How many Dads do you know who eat a really good diet? Dads who eat well – whole food, fruit, vegetables and quality proteins? I know a few who eat intelligently. But then there are the others. The ones that don’t even get close.
There are lots of problems with this. Firstly the majority of Dads I know aren’t eating healthily most of the time. Which means that their families and especially kids aren’t eating well either.
The second is a dysfunctional relationship with food – why do they eat? What purpose does it serve them? Does food nourish them, or trigger an emotional response?
And the third is timing – are their meal times setting them up for nutritional and energy failure?
Why ‘The Art of Eating’?
The knowledge of food and eating isn’t something you’re born with. You need to learn it. If you have good teachers and are willing to learn, you will be off to a good start.
But that’s not enough. Food and diet should be a constant journey of discovery and learning – trial and error. This is the only way you can see what works for you. And learn what foods give you energy (or not).
I’ve learned the lessons featured in this blog post over time. None of it has come easy but hopefully sharing it can help you in some way. That’s why I’ve called it an ‘art’ – because it has taken time to develop and perfect (although that’s probably a bit premature – there’s lots of room for improvement in my own diet).
I’m not a nutritionist or a doctor so this isn’t to be taken as advice. I’m going to tell you things from my experience. What you do with that information is up to you. Hopefully it will make you think about your relationship with food and ask whether it can be improved.
The Art of Eating: What Not to Do
I used to base my food choices on the following questions:
Does it taste good?
Can it be made in 10 to 15 minutes?
Will it involve minimal washing up?
Does the packet say ‘Low Fat?’
If it hit two or three of those criteria I would eat. If not, it didn’t go in my shopping basket. Even when I was first married, we never planned meals. The result was a sky-high shopping bill, poor choices and inevitable weight gain.
I was sabotaging my diet from the start. The main criteria was taste. In other words, how did the food make me FEEL. Did I feel pleasure and satisfaction when I ate? Or maybe the food brought me comfort?
My main foods were filled pastas, sandwiches, pizza, chicken burgers (cos chicken’s healthy right?) and sausages. Not good choices all round.
This is what I would call a dysfunctional relationship with food. Food can serve different purposes – pleasure and comfort are on my list. Basing your choices around those foods isn’t a good idea for a variety of health reasons.
I had a mindset change with food around the time I started taking fitness more seriously. I started to see food as fuel. Like a car, I needed quality petrol to keep me running well. I started thinking about what I was putting in my body and what it would do for me.
What you’ll read below is a summary of what I’ve learned over the last 6 years. And why it’s important for Dads to know this stuff! Keep reading if you want the knowledge.
Meal Planning – Timing is Everything
Here’s what an average Dad’s meal plan might look like:
Breakfast: Carb based – cereal, toast, fruit juice
Mid Morning: Biscuits with tea/coffee
Lunch: A sandwich
Dinner: Meat, potatoes/pasta, veg
At a first glance, this looks fine, but how is this meal plan going to make you feel?
This study into seratonin levels in people with depression showed that there were strong links between carbohyrdate consumption, seratonin (the ‘sleep’ hormone), stress and depression.
I don’t agree with the study that drugs are the answer but then I’m not financed by pharmaceutical companies either…
If over consumption of carbohydrate is the problem, then surely the solution to having more energy (i.e. less sleepy hormone) is to eat less carbohydrate?
That’s all basic stuff. And more and more people are understanding that: too many carbs = bad. And: not enough carbs = bad.
But what about meal timing?
I recently heard that you are most likely to fall asleep at your desk between 2.25 and 2.40 pm. If you ate a carb heavy lunch at 12.00, your blood sugar levels have peaked and by 2.00 you are in a seratonin induced slump.
Better start counting those sheep cos you’re going sleepy-time.
What if you split your day into 4 meals and had a small balanced snack at mid morning and another similar sized meal in mid afternoon? You’d avoid that slump and you wouldn’t feel hungry in the lead up to your next meal. The protein in your balanced snack would have filled you right up.
About a year ago I read ‘The Zone Diet‘ by Dr Barry Sears – it came recommended by Jim Wendler of 5/3/1 fame. Contrary to what you might have read on Wikipedia, the Zone Diet is a pretty basic concept: balanced amounts of carbs, fat and protein. Aiming for each meal to be balanced in this way is a good guide for your meals and snacks for maximum energy release.
So while your co-workers are snoozing in their cubicles, you’ll be killing it with your new found energy levels from the Tuna sandwich you ate at 11 o’clock.
Preparation and Making Things Easy
You’ll have noticed this theme in a lot of my blog posts: I like things to be as easy as possible. The same can be said for meal prep. I’ve got different options when it comes to meal prep. I can either
Prep some healthy meals to eat during the day
Use up some healthy leftovers
Buy easy-to-prep foods for the office
Preparing healthy meals in advance is a good option – if you have the time. If I’m doing meal prep, I’ll make it as easy as possible – no fuss like my easy Mexican chicken.
Or I’ll use up leftovers. My wife makes excellent crock-pot dishes and there’s always loads left. I’ll divide these up into portions, add some microwave rice and I’m good to go.
The third option is where you can succeed or fail – what if you haven’t had time to make anything or there are no left overs? Do you raid the office vending machines? Not if you’ve got a good back up plan!
Here’s my go to for when I’m out of options: Tuna mayo and rice cakes.
Tinned tuna is affordable and completely edible. I always have a few cans along with some rice cakes in my desk drawer at work. Add a little mayo and 3 or 4 rice cakes and you’ve got a balanced meal in seconds.
You’re not going to win masterchef. But the protein in the tuna and slow release carbs in the rice will keep you full and pumping with energy for the next 3 hours or so.
Passing the Knowledge On
Changing the way I eat has been a process. But I now view food completely differently. I use food as fuel when I used to see it as comfort – almost like a drug.
Food is what allows me to operate at the pace I do. When people ask me ‘Where do you get the energy?’, I know the answer – even if they won’t believe me.
As a father, you also have a responsibility to pass on this knowledge to your children. Their eating habits will be based on what you teach them – not forcing them to only eat organic or worse, paleo. But instead, teaching them about making healthy choices.
Kids can grasp this from a young age – start now and you’ll be able to enjoy healthy foods together for years to come. These few easy steps to planning your own meals and getting timing right for peak energy levels will bring big benefits in your productivity and your waistline!
P.S. If you’ve been inspired to live a healthier lifestyle, my free fat loss E-Book is a good place to start. Get it here.