the body you want.” And I listened, and I really let that sink into my bones.

Because yes, while it was a little on the tough love side, if you really think about it and get 100% honest with yourself, you’ll see that it’s true. And, I thought that was true for myself. And what this leads to is this, where are you willing to compromise?

Because when I go through this exercise with a client, we will often uncover a number of competing demands; there is the desire to lose weight, the desire to eat healthier foods, to eat less fast food, and have more meals at home. But those may conflict with your desire for taste, or variety, or convenience. And then, you have a choice to make. And I get it, it is not an easy one.

You have to choose where can you compromise. Can you accept eating less takeout? Can you accept chopping peppers for 20 minutes on a Sunday? And can you accept that, because changing the way you eat matters to you? Only you can decide that.

But when you have those competing demands, you have to prioritize and decide what matters more. So, here is where I’m gonna go back to Tiny Habits, by BJ Fogg, and ask you; what is one small thing you can do today, that will get your nutrition moving in a more positive direction?

So, some ideas here: Pick one vegetable, one. Buy it, wash it, chop it. Put it in a glass bowl, and have it ready at the front of your fridge, and eat it. Or, make a grocery list and buy only the things that you’ve put on it, after you’ve planned out what your meals will be for the week. Or, commit to having half of your plate be fruit and vegetables, at least once this week. Or, have a salad for dinner, and make it a real wedge salad, one that takes you a long time to chew, okay.

And the idea here is this: The idea is to decrease the drama around food; there is food and there is drama. It is as simple and as complicated as that. But the more decisions you can make ahead of time around your food, the less drama you will have.

So, try this out, pick one thing we’ve talked about today and give it a shot. Or, if none of this resonates with you, try something. Consider one thing and try it out. Consider it and experiment. And if it doesn’t work for you, no problem. Ruling out something that doesn’t work, is just as important as ruling in something that does.

And so many times I have a client say to me; I want you to teach me how to eat. But here’s the thing, you learn the how by doing. Not by me telling you what to do. So, I’m quoting one of my favorite Peloton® instructors here, Denis Morton, he says it all the time, I’m going to share it here. “I make suggestions, you make decisions.”

There are lots of ways to make eating healthy, simple. But in order to find out what works for you, you have to try it out. So, make a decision. Try it out and see what works. Because you know what happens when you don’t try.

If you want a different outcome, you have to do something different. And, that’s what I’m encouraging you to do. All right. So, let me know what you think about this.

Check me out on social media @CarrieHollandMD on Instagram® and Facebook. Share your thoughts, your opinions, your questions, share your salads with me, I would love to see them.

Thanks for hanging out with me this week, and I’ll catch you again next Wednesday. If you like what you’ve been hearing, please review the show. I would love to get your feedback and ideas. Your suggestions have inspired episodes and will help me make the show better for you.

Share this podcast with a friend, text the show link, share a screenshot, or post a link to the show on your social media. And be sure to tag me @CarrieHollandMD on either Instagram or Facebook, so I can follow along and engage with you.

This is how we get the word out to other working moms who want to feel strong inside and out. If you know someone who wants to feel better, or eat and move differently, but she is too tired or too busy, it is time to change things up.

And you know, making that change starts with how you think, and that is what we do here on the Strong as a Working Mom podcast. I’ll see you next week.

Thanks for listening to Strong as a Working Mom. If you want more information on how to eat, move, and think, so you can live in the body you want with the mind match, visit me at CarrieHollandMD.com.

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