One thing that can instantly revolutionise about the way you nourish your body, your health and your fertility is to plan and organise your meal schedule ahead of time.
By that I don’t mean any old “I might steam some vegetables tomorrow night for dinner” type of planning, but a proper schedule of everything you plan to eat and drink throughout your entire week. It will have a tremendously positive impact on the sustainability of you commitment to improved eating habits.
You don’t have to worry about missing spontaneity when you have a plan—believe it or not, our brains relish the security of knowing what our next meal will be and that it is just around the corner.
It’s a welcome change from the eating habits of our hunter-gatherer ancestors, who were constantly under physiological stress from not knowing when, or what, the next meal was going to be. Even though life has changed significantly since then, our bodies still respond in very much the same way to something they perceive as being a stressful situation, and starvation is stressful, even when we know it’s very unlikely to happen. Stress of any type, even hypothetical, will affect your fertility, so our aim is to avoid it.
You can still socialise and go to your favourite restaurants, you just need to plan for it—after all, we should eat 90% for the body and 10% for the soul, so we just need to make sure that the 10% is actually 10% and does not unwittingly become 90%.
So, this whole idea of planning and organising ahead of time will simply keep you on track with the certainty that you are (truly—not just in your imagination) doing the best for your health when it comes to what you eat.
It’s difficult to accurately remember (try it now, I dare you!) what you had for breakfast, lunch and dinner three days ago, let alone a week ago. So it is no surprise that even though we believe we are eating well because we did so yesterday, it’s only when we actually track our progress by writing things down that we suddenly realise, “Oops! Things are not quite as I thought…” So, this is a great habit to get into. Besides, a little discipline and organisation in this department is only going to help you down the track with a growing family.
Another important benefit of planning your meals is that you and your family will be much less likely to fall prey to all the fast food marketing in the media. Research shows that when you have a set eating plan you are less likely to be influenced by, or even pay attention to, commercials. A very interesting and entertaining read on the food and eating traps we unknowingly set for ourselves is Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think by Brian Wansink.
Keep in mind that any change in routine will take a little getting used to, so don’t despair if your wonderful plan does not flow smoothly to start with. Give yourself a good few weeks (at least six) to adapt to your new way of life before deciding that you are ‘just not cut out for this’. It may, indeed, turn out that this approach is not for you. I’m the first to admit it is not for everyone, but have seen enough patients to know that it works really well for around 90% of people.
Choose Nine Recipes You Really Like
So, let’s begin! Pick a day of the week when you have a spare 30 minutes to completely focus on your task in one sitting. There are four steps: 1) Choose your recipes; 2) Make your shopping list; 3) Plot your recipe/meal choices for the week on your ‘food map blueprint’ (either on a piece of paper or computer spreadsheet) and finally; 4)
Stick your plan on your fridge and follow it.
Starting with step number one, you need to consider your partner/family’s food preferences and decide what kind of meals you would like to have in the week ahead. It is always a good idea to choose your recipes based on the seasons. Choose nine recipes you really like. You may want to divide them into three breakfasts, three lunches and three dinners but if you generally take leftovers for lunch and like to have a different dinner every night, that’s OK too—just pick what suits you and your family. As long as you are eating at least nine different meals in the week, you will have enough variety.
When most patients first come to see me, they are eating the same breakfast and lunch (often leftovers) every day, and maybe three or four different dinners. So, nine different meals a week is a great way to add more variety. Variety reduces your chances of developing food allergies, because the body starts to see food compounds as foreign threats when they are constantly present in large quantities within the system. Eating a variety of foods also means you are exposed to a greater variety of nutrients and beneficial food compounds, all of which are essential for your general health and fertility.
Once you’ve chosen your nine meals for the week you can make a comprehensive shopping list—just remember to buy only what’s on your list. Be deaf to the ‘taste buds in your brain’, which will fool you into getting junk food if you let them, and go shopping with a full stomach! But wait, don’t go yet…
Create Your Weekly Food Map Blueprint
Now you are ready to do what it takes to guarantee your success. Creating your very own weekly food map is a vital step. Skipping it will pretty much negate all you’ve done so far, because you will not be stepping out of that loose and ineffective structure we’ve been talking about. Take action to complete this step and you will see how much easier life will become. You will have so much more time on your hands, because you are not going to waste hours thinking about what you are going to cook when you get home and what you will have to do (such as picking up groceries) between the time you leave work and the time when you sit down for dinner.
You’ve chosen your nine recipes, so now it is a matter of plotting them on your food schedule. This is where 80% of the benefit comes from. Get a sheet of A4 paper (or a spreadsheet on your computer) and create a table like the one below. Filling in the blanks should be easy once you’ve chosen your recipes. Place it on your fridge and you are ready to go shopping and make it happen! *Download your Weekly Meal Plan Template from our Free Resources Section
The fabulous thing about this task is that you will be able to keep the chart forever as one of your healthy week examples. If you repeat the process three more times, you will have a full month’s healthy eating blueprint, including shopping lists, recipes and everything you need to follow a super healthy eating regime without any fuss. All you have to do is keep rotating your weeks and you can have a whole year without being bored! If you enjoy changing your meals with the seasons, repeat the process for each major season and you are well and truly set for life!