10 Painless and Practical Tactics To Improve and Overhaul Your Everyday Nutrition

Andrew Coates
January 11, 2024

“I don’t have enough time to cook” is the most cited reason for unhealthy eating. Not only is this narrative deeply flawed, the choice and effort to cook healthier, more nutritious meals on a consistent basis pays for itself in better physical and mental energy.

Here are nine ways you can make meal preparation and your daily nutrition easier, more efficient, and fit into your lifestyle:

1) Change Your Narrative About Time

“I don’t have enough time,” is a narrative. It’s a story and a fabrication that serves your underlying motives. You don’t want to make the effort, you want permission to eat the high calorie junk food, or you’d rather watch tv or scroll on your phone. New parents and those working three jobs to make ends meet are forgiven and exempted from this conversation. Everyone else must choose to live within the comforting lie or face the inconvenient truth. 

This isn’t about shame or judgment, it’s entirely about giving you back power, and giving you back more control of your life. We either default to the reasons why we can’t or we challenge ourselves and embrace opportunities to grow.

Recognize the lie, accept the truth, choose to change the story, and act on it. 

2) Ignore The Fitness Competitors

Fitness competitors and influencers perpetuate two big false narratives in their social media: 

  1. Meal prep is an elaborate, time consuming process.
  2. Meal prep is boring.

Fitness influencers love to glorify spending half their Sundays in elaborate meal prep with a counter full of boiled chicken, plain rice, and broccoli. They claim to spend hours chopping, prepping, cooking, packing, and cleaning. This isn’t reality for most people nor does cooking need to be this bland (unless you enjoy this). 

There are passionate souls who love to cook elaborate meals. Not to mention the more involved Sunday dinners or special family gatherings. But this isn’t reality for most people most of the time. 

My Sunday evening consists of baked salmon, boiled brown rice, and chopped Brussel sprouts. Sometimes I substitute frozen vegetables for even greater ease. The salmon gets sliced into six pieces with seasoning salt for flavor, tossed in a tray lined with tin foil, and baked for 35 minutes. As the oven preheated to 375, I chop the Brussel sprouts in two and load into another tin foil lined tray. The sprouts are tossed in olive oil with seasoning and baked for 45 minutes. Then I boil a pot of two cups(dry volume) of rice on the stove, taking roughly the same time as the Brussel sprouts. I end up with six meals that last me three days.

Once the timers are set I can watch tv, work on a course, or knock down other chores. The effort to prep takes 10 minutes maximum. Even if you get more creative with your ingredients and seasoning, it doesn’t take hours.  Once cooked, it takes another 10 minutes tops to serve and clean. A tin foil lined tray leaves little mess. A rice pot or cooker takes minutes to wash. If you build the process into a long, complicated, and arduous process it stops you before you start. If you dispel the performative story and create an efficient process, you have healthy meals for days with less time invested. 

Busy caring for children? Shouldn’t cooking healthy meals for your kids be just another incentive? There’s always a story why you won’t or a story why you will. 

              Credit: Fevziie/Shutterstock 

3) Shop Strategically

People who cook and eat healthy meals tend to be more routine. They eat a variety of healthy food ingredients but tend to have a set rotation of healthy meal options. Breakfast is often the same everyday. Meal consistency is easier to anticipate and plan for. An inventory of weekly food needs is easy to plan shopping around. Often one to two weeks of shopping can be done in a single wholesale store or supermarket run. If you’re able to predict your needs it’s easier to have a set day and time for a grocery run, and can be done in combination with other essential errands or on the way home from work or the gym. 

More perishable food items can be topped up with one or two shorter trips to the store and be similarly anticipated. Also recognize that driving 5-10 minutes extra for a slightly cheaper store costs more in time and gas than you’d save. Some stores now offer grocery delivery, and the delivery surcharge may be a worthwhile trade for the time and gas you would spend.

4) Cook Healthy Meals You Like

It’s bizarre that most people would rather eat convenient mediocre high calorie food than cook at home. This food isn’t even fulfilling. We all have home cooked meals we really like. Sure we can’t always do elaborate turkey dinners or prime rib, but I’ll take chicken stir fry or baked salmon over almost any fast food. 

The worst part about the mediocre high calorie crap is we always feel like we wasted money and calories. And we still want the high calorie foods we treasure anyway. This leads to guilt and shame, and we end up overeating calories across the week and gaining body fat.

As previously discussed, this switch requires a mindset shift around the time we have available, plus some planning and boundary setting. A little effort and execution here and you won’t want to go back to the mediocre convenient crap.

5) Have Simple Backup Options

Most people fall into the all or nothing trap with fitness and nutrition. We envision elaborate healthy meals needing a lot of time and ingredients. When time and resources allow, go for the creative options, but have fast, simple, and effective backup plans. 

Feeling tacos? Keep lean ground beef or turkey on hand, along with shredded cheese, taco kits, and fresh veggies. Frying and draining the meat doesn’t take long, then load up and eat your tacos. Eating solo you’ll easily have leftovers for next day’s lunch. Try breakfast options later in the day (more on this shortly), or decide beforehand to have a protein shake and a piece of fruit instead of fast food. 

6) Make Breakfast Easy

Who regularly skips breakfast only to feel a mid day energy crash? Low on energy and starving, you later crave convenient high calorie foods like pizza. Fix this cycle by having fast and easy to prepare breakfast options. 

Prepare overnight oats, or microwave oatmeal flavored with protein powder. Eggs provide near infinite fast and easy options. Most fruit options require no time or effort. Even making coffee at home is faster than the detour and line up for drive through. Even the effort to load a blender with smoothie ingredients fits into the most rushed schedules if you plan the time. 

Fast breakfast options are also options for easy meals any time of day. Too often we get stuck thinking eggs or oatmeal are only for breakfast. Both are efficient and cost effective meal choices, especially when compared to ordering from food delivery apps.

7) Stack Habits

Time spent cooking can feel like time stolen from doing more fun or relaxing things. We can shift this mindset by combining our cooking time with those things we crave doing. 

In a perfect world we choose cooking over TV every time. You can keep up with favorite shows on a TV or laptop in the kitchen, removing the excuse to choose TV over cooking. 

Feel like cooking cuts into quality time with family? Include them. Teach kids (age appropriate) the appreciation for home cooked healthy meals and the cooking skills that will pay forward for their entire life. Plus, cooking for/with a romantic partner is likely to pay massive relationship dividends, and a brilliant way to share quality time. 

Hungry for personal development? Listen to podcasts or audiobooks while you cook. I consume roughly 70 audiobooks per year while driving and cooking. Load up on audio about business skills, health and fitness, mindset and philosophy, or any other topic to enhance your life. Watching video courses or YouTube on career skills works the same. You feel productive, though guard against the pressure to be endlessly productive and learn to turn off the world and sit and enjoy the meal you created.

8) Burn the Ships, Delete the Delivery Apps

Half the battle in eating healthier is taking the unhealthy options off the table. Food delivery apps are insidious threats to heathy nutrition. Many of us grew up in a world with 2 delivery options, pizza or Chinese food, and each was reserved for special occasions. Now you have a near endless array of high calorie convenient options at the push of a button, with a hefty surcharge. 

In the time it took to arrive, you could have made one of your fast healthy options. Make the tough choice here and remove the apps. If you want something from an app, increase the friction by forcing yourself to re-download it, or train yourself to drive to get it (like we used to). Otherwise it’s tempting to default to the most convenient option. 

9) Consider a Meal Prep Service

Once niche to fitness competitors, meal prep services are more common and provide a wide array of healthy and tastier meal options. And while on the surface they may seem expensive, when you factor in your time cost of getting groceries and cooking meals, you’ve effectively bought back your time to spend with family or on leisure activities you desire. 

10) Identify Convenient Nutritious Locations to Eat Out

Sometimes it’s easier and more practical to have convenient places to grab lunch near your work or on regular routes. Maybe you’re not Luka Hocevar with a Fit Bar Superfood Cafe right inside your gym with delicious and healthy Brazilian Bowls, but maybe there are great local restaurants with healthier options you can identify, and choose to support. A little research ahead of time can insulate you against defaulting to the nearest fast food chain. When you come prepared and pre-loaded with better options when rushed, you not only stay on track more often, you feel physically better by eating better quality food and emotionally better because you’re proud of better choices. 

We default to the easiest setting, especially when tired or stressed. Proactive choice architecture in our lives plus some practical mindset shifts and deliberate practice of these new habits can go a long way toward setting your environment up for success with healthier nutrition. 

Andrew Coates is an Edmonton based trainer, online coach, writer for publications including Men’s Health, Muscle and Fitness, T-Nation, Generation Iron, BarBend, The PTDC, and Kabuki Strength. Andrew speaks at international conferences and hosts The Lift Free and Diet Hard Podcast.


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