The hardest part about dieting for me is maintaining consistency. This includes always having food prepared and never ending up in a situation where you need to eat and there is nothing good around you. This can be especially hard for those of us who work full-time, train a lot, and have family and other important responsibilities to deal with on a daily basis. Here are a few tricks and tips I have learned over the years.
GRILL AHEAD. I usually grill chicken twice a week to last the entire week. Sundays and Wednesdays (or Thursdays) are my grilling days. I highly recommend investing in a good grill… the George Foreman just doesn’t cut it when you are dieting for a long time.
Cut several pounds of chicken breasts up into strips or small pieces, throw them on the grill with some Ms. Dash or other dry spices, maybe some soy sauce (avoid sweetened sauces and BBQ). I like to buy the thin-sliced cutlets in bulk because they cook much quicker. Once the meat is grilled, seal it up in plastic bags or Tupperwares, and refrigerate. This can be used for meals (heated or cold), on salads, whatever else, for several days. You can also freeze the chicken in Ziploc bags once it is cooked and use them later in the week.
Sunday's grill usually lasts through Wednesday/Thursday, and then Wednesday/Thursday’s grill through Saturday. Some people say that they can't stand chicken unless it's freshly cooked that day, but it's fine for a few days in the fridge, especially if you don’t overcook it to begin with. And when you are really busy with everything else in life, you can get used to pre-cooked chicken pretty easily.
Grill veggies that will last a couple of days too...asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, squash, anything! I usually wrap up a ton of veggies in aluminum foil with some Ms. Dash and balsamic vinegar and/or soy sauce...throw them on the grill and then store them in a big Tupperware container in the fridge so that you have something to snack on for a couple of days.
USE THE SALAD BAR AT THE GROCERY STORE
Food preparation, especially veggies, is a total time-sucker. Sometimes when you are dieting, you have to pay a little more for convenience. Save yourself some time (time is money), and use the salad bar to get pre-washed and pre-cut veggies for salads, grilling, or whatever you need.
FIND A GOOD CHINESE/JAPANESE/SUSHI RESTAURANT
Ask them if they will steam chicken, fish, and veggies for you. You should be able to get steamed chicken and fish with nothing on it. Emphasize this when you order...tell them just steamed, nothing else, no sauce. This is a great option when you are in a pinch for time. The Sushi restaurant in my area prepares a steamed red snapper fillet for me about three times a week, and it is fantastic...just a steamed fillet, nothing else for about $13, and it is enough fish for two meals. During my contest prep, I depend on steamed chicken and fish from the Chinese/Japanese restaurant for my daily protein probably 2-3 times a week. It makes life so much easier! Try to avoid going to the “hole in the wall” Chinese fry joint if you can…they tend to use lower quality meat. I would recommend a sushi restaurant. Of course, you can always have the fish raw too (sashimi).
USE FROZEN VEGGIES IF NECESSARY
Bags of frozen veggies (green beans, broccoli, asparagus) are clutch when you are dieting. They can go into the microwave with a little lemon juice, soy sauce, Ms. Dash, and/or balsamic. If you go organic with frozen veggies, check the sodium levels. I was shocked to discover how much sodium is in some organic frozen veggies – they are sometimes salted for preservation. Most veggies do not have any sodium in them, however.
HARD-BOIL EGGS AHEAD
You can hard-boil 12-24 eggs at a time and keep them in the refrigerator to eat either the whites or the whole egg (use omega eggs for a healthier fat option). A little trick I learned is that if you use really fresh eggs, putting salt in the water while boiling is supposed to help them to peel more easily when the time comes.