Nutrition challenges can be a lot of fun and rewarding, especially when doing it with a group or team. They can also be a little intimidating, especially if you have never done one before. Here is a short list of tips / ideas to help you prepare for a successful nutrition challenge.
1. Clean Out the Cupboards:
Take some time to clean out non-compliant foods from your pantry and refrigerator and re-stock with compliant options. Get rid of hydrogenated oils and refined sugars, replace them with healthy alternatives. Olive, coconut and avocado are great oils and stevia, coconut sugar or honey for sweeteners.
2. Meal Planning:
Prepare a thorough meal plan for the first week; include breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks. Then create the next weeks plan about midway through the current week. Try to change up some of the meals so you have variety. Remember to focus on buying whole fresh foods, so you should be shopping at the perimeter of the store where the fresh foods are and not in the center aisles where all the processed foods live. Remember all broccoli is not created equal, there are far more nutrients in fresh broccoli than frozen.
Click to download a blank shopping / planning sheet. The sheet is in 2 columns, plan your meals on the left. As you add meals, start tallying the ingredients in the right column.
* Here is a sample menu / shopping list for a full week.
3. Weekly Food Prep:
One of the best ways to stay on track is make 2 or 3 compliant meals ahead of time and be sure to have some leftovers. This makes lunch packing a breeze. Sundays are my food prep days. I usually do a big grill that consists of a few pounds of chicken, some salmon, 2 or 3 onions, 2-3 bell peppers, baby bella mushrooms and some zucchini. I’ll also make a pot of lentils or an Asian Chicken Salad. Occasionally I will make Egg Muffins for quick breakfasts. Remember variety is good, it’s easy to get burnt out on grilled chicken, rice and broccoli.
4. Have A Fall Back Plan:
Have a plan for when you are feeling weak (like when you walk into the break room to find a box Voodoo donuts on the table). This could be anything from going for a walk or run, check-in with a team mate, make a cup of tea, meditate. Find something that works for you. The first few days are the toughest, so having a plan ahead of time can be a game changer.
5. Prepare The Night Before:
Getting in the habit of packing the night before is a great way to set yourself up for success. If you created a meal plan for the week, then you should already know what is on the menu.
I set up the coffee pot, pack the gym bag and prep my meals. Doing this allows me time to “win” the morning, meaning I have time to enjoy my coffee while I do some reading. Then I foam roll / stretch out for about 15 minutes, then take 5 to 10 minutes to meditate and help prepare me for the day ahead. Once I go through my morning routine, I get the kids lunches packed and make breakfast. If you can win the morning, you can win the day, getting a head start the night before gives you that extra edge!
6. Experiment and Try New Things:
Take this opportunity to try some new foods or recipes like cauliflower fried rice. Try replacing your half n half with homemade cashew coffee creamer. If pasta and meatballs was a weekly favorite in the house, sub out the pasta for some, spaghetti squash, fried cabbage or cauliflower.
7. Start Making Small Food Changes a Few Days Before the Challenge Starts:
This is a great way to start weaning your body off the complex sugars ahead of time instead of going cold turkey. If you eat a fair amount of processed foods, then your body will need a few days to detox. Sugar cravings can be intense, so getting that head start and having a fall back plan will help in your success. And remember to drink lots of water!
8. Have Fun
This is the most important tip. This is a time to experiment and learn, make the best of it by not taking things too seriously. You want this time to be fun and rewarding. When things get you down, remember…. this is something that you get to do – not something you have to do. If you have a bad nutrition day, don’t let it get you down, pick up where you left off, keep going and lean on your teammates when things get tough.
This is my list of tips to be successful during a nutrition challenge. Hopefully some of these tips will become positive habits later on after your nutrition challenge. Feel free to add your personal tips by posting a comment.