There are some things us blokes just don’t enjoy doing. It’s fair to say that shopping for, preparing and cooking food rate highly on the list for most. And unlike arguing over furniture layouts with the in-laws, it doesn’t have to always be this way.
Truth be told, it can be really simple to maintain a healthy, balanced diet by making a few savvy choices when it comes to food. Some require a little planning; others just require a little willpower. So here are 10 quick, easy and effective hacks to ensure you stay on track with your eating habits.
1. Do Some Reading
Make it a habit to glance at food labels when you are buying goods. Unsure of what some of the ingredients are? There’s a good chance it’s not great for you. Ingredients are listed in order by amount or weight, so if you see things like sugar, high fructose corn syrup, vegetable oils and preservatives high up on the list, leave it on the shelf.
2. Go Slow And Go Low
Too busy to cook? This is where the slow cooker can become your new best mate. Chuck the ingredients in before you head to work, and they cook all day in time for dinner. A good pick for the slow cooker is a lean Lamb leg steak or a trimmed half leg of lamb – packed with protein and essential nutrients like iron and zinc. Add in three different types of chopped veggies, a splash of stock, red wine and some herbs and spices and you’re done. Another benefit of the slow cooker is that you will have more than enough left over for lunches during the week. Try starting a “slow cook Sunday” tradition with Lamb as the key ingredient for a healthy meal option.
3. Add Some Spice To Your Life
Make an initial investment of US$40-50 into a huge range of herbs and spices, and with a cupboard packed with pink sea salt, pepper, cumin, paprika, cayenne, turmeric, oregano, garlic powder, thyme and basil, you can easily transform any meal into a totally different, flavourful dish.
Real men cook with beef (legit scientific fact) – it’s a very versatile protein and comes in a wide variety of cuts to suit your taste and budget. It’s also chock full of amino acids for muscle building, as well as zinc, iron and omega-3. Add seasonings like cayenne, paprika and cumin to give it a punchy, spicy Middle Eastern flavour.
4. Bulk Up
Buying in bulk will save time, money and a headache. Meats can be portioned off and frozen so you will always have some on hand when you get stuck for time and have to whip up something fast. Buy nuts and seeds by the bag for healthy toppings for salads and yoghurt. Also, keep a wide variety of fresh, seasonal, fruit and veg on hand, and consider long life bags so they maintain freshness for longer.
5. Make Better Takeaway Choices
We are never perfect, but we can all make better choices. Nobody is forcing that Big Mac and fries down your throat, son. It’s time to take control again and make better decisions. It can be as simple as avoiding heavy, fatty foods like pizza and chips that will drain your energy and make you fat, and opting instead for salads, or a steak and veg at the pub. Ask for extra meat and veggies at a Thai restaurant for example, and avoid eating the huge portion of rice that comes on the side. Make the right choice more often than not, and that decision-making part of the brain gets trained just like a muscle, saving you from bad choices down the track.
6. Become A “One-Pan Meal” Master
This is something you should already be familiar with, from when you first left home and had to cook for yourself for the first time. Adopt the same mentality you had back then: if it can’t be cooked in one pan or pot, it doesn’t get cooked! Do this and you’ll keep coming back to one key ingredient: Beef mince. The possibilities are endless. Make chilli con carne, burgers, tacos, healthy stir fries and meat balls all a standard part of your one pan rotation. Choose lean Beef mince – this will keep you well fed, energetic and smiling all day long. Bachelor cooking never goes out of style.
7. Send The Snacks Packing
If you are getting the right amounts of protein and healthy fats in all of your main meals, you will remain satisfied and resist the urge to snack (because let’s face it, when was the last time you chose a healthy snack option?) If you are looking for a foundation food for your eating plan, choose Lamb. Aussie Lamb, like Beef, provides a healthy wallop of protein, is lean (when trimmed of fat!) and provides twice the iron of chicken or pork. Aim for 3-4 palm-sized portions of red meat like Beef and Lamb each week, prepared in a variety of ways – slow cooked, on the barbie, minced in burgers – to keep things interesting.
8. Stay Hydrated
This one seems obvious, but it’s actually one of the most underrated hacks out there. Being dehydrated affects everything from physical performance to concentration and energy, and also has a key effect on hunger levels. Make sure you’re guzzling 2-3L of water each day to reduce food cravings. Craving particular junk foods throughout the day? You may just be dehydrated. Smash 500ml of water, wait 20 minutes and you’ll find most of those cravings will disappear.
9. Don’t Drink Your Calories
Hear us out on this one. Food is so enjoyable, so nutritious and so delicious that why would you waste your daily caloric intake by drinking empty, nutrient-devoid drinks? Things like soft drinks, flavoured water, sports drinks, fruit juices and flavoured milks (sorry to all the kids at heart out there) are all way too high in sugar and should be avoided. Limit beverage consumption to water, tea, coffee and the occasional alcoholic beverage (save room for the good stuff!)
10. Be Accountable
This last one is more of a mindset than a hack. If you are really going to maintain a healthy, balanced lifestyle, you need to put yourself on the hook for it. Tell your wife/girlfriend/significant other the changes and rules you are putting in place and get them to hold you accountable. Tell the boys at the pub you will be going at your own pace (and to hold the sugary mixed drinks). Having people around you to keep you in line is the most effective way to make these consistent changes.