Introduction by nutritionist Anna Earl
Well listen up for some take-home tips to get you back on track. Eating a healthy diet can seem like an impossible challenge when you’re super busy and tired, yet imagine only having to reach into the fridge, or grab something out of the freezer, and to know that you’ve got it tastily prepared for any meal that works for you.
Planning and preparing some of your meals in advance is a great way to encourage and maintain healthier eating. It doesn’t mean you need to spend hours slaving in the kitchen, but I would go so far as to say that from experience and observation, failing to meal prep if you work nights, in particular, will result in a reliance on convenience foods. And this week you’ll learn why that is not ideal.
The five day programme will show you how a small investment in time one day can reap rewards. So why should you prepare meals from scratch? There are tons of prepared choices out there, why bother with all that planning and shopping and peeling and chopping when someone else has done it for you? Think about those convenience food choices. Are they made of whole foods, fresh and seasonal vegetables and fruit, quality protein, and healthy fats? Do you know? Are they low in salt, additives, ultra processing, and trans fats that can all contribute to poor health and weight issues?
What quality of fuel are you giving yourself? Would you say that on your current diet you’re performing well? Are you spending a large sum of your monthly budget on quality prepared foods? And if so, can you sustain that financially? If you provide meals for family members, are they well nourished? Are they learning essential skills in cooking to thrive, to feed their bodies and brains? The simple truth is that healthy food preparation takes time. There’s no real way around that.
Accepting that fuelling ourselves well is a priority, and sacrificing other things in life to prepare nutritious meals, it may initially seem onerous, perhaps impossible. But start small, just once or twice a week, if your meal prep at the moment is minimal, and see the benefits. It means planning to plan, and preparing some or all of your meals ahead of time depending on your schedule and the time that you have available.
So what are the benefits? Well, it saves you time. You won’t find yourself in a supermarket four to five times per week topping up for individual meals. It saves you money because you plan for a certain number of meals and your shopping list reflects those items for your planned meals and snacks. Reduce your waste using up leftovers and avoiding randomly bought ingredients from going off. It saves you the stress of deciding what to cook every day; that mental energy of constantly having that decision circling in your head and arriving home after work, frazzled, unprepared, and unmotivated, and then reaching for the frozen pizzas.
I’m not judging, it’s just too tempting if you haven’t already planned and prepared something more nutritious. And it helps ensure you make good food choices more often. Plan when and how often to have red meat, fish, plant-based meals, balancing the proper nutrient components and portion sizes that are suited to you and your energy needs instead of relying on processed convenience foods with their set portions.
Investing in meal planning and preparing healthier food choices can positively impact your energy levels, your weight management, your gut health, heart health, your mood, and your immune system. Around mealtimes can your kitchen become a high stress environment filled with people asking you “What’s for dinner?” They may have no idea or understanding as to what you have had to contend with during your working day, and yet the responsibility falls to you to feed yourself and the hungry mouths of your loved ones as quickly as possible because they’re all starving.
If your diet tends to be high in simple carbohydrate foods – so that’s your white bread, white pasta, white rice, pizza, chips, pastries, your boxed breakfast cereals, breadcrumbed and battered goods, cakes, chocolate bars, and fizzy drinks – your energy is impacted by these foods causing your blood sugar to peak and trough regularly throughout the day.
If you’ve already completed the Five Day Sugar Solution Challenge, you’ll have a good understanding of that now. This pattern can increase your risk of Type 2 diabetes and certainly contributes to feelings of fatigue. These foods can increase cravings to manage your energy levels as well as contribute to weight issues. If you can relate to that and you want some direction, give this five day programme your full attention.
Planning what you’re going to eat for five of your weekly meals, and preparing just one in advance, is hugely beneficial in ensuring that you nourish yourself well. Remember, if you’re a shift worker, you are already at increased risk of conditions such as insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity because of that topsy-turvy wake-sleep cycle that you have to negotiate for even more reason to try and prioritise healthy food choices to support your energy now and your long-term health ahead of you.
And at the end of the five days, you’ll know your ideal budget to spend on food and drink if financial savings are a driver to motivate you, you’ll know when you’re most likely to opt for convenience processed foods and/or takeaways due to lack of time to prepare at that mealtime. That could be your priority, to plan and prep at least for that day. You’ll know what level of planning and preparation you’re going to start giving to your meals. You’ll know how to plan the format that works best for you. And you’ll know what recipes you are comfortable cooking right now to start you off. You’ll know where to find nutritious recipe ideas to try over the coming weeks, and you’ll know how to store and reheat your prepared food.
Finally then, who else could benefit from this five day focus? Can you use it to share the task of cooking? If you are regularly feeding others, meal prepping isn’t something you need to necessarily always do on your own, unless of course you want to, or depending on your home situation. But the whole family can take part. Young children can be eager to help out in some capacity. This might fill you with dread, but investing the time to educate them about different foods, encouraging them to try different flavours and textures, and learn the basics in the kitchen is giving them such essential life skills.
Forget cooking multiple meals for different family members where possible unless there are specific dietary requirements otherwise that is just exhausting. Consider that over a third of UK children in Year Six now – that’s the top year in primary school, so just our 10 and 11 year olds – are obese. So if you’re generally the main cook, other adults in the home can also be encouraged to help with prepping the ingredients, whether this is at a mealtime or in advance. So think about how you could recruit members of your household to join you in this challenge, and how could that look if it goes well.
If this is going to be quite a challenge for you, are there colleagues in your team who could take part with you at the same time? Because having that peer support, encouragement, and a little accountability can be very effective. So if you’re ready to have a go, download the attached guide, and I’ll see you ready to start on day one.
Ever wondered how to prioritise your health and nutrition while managing the demands of your unconventional work schedule? Shift work can be challenging when it comes to maintaining a balanced diet.
Do you struggle to cook healthy meals on a regular basis? Particularly on a night shift, do you resort to fast food and ready meals? If these questions resonate with you, you're not alone. The irregular hours, fatigue, and limited food options during night shifts can make it difficult to make nutritious choices. Your health and energy can be impacted as a result.
In this five day meal planning solution, we will work together to help you develop a meal plan tailored to your unique needs as shift workers. We'll address the common challenges you face and provide practical solutions to ensure that you can enjoy delicious, nourishing meals no matter what time of day or night you're working.
Our goal is simple: to empower you with the knowledge and tools to make healthier food choices, improve your energy levels, and ultimately enhance your overall wellbeing.
So, are you ready to embark on this exciting journey toward better nutrition and a healthier you? Then let's get going. In each of the following videos Anna will give you advice, tips and even recipes to get you started, concentrate on one each day and start your journey to better nutrition today. Click on the button below to download your guide to meal planning.