Okay, I’m not sure if “hack” is really the right word. But bear with me.
I’ve not been tracking macros or anything specifically lately. I also am not on any official mission to “clean up my diet” or anything, either.
But in the past couple weeks, I have found myself trying to sort of intuitively simplify my diet a little bit, at least when I’m alone (so, weekday breakfasts and lunch, or random dinners where I’m “on my own”).
I think I’ve had a bit of a mindset shift, in two main ways.
#1: Just eat protein!
Instead of focusing on meals needing to be these whole “well rounded” meals, including like…a grain, a protein, some fat, fruits/veggies, a whole traditional “meal”, etc., I’ve been dialing it back and really just trying to emphasize a good protein source as the main meal. And that’s it! I mean, I usually eat something else, too, but I’m not worrying about preparing myself a big meal that ticks all the standard boxes. (This naturally probably decreases the calorie total, too, though that isn’t my exact goal.)
In the past, a sample breakfast for me might be…. 2 eggs, scrambled. With some cheese. And some berries. And maybe spinach in the eggs. And then some toast on the side. All good stuff, but a) can actually add up to more calories than intended, pretty quickly and b) sort of a “hassle” sometimes, which could then lead me to…. c) skipping a decent real breakfast and just eating, like, a peanut butter sandwich. haha.
#2: Make it easy!
I’ve been making an effort to have good protein sources READILY and EASILY available. This is a game changer. If I have tuna on hand, chicken breasts cooked and ready to eat or something similar, I can just grab that and be good to go for any meal, really.
In addition to our regular family meals, I’ve been trying to make a point to either make extra (to eat for leftovers) or just cook up a big batch of some protein to have on hand all week. –> This is the game changer part!! Having a Tupperware in the fridge full of a protein source READY TO EAT has been so amazingly helpful.
On Monday I baked an entire bag (~3 lbs) of frozen chicken breasts. Just dumped them all in a baking pan on one of my work breaks, tossed in some onion and sprinkled some baby carrots in. Drizzled a little oil and lemon pepper seasoning, done. Literally took me 5 minutes to put the chicken in the oven.
I’ve been eating this chicken all week!
I’ve not been complicating the whole “side dish” thing, either. It’s not that I’m actively trying to eat low carb or anything, but I’m just not worrying about trying to eat them, either. I think in the past if I served myself this, I would have felt like I needed/wanted to add a scoop of rice. Or some bread. Etc.
I’ve been coming to terms with the fact that I think that my body feels really good and responds well aesthetically to a rather high protein diet- all the extra carbs are not really necessary for me, and I find they do not really do me too many favors, I don’t think. (I still totally eat plenty of carbs- I’ve just been sort of de-emphasizing them on my weekday/ daytime/ solo meals.)
I think this is a good balance, because if I naturally eat a bit lower carb during the weekdays, then when we want to go out for pizza or nachos, no hay problema! It all balances out.
Anyway, just sharing! If you’re vegan, or vegetarian, sorry- this post probably isn’t for you. 😂
So in summary, here’s my current non-diet diet plan:
- Keep lots of easy protein sources on hand and ready to eat.
- Make one of these protein sources my main “meal” for breakfast and lunch.
- Add in something small on the side if desired, but don’t worry about creating a whole traditional “meal”. Mostly just eat the protein!
- Repeat this process if I’m eating dinner alone.
That’s it! I’ve felt pretty good lately eating this way. It’s been very low effort, no tracking. Minimal prep.
A couple sample meals from this past week:
- Frozen turkey burger (ate plain, on a plate, with fork and knife. Dipped in ketchup! (weird/ gross? Not sure, but I like it.) Paired with a handful of raw berries.
- My tuna/ pico de gallo mix in a bowl, plus a cheese stick.
- The baked chicken with roasted baby carrots, add salsa.
- Milanesa (thin cut breaded steak), with a side of cream of zucchini soup.
- Leftover butternut squash soup, topped with some chicken and red pepper flakes.
I have not felt hungry at all, and I feel surprisingly very satisfied when I eat higher protein, frequently. I think cravings for extra/ filler carbs somehow just naturally decreases!
*This may very well change when Christmas cookies appear in my house, but so far, the Halloween candy has not enticed me much at all.
I am sure I’m still eating well below the # of protein grams I “should” be eating, if I were tracking my macros, but I don’t really care. Just focusing on it in each meal, I know I’m eating more protein than I would be otherwise.
I am grateful for a GREAT night of sleep last night! Thank God! Was absolutely exhausted last night after the terrible night before, so I was in bed and asleep by ~9 pm last night. Slept straight through until 5:30 a.m. when my alarm went off.
18 thoughts on “A current diet “hack” that’s working pretty nicely for me”
I am so glad that you slept better last night! Phew! Rough nights like you’ve had lately can really wear on a person and make you into a total zombie, which you don’t need right now when you are so busy/entering the busy holiday season!
We get a rotisserie chicken every week so I have super easy access to protein for my salad. I eat salads with shredded chicken for nearly every week! It is nice to not have to think about what I am going to bring for lunches. I need to make more “sheet pan” dinners like what you described, too.
Yum! Rotisserie chicken is good too! We don’t get that often but Ivan likes it with a spicy salsa verde and these tasty telera rolls!
I work in an office so on Sundays I prep a salad for four lunches for the upcoming workweek (I give myself one day off to eat with colleagues, etc.). I cook the big bags of chicken breast in a similar way you do, and then use kitchen shears to cut into bite size pieces that I freeze in a big bag. Makes salad prep easy.
Oh that’s a great idea! I love the idea of shredding it up and storing in a bag. I am totally going to try that!! I end up sometimes buying the pre-cooked chicken bite sized pieces for when I need a quick option, but it would be cheaper (and probably better tasting..) to just freeze my own. Thank you for that idea!
You are welcome! The cooked frozen chicken can also be used in other meals, for casseroles, etc.
I’m really struggling with protein over here. We don’t eat meat, for ethical reasons, but I also just really find pork and chicken revolting. I guess I’ll have to figure out a protein powder or shake or something to get enough protein. I think my diet is really holding me back in terms of my fitness goals and one of my goals for next year is to start figuring it out.
I can imagine the protein thing would be TOUGH without eating meat! I wish I could offer you some better advice. The tricky thing with non-meat proteins is that for many, in order to get enough protein like from say beans or peanut butter or nuts, etc, you end up having to consume so much/so many calories in order to get a decent amount of protein! That being said, I know there are plenty of vegan and vegetarian body builders and such out there, so I am sure with some googling you could find some good vegetarian protein resources! I’m not really a huge fan of protein powders, but I think they can certainly be useful as a supplement! I’ve used powders any time I get really serious about macro tracking (which admittedly is not very often). Hah. But in your case may make sense to bump your intake!
I have been trying to up my protein intake over past couple months now that I’m weight lifting and it isn’t always the easiest. I agree having some type of “system” that works for you is really helpful. Two things that have helped me: 1) eating similar things like you mention, I make egg muffins and eat them for breakfast every single day – no decision fatigue and balanced first meal of the day (broccoli in them) and 2) changing out my snacks. I found easy snacks are more often carb vs. protein so having high protein/low sugar yogurt, cottage cheese, etc. has helped. Routine eating might be boring for some people but I love it bc it makes life so much easier!
I used to make egg muffins back when I worked early in the office! They were perfect to throw in for a breakfast on the go. I forgot about them! I need to make them again! And I really don’t mind eating the same thing a lot either. I am the leftovers garbage disposal at our house. Hahaha.
Ugh I need to figure out how to moderate carbs and still fuel my running. Is it possible?! this is my current quest …
I totally think it is!! I am no expert on that, but I feel like eating moderate/higher carbs and protein and maybe keeping fat a little lower may be a good compromise in the overall calorie balance for a runner, but… I know you are a huge fats fan!!
it’s possible but not ideal for running… I’ve tried and done the research. so actually I feel okay eating whole food carbs when running long miles.
this is a brilliant hack!!! it simplifies so much the planning and preparation, isn’t it? I agree that protein is an area we should mindfully add into our diet as it’s not so easy to just grab and go like carbs. I do eat animal proteins but it takes an effort. since I don’t do well with eggs anymore (makes me nausea), I am starting to eat more chicken as it’s easy to prepare and not smelly. I might do what you do, prepare some chicken breast on time for simple meals.
Aww I didn’t know you were having trouble with eggs! That’s a bummer bc I remember you were eating them daily for a long time! But I think sometimes we kind of burn out on things when we overdo them, haha. Maybe after some time away eventually you’ll like them again. 🙂
Yeah i think so. I’m into pan fried tofu now but never have it in breakfasts, maybe I should start that.
And that, my friend, is what we call intuitive eating. I love it. You get your bodies response of what feels good. I think it’s a very smart idea to just keep protein ready to go. I’ve been doing a bit of solo-cooking lately and for me it’s keeping it simple: soups, roasted veggies, one pot meals without heavy sauces or anything.
So interesting to hear how you’ve hit on your preferred (or at least, it seems that way) approach to your diet. I … well, let’s just say I’m veggie + protein heavy and that carbs are needed but often on the smallish side. I do eat fruit (banana, part of a pear and/or melon, and an apple or orange) daily and make sure to have at least a little carb at each meal. Otherwise I have no energy. I love the you do you aspect of intuitive eating – trying to get there, myself, but not nearly as successful as you’ve been.