Why Should I Meal Prep?

Oftentimes, when you are busy, your diet takes a backseat in your list of priorities. You feel like you don’t have the time or energy to make a nutritious dinner each night, and if you’re at work for lunch it either becomes take away or junk food. This is completely avoidable, even if you are super busy in your day to day life! I recommend giving meal prep a try, a method of cooking where you create several days worth of meals in one sitting, and section them out into containers so that you can just grab them and reheat them when you need! This only takes a few hours on say, a Sunday afternoon, or a Monday night, and you won’t have to cook for the rest of the week.

Personally, when I prepare my meals in advance, I do it on a Sunday so that I am ready for the new week ahead straight away. I prepare all of my dinners for the week, as I eat them at work, and then just make sure that I have enough of everything that I need for breakfast, lunch and snacks. This means that I have no excuse to swap one meal with an unhealthier one, as I have already planned and prepared for the healthier options. This also stops lots of little supermarket trips throughout the week as I have done it all in one big shop at the very start.

Another great reason to start meal prep is for your own accountability. If you are trying to eat a certain amount of calories per day (for either losing weight or gaining muscle, for example), you can have all of your meals measured out perfectly and prepared for you already. This means that you have no reason to eat out of line with your macros! It also takes away the decision making process of wondering what to make for dinner each night, making your life much easier!

If your diet includes meat, be conscious to only prepare food 3-4 days in advance and to store it properly in the fridge. Vegetarian meals are a great way to go for meal prep as they have less restrictions on storage time, and they can also save you money! If you are on a budget, meal prep is also a wonderful way to know exactly what you spend on food in a week, and you can see where it is all going. By buying and making things in bulk, you can save money as well! It is also a good idea to invest in some high quality, reusable containers that are the right size for your meals.

If you aren’t sure where to start with it all, have a look at these websites for some great ideas: Lunch Meal Prep Ideas, Dinner Meal Prep Ideas, Breakfast Meal Prep Ideas. Another great place to find inspiration is on Instagram, by searching #mealprep. Let me know how you go with trying out meal prep, if you do! I highly recommend it as a good way to maintain your health while having a busy schedule!

Ebony

How Much Sugar Should We Really Be Having?

  1. Sugar is a much debated, often demonised component of our diets. How much should we really be consuming each day? Is zero sugar the way to go, or is going cold-turkey a bad idea?World Health Organisation’s guidelines recommend that for both adults and children, sugar should not take up more than 10% of your daily caloric intake. For the average adult’s daily recommended intake of 2000 calories, this means no more than 200 cals should come from sugar, which is about 12 teaspoons max (about 50 grams).

    Many people make the mistake of including all sugars, including those contained naturally in fruits. Not all sugar is the same. Glucose is the simplest sugar – found in all carbohydrates. Fructose is another simple sugar, found in fruits and honey. These are both fine, as consuming them naturally comes with a pile of nutrients, vitamins and antioxidants, all encased in fiber. Your body can slow down the absorption of the fructose as it’s low GI (see Ebony’s post for more info). WHO also includes lactose, the sugar naturally found in milk, as a safe inclusion.

    Processed sugars are the real culprits of over-consumption, and much of the time they are consumed as hidden additives without being conscious of them. It’s no suprise that fizzy drinks and chocolate are packed with added sugar, but here are some culprits that might be a little more unexpected.

    Salad dressing – sweet french dressings can have up to 7g per serve. Beware of “low fat” foods which often supplement fat for sugar to maintain taste.

    Soups and pasta sauces – most pasta sauces have between 6-12g per serve (the same as a slice of cake!)

    Breakfast bars – on average, muesli and breakfast bars have about 7g of sugar. If they’re topped with yogurt, choc chips or contained dried fruit, it will probably be upwards of 10g.

    Yogurt – almost all fruit yogurts have added sugar. One Chobani low-fat yogurt pouch has 13.8g!

    White bread – contains about a 1.5 grams per slice.

    Also, if you really love your sugar in your coffee and are trying to cut back, try adding Stevia instead (0 calorie sugar alternative) and see if you notice the difference 🙂

     

    Clara

     

The Australian Dietary Guidelines

There is so much information about diets these days that comes from every direction, that it is hard to know what to follow and what to ignore. The Australian Dietary Guidelines are evidence-based eating guidelines that can help you to make healthy choices in your everyday life. They are endorsed by the Australian government and are easy to understand and implement!

Guideline 1: To achieve and maintain a healthy weight, be physically active and choose amounts of nutritious food and drinks to meet your energy needs.

Children, adolescents and adults should all aim to be physically active daily. The activity doesn’t have to be anything strenuous, just going on a short 30 minute walk each day easily suffices. This will help you to maintain a weight that is healthy for you, and goes hand in hand with eating nutritious foods. Try to stick to whole foods over anything too processed or sugary, especially drinks-wise.

Guideline 2: Enjoy a variety of nutritious foods from the five food groups every day.

These food groups are vegetables, fruits, grains, lean meats and dairy. Note that there is no food group for processed junk foods! These are recommended to be avoided as much as possible, although if you do feel the need to have them, make sure it is in moderation! The guidelines are also just a general idea for the population, so they do not hone in on certain diets such as vegetarian, vegan or paleo. This does not mean that these diets are bad, it only means that the general population does not follow them, so they are not considered.

Guideline 3: Limit intake of foods containing saturated fat, added salt, added sugars and alcohol.

This guideline mostly pertains to fast food, junk food and alcohol. When buying foods that aren’t in one of the five groups mentioned above, have a read of the label that is on the packaging, or the calories displayed on the menu board. Make an effort to know what your daily caloric intake should be (there are lots of calculators online), and when reading labels take note of that saturated fat percentage.

Guideline 4: Encourage, support and promote breastfeeding.

This one is self explanatory, but should not be forgotten.

Guideline 5: Care for your food; prepare and store it safely.

Again, this guideline is self explanatory. Be thoughtful and safe when it comes to food preparation, and make sure you check use by dates on products.

I hope that this post has helped you better understand the Australian Dietary Guidelines, and given you some thoughts as to how to incorporate them in your day to day life when making food choices! Remember as well, that everything is best in moderation!

Ebony

Getting your focus “in the zone”

One of the most fascinating phenomena I’ve ever learned about comes from a guy called Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. He coined the term flow, a mental state of intense focus on a single task where you enjoy it for it’s own sake and lose track of space and time. Our brain has a finite amount of things we can focus on, and the majority of our attention is spent doing what we need to do to survive and just get through the day. We’re multitasking and constantly moving from one thing to another in an unceasing state of preparation for what we’re about to do next. What’s left is a surplus of attention which most people don’t spend very well. We’re tired by the end of the day, so uncommitted attention gets defaulted to low-effort novelties like watching TV or scrolling through facebook.

Having your concentration at this shallow hum is not ideal, but the other end of the spectrum is tunnel vision, hyperfocus – whatever you call it, at some point we’ve all experienced complete immersion and absorption. My dad loves playing guitar, sometimes he plays for 5 or 6 hours and is shocked when the day is gone. You lose reflective self-consciousness and your other needs become negligible – when you’re 100% engrossed in one thing, it means there’s no more attention to be allocated and you forget you need to do things like eat or pee.

So how do you get in that optimal state of performance where your work simply flows out of you without much effort? The interesting thing is that flow doesn’t just happen spontaneously; there are certain conditions that set it up.

  • You should be doing an activity with a clear set of goals and progress. This adds direction and structure to the task.
  • The percieved challenges of the task and your percieved skills should be just about equal. Too easy and you get bored. Too hard and you get discouraged.
  • The task must have clear and immediate feedback. You should know how well you’re doing – this helps you negotiate any changing demands and allows you to adjust your performance to maintain the flow state.

It’s not all situational – the capacity to experience flow can differ from person to person. Mihaly suggested that those with ‘’autotelic personalities’’ tend to experience more flow. They’re characterised by meta-skills such as high interest in life, persistence, as well as low self-centeredness. However, evidence shows there are disciplinary skills you can practice to increase your chance of achieving the flow state.

  • Eliminate diffused thinking. Close your facebook tab, don’t listen to music while you work, just don’t attempt multitasking.
  • Be aware of where your attention goes and force it out of the low, passive energy state. Try to stay present and sharpen it down onto one thing.

Getting distracted is annoying and seems out of your control, but training the stamina of your brain is no different to training the stamina of your body. Becoming aware of where you choose to put your attention is the first step to protecting, channeling and maximising the potential of your mental energy.

 

Clara