Dr. Heather McKee's Evidence Based Insights

Creating healthy habits

Happy New Year!!

OK so it’s not January but in the world of weight loss September is often seen as a mini new year. It’s that back to school feeling that people get around this time of year which tends to give new focus and motivation after the summer.

To maintain that motivation I have summarised my top evidence based tips to help you get back into a healthy routine this month.

  1. The first step to success at this time of year is setting yourself a small but manageable weekly goal. For example: Set one hour aside each Sunday and Wednesday to prep some of your meals and snacks for the week – you can set yourself a weekly reminder to help reinforce this habit. Or have one less sugar in my tea, sign up for new exercise class, walk the kids to school 2 days this week.
    [My advice – keep it small, keep it manageable, write it down somewhere you will see it on a daily basis and build on it each week. If you’re not 70% confident that you will stick to it all week – readjust it]
  2. The second step is to take action – below I share my top tips on food preparation to help you keep on track this September.

What is the evidence on food prep for weight loss success?

Simply setting aside an hour or so on the weekend or two hours spread over the week can have a monumental impact on your eating habits (in some cases it can save 100’s of calories in terms of avoiding unplanned eating and snacking).

  • Tal and Wansink (2013) have shown that we should avoid choice when we are hungry as we tend to choose unhealthy, higher calorie foods and snacks. Having prepared our own food in advance can prevent us falling into these traps. Their paper illustrates how to avoid temptation.
  • Wolfson and Bleich (2015) have demonstrated the more time spent cooking and preparing meals at home the less you eat overall. Further, these positive habits can also translate into healthier choices at restaurants too!
    So why not take action and get to prepping this mini new year?

My top 5 tips for how to prep like a boss…

  1. Do your food shopping online will help you resist the temptations that supermarket shopping often brings. It makes weekly preparation seamless;you can specify to shop only by the healthiest options or healthy recipes and you can also repeat shops in a single click, saving you having to write a new list each week:
    • Ocado is my favourite online supermarket given their wide selection of health products and instant shop set up.
    • Sainsbury’s have a useful (and cheap) healthy recipe index
    • At Tesco’s you can shop by dietary preference and they can even provide you with pre populated shopping lists of healthy foods
  2. If you struggle for shopping list ideas: Make a list of the healthy meals you’ve made, take photos and set up an album of your favourites. Try creating a Pinterest page or use instagram for healthy meal inspiration. Over time you can gather a shortlist of your favourite recipes for when you are short of ideas.
  3. Don’t just prepare main meals. It is crucial to prep snacks too. This is often where people fall down. The research has shown that having something healthy to snack on can stop you eating too much at your next meal.
    • Evidence demonstrates snacks like almonds and pistachios are particularly good at staving off hunger.
  4. Batch baking is key. Prepping your meals in batches not only saves you time and calories but can also save you money. Personally I like to make one big dish like this and then divide it up and add a simple salad for lunches during the week-it freezes well too! For inspiration I’d recommend the following blog on batch baking;
    • Nutrition stripped; http://nutritionstripped.com/batch-cooking-101/
  5. Finally, make sure you get yourself some good quality and fun lunchboxes to make it all bit more interesting http://sistemaplastics.com/ are my faves and should be available at the above online supermarkets.
Published on 28th Apr 2017 at 10:10 by Dr. Heather McKee

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This work is in no way meant to replace any medical advice. Dr. McKee is Non-HCPC-registered. Photography by Dylan Madden.

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