Take the time to think about meals
Swimmers have chosen an exercise that is a little more preparation intensive than say, running. We can’t just throw on our suits and head out the door: we need to get to the pool, suit up, brace ourselves for cold-ish water, jump in and swim. The back end is similar; we need to shower to get the chlorine off and then put ourselves back together again.
So we’ve got to plan a bit to get our exercise in, and sometimes we’re restricted by pool hours, training times or other conflicts in our schedule, so our swimming might take place at odd times, including right before or after dinner. Meal planning is one way to make sure that we get a healthy meal on the plate quickly and easily. Meal planning can consist of setting aside an hour on a Sunday afternoon to select four or five recipes for the upcoming week, take stock of the pantry and the fridge, make a list, and go the grocery store.
Besides just organizing our options and giving us the tools we need to cook a good dinner (by meal planning, you’ll have the recipes you want to make and the ingredients on hand when you need them), meal planning gives us an opportunity to plan the plate. Planning the plate is simply the ability to decide that you want to make a healthy plate by having a third to a half of it being fruits and vegetables, a quarter or third be lean protein and a quarter or third be whole grains.
When you have the picture of the plate in mind and plan for that plate, you can choose to find recipes that incorporate those ingredients that might be missing otherwise. For instance, you might “know” (because everyone keeps saying it!) that you should eat more leafy greens. If you meal plan, you can search out those recipes that use kale, mustard greens, etc. (Googling kale recipes brought up 8,880,000 hits.) Meal planning lets you think ahead about what proteins to use and maybe substituting a vegetarian meal for a traditional protein meal. Doing so can save you 15% of your saturated fats consumed each week.
In other words, if you incorporate meal planning into your routine, you can think ahead a bit as opposed to coming home from the pool, looking in the refrigerator, longing for some inspiration and ending up with spaghetti. Again.
Amanda Telford founded Menu Masters, a meal planning service which provides healthy recipes and grocery lists each week to on-the-goal people, after more than a decade in the corporate food and beverage business. She can be found in the office, speaking to corporate wellness groups about meal planning for healthy eating or in the pool. A member of Great Bay Masters, she uses swimming to provide the camaraderie, exercise and to add a different sort of mental challenge to her day.