I don’t know about you, but I am a creature of habit. I like routine. Don’t get me wrong, spontaneity has its place in my life, but when it comes to most daily activities, I like to have a plan. This can mean different things to different people. Some like to have the same schedule Monday-Friday. Personally, I like each day of my week to have variety, but I like the variety to be planned. What I do on Monday is likely not the same as on Tuesday, but my Mondays are all very similar. With this schedule, instead of having a daily routine, I have a weekly routine. Some people, especially those in health care (yes I’m talking to you nurses) have a biweekly or completely unpredictable routines.
There are pros and cons to all of the lifestyles above. A daily routine tends to become monotonous relatively quickly, but is great for planning and accountability. Alternatively, weekly, biweekly, or unpredictable routines do keep the mind better stimulated, but can also be difficult to manage at times. The more variety in your day equates to more decisions, and ultimately a need for better planning. Factors such as these need to be considered, especially when health and wellness is a priority in your life.
I have multiple clients with daily, weekly, and unpredictable routines. When it comes to meal planning, a daily routine is by far the easiest. The meals times, workouts, and activity schedule is predictable. For clients in need of education, this is the easiest schedule to have, as it reduces the need for adaptation.
For those with weekly schedules, they have to learn to adapt to daily change. Most psychologists agree that it takes approximately 19-21 days to create a habit or routine. What happens if the routine is only performed once per week? The idea of mental adjustment is very crucial. The key is gradual adjustments in planned areas. Over time, the pieces of the plan come together to form a complete and optimized routine with daily variety.
Then we have the unpredictable schedules. Some of the more common jobs include nurses, doctors, small business owners, sales positions, and a variety of jobs that require frequent travel. For this group, it is often impossible to settle into a complete routine. There is likely some consistencies while at home, or in the office, but that may only account for 3 days per week. The rest of the week often consists of travel to different states or countries, airports, hotels, restaurants, and a great variety in level of activity and time to plan. For someone trying to lose weight, build muscle, manage diabetes, or focus on healthy lifestyle choices, this poses a tremendous challenge. When challenges such as these present themselves, the key to maintaining a successful healthy lifestyle plan is to NEVER get stuck.
Since not everyone spends their time becoming a walking nutrition facts list, or automated calorie calculator, there are many tools and strategies that can be used to help control the unpredictable. Technology has become a huge asset for many. Apps like the My Fit Pal, Calorie Counter, and many others can be reference lists for nutrition facts, and can help you track your days caloric intake with macronutrient distribution, and even estimate your caloric needs. Though these apps do not replace the knowledge and customization offered by a Registered Dietitian, it can be helpful, especially if used in combination with personalized consulting services (email me for more information!).
Thanks to the dramatic increase in demand for transparency by consumers, eating healthy on the go is no longer the burden it was in years passed. All restaurants with more than 20 locations, particularly commercial fast-food chains, are required to have nutrition facts available. This is a huge asset for people who are stuck with limited options. Many fast-food chains offer grilled chicken, salads with light dressing, and wheat grain options. This makes it possible to eat fast food with attention to calories consumed, as well as macronutrient distribution and nutrient density. I always tell my clients, I don’t care where you are eating, there is always the opportunity to get a grilled chicken salad with no cheese, and lite italian dressing. This option may not be necessary for everyone, but the take home message is there is no longer an excuse for unhealthy choices.
One of my most heavily utilized strategies is constant accessibility to smart snacks. Throughout my education, I have worked in environments with limited time to eat, limited access to the foods I want to eat, and in positions with very unpredictable days. Throughout all of these environments, my constant access to smart snacks is what helped me maintain my goals. Snacks will of course vary based on your individual goals, but many of the following items are ideal for use.
If you looked in my briefcase and gym bag, you will find the following:
- A shaker bottle with 3 scoops of my ‘Daily Whey’ protein powder in a ziploc bag
- An apple pie Quest Bar
- A jar of Smucker’s Natural Creamy Peanut Butter
- A light string cheese
- Two rice cakes
- A ziploc bag of almonds
- A small organic apple
- A bag of baby carrots
- a 6oz container of plain greek yogurt
All of these items are quick, convenient, easy to eat, easy to store, and most importantly delicious! There are many other options that exist, but I find that these key items cover my bases. If I am on the go, I can select any one of these items to eat in less than 1 minute. I choose what I eat based on the type of activity I will perform. If I am stuck without food and will be sedentary, my need for carbohydrates is only for mental function. With those needs in mind, the combination of an apple and a light string cheese provides some much needed brain power, along with some protein and a couple vitamins and minerals worth mentioning. I will openly admit my briefcase always has a couple scoops of protein and a quest bar in it. This isn’t because I affiliate with the common misconception that I will wither away without a steady stream of protein; its because they are simply formulated and versatile products with a reasonable shelf life, and they store at room temperature. These items allow me to fulfill my protein requirements, and they leave me satisfied when I need a meal and can’t readily access anything. These items have saved me on numerous occasions throughout my education, and are a fundamental reason for my ability to never get stuck.
If you have never had a Quest Protein Bars, I would recommend trying one. Not only are they high in protein and fiber, they are delicious. My favorite is the Apple Pie flavor. It has 5g of unsaturated fat, 20g of protein, and only 6g of non-fibrous carbohydrate. Of these carbohydrates, the sugar is mainly from dried apples. I prefer sucralose (splenda) over sugar alcohol, which is another reason I prefer this flavor. I love how short the ingredient list is, especially for a prepackaged protein bar! They have many flavors, some with no sugar alcohols, some with no artificial sweetener. They have options for every taste palette!
Also, don’t forget to try a tub of Case Specific Nutrition ‘Daily Whey’. Not only can this powder sit in a shaker waiting to save you from hunger, it can also be used in recipes that are easy to make and even easier to eat! Subscribe to my page and receive 6 recipes that you can make using Daily Whey!
What are the snacks you use to never get stuck? All comments and ideas are welcome!
Andrew Wade, RDN, LDN
Registered Dietitian, Smart Snacker