Nutrition plays a key role in getting you to your goals of peak fitness, weight management and optimum performance. Keeping on track with a healthy diet takes some determination as well as some planning. We will tend to eat what is convenient, so make healthy meals and snacks convenient. Here are some tips to keep you on track:

– Plan your meals for the week. Include 3 meals a day plus snacks.

– Check recipes that you will use and list the ingredients that you need.

– Create your shopping list based on your weekly plan.

– Shop at stores that feature fresh healthy food.

– Shop after you’ve eaten. Do not go the grocery store on an empty stomach.

– Stick to the plan. Get all of the items on the list.

– Pre-cook meals for the week if you can. Freeze or store in Tupperware in the fridge.

– Prepare lunch and snacks ahead of time. Pack in Tupperware or containers to pack for work.

– Snack on whole fruits, veggies, seeds and nuts.

– Save half of your dinner for leftover lunches.

Stick to the Plan

Part of planning for success with your nutrition is keeping the foods you may want or even crave but know are not what you need out of the house. Keeping cookies and crackers and chips and ice cream in the cupboards is just too tempting. In spite of your good intentions, at those moments of weakness, if a carton of Haagen Dazs or the box of Oreos is within reach, watch out. Instead, throw them out and don’t even go down those aisles at the store.

So what about those afternoon or evening sweet tooth cravings? It’s all about having a game plan and sticking to it. Instead of reaching for the junk, have a bowl of fruit handy. Stock the shelves with raw, unsalted nuts and seeds. Keep fresh berries and pomegranate seeds in the fridge.

Plan your meals for the week, including breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Check over your recipes to see what ingredients you need, check the pantry, freezer and refrigerator and write out the list.

Shop Smart, Cook Ahead

Shop at stores that have fresh produce, wholesome varieties of foods that include organic, grass fed beef, wild salmon, bulk grains, etc. Stores like Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and New Leaf offer a good variety of fresh fruits and vegetables as well as good variety of other wholesome food. Be cautious, however. Just because you’re shopping at Whole Foods doesn’t mean you can’t fill the shopping cart with calorie dense, sugar-loaded, glorified junk food. Stick to your game plan and your list. If you’ve got green apples on the list and they happen to have caramel apples made with raw turbinado sugar and organic slivered almonds, pass it by.

Once you get your groceries, start preparing your meals and snacks for the week. By pre-cooking and pre-packaging your meals you have set your plan in motion. You have those healthy meals and snacks ready to go as you head out the door for work, lunch and snacks in hand. Coming home from work too tired to plan a meal and cook? No problem, pull your pre-cooked meal from the freezer, defrost it, heat it up, and it’s ready to eat. Whereas in the past you may have stopped on the way home to pick up something at In-N-Out Burger, you now have a great meal at home ready to go.

Make it a Ritual

John Berardi of Precision Nutrition talks about the Sunday Ritual in Tip #2 of his 27 Tips to Kick Start Your Diet on the Right Foot. Berardi states, “To ensure that good foods will be available when you need them, use the Sunday Ritual. This is performed by setting aside three hours every Sunday to write out your menu for the week, shop for the week, and prepare your meals for the week. Cook all the meat, chop all the vegetables, measure out all the yogurt and/or cottage cheese, and distribute all the powders. Have them ready and set aside so that you can grab them in the morning and bring them with you regardless of what your day holds in store for you.”

I also use the Sunday ritual and do all of my shopping and meal prep for the week. It has become a habit, a ritual. You can make it yours as well. You can also make other simple changes to your diet and make a habit out of them. Just as you can train your body to perform at a higher level, i.e., running farther or doing more push ups, you can train your body to make healthy diet changes. Once those changes become habits, you have made one of the necessary lifestyle changes to achieve peak fitness, weight management and optimum performance.