Eating For All-Day Drive

Think of eating the way you think about fitness.

Jan 1, 2005
Outside Magazine

Enliven your meal with a variety of colors to make sure you're getting all your vitamins.    Photo: WordRidden/Flickr

food guide

Treat your diet as you would any routine: a system of healthful habits that require diligent pursuit before they become second-nature.

FAMILY, WORK, WORKOUTS, WEEKEND ROAD TRIPS... Who has time to cook? Problem is, when we succumb to spontaneous eating, we tend to get flushed down the river of poor nutrition. If your goal is to take control of what's going down your chute, then you should approach eating the same way you'd approach a fitness goal. You won't finish a marathon in very good style by training when you feel like it; you set up a schedule and stick to it. With time, the routine gets easier and more rewarding.

You may not need or want to plan a schedule around "three squares a day." Like it or not, breakfast, lunch, and dinner aren't what they used to be during our collective past as an agrarian society, when we would burn off giant meals through a lot of hard labor in the fields. These days, many coaches, trainers, and nutritionists are pushing more frequent, smaller, and smarter meals and snacks. This will not only help smooth out the metabolic peaks and valleys you experience as a meal or snack spikes your energy level, but will also keep your appetite (and potential caloric bender) from raging out of control and help you introduce smarter food into your day.

There are plenty of ways to make your meal plan convenient, appealing, and customized to fit your lifestyle. If you're too wiped at the end of a workday to cook, try preparing several meals (lasagna, soups, and stews work well) over the weekend and refrigerate them for quick microwave or stovetop preparation. Keep broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts in the freezer for a quick heat-and-eat. The idea is to avoid desperately grabbing whatever's cheap and easy. "People make mistakes when they reach for something out of convenience," says Chris Carmichael, Lance Armstrong's fitness coach and author of the bestseller Food for Fitness (Putnam).

We're not suggesting you throw out old eating habits overnight and replace them with something strange and complicated. Instead, think of this as a humble beginning, a platform from which you can pursue your goals, whether it's a podium finish, a better bod, or more energy for work and play. Remain a passive eater and—pun fully intended—you're toast. Follow the next seven steps, however, and you'll thrive.

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