weight loss & meal plans for busy dads

You're Not Too Busy to Work on Your Dad Bod

You can save your excuses, because I already know what you're going to say.

My schedule is insane. I already get up at six for work, rush to make it home in time to catch my son's little league game or pick the girls up from soccer, swing by a burger joint or pizza place on my night to cook, then go to bed and start the whole cycle all over again the next day. I just don't have time to worry about getting in shape.

I get it. These days, being a dad is tougher than ever. You work longer hours for money that just doesn't seem to go as far as it used to, then often have to pull double duty at home.

You, like most dads, are overworked, underpaid, and stressed. You don't even have time to cook for yourself and the kids, let alone a find the time to plan meals or hit the gym. So in this busy world where there are more demands on a father's time than ever before, how can I say you're not too busy to work out?

Because it's true.

Getting in shape is not about keeping up with the latest fad diet or spending hours on end at the gym. Getting fit is about making a commitment to yourself to change your unhealthy habits. And as with most things, where there's a will, there's a way.

Think Marathon, Not Sprint

It's tempting to set fitness goals around unrealistic time tables. A lot of us look in the mirror and say: "I'd like to lose this beer belly (or, if you're like me, gin gut) by the summer." We want to see huge results quickly, and when we don't, it's easy to get discouraged.

Instead of attaching your goal to a specific physical outcome, focus entirely on making a permanent lifestyle change that will help you be around for your family in the long run. Because we have garbage habits, women generally outlive men. Do you want your wife to bury you, or do you want to be around to see your great grandkids?

Approaching your fitness goals from a perspective of long term benefit makes it more likely that you will stick to your goals or that you will get back on track quickly when you do slip up.

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Don't Bite Off More Than You Can Chew, Instead Make Changes You Can Stick to

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Be realistic about your goals and your capacity to make changes. If you're the type of guy who comes home from work and plows through half a six pack, it probably doesn't make sense to say you're going to cut out beer entirely for six months.

Instead, shoot for a goal that makes sense for who you are as a person. Setting a goal to cut back by resisting that third beer, or switching to a lighter, lower calorie beer from the same manufacturer might work out better for you.

The same goes for meal planning. Studies show that the chemicals in certain fast foods and snack foods can be highly addictive to our brains and bodies. Build in self-control by purchasing smaller portions of these items. If you normally get the family size Doritos, cutting back to a snack size bag is definitely doable.

There are automatic ways like this to add more physical activity to your day too. If you use public transportation for your commute, try getting off one stop earlier to get extra steps in. If you use a parking garage, why not take the stairs?

Make it your goal to keep at these baby steps. They help you to release old, unhealthy patterns without creating the feeling of deprivation most diets do.

Get Rid of These Bad Habits Entirely

Most of the time, behavioral changes need to be gradual to be permanent, but there are a few instances where you are simply shooting yourself in the foot with bad habits. If you do any of these things, STOP. Immediately.

Going to the Grocery Store Hungry

Going to the grocery store hungry is like going to Vegas with too much cash -- terrible decisions will be made, and you will regret them... later.

Pick one day a week that you go grocery shopping with a list and make sure to eat a full meal one hour to thirty minutes before you go. That way you'll cut down on impulse buys and high calorie, pre-cooked snacks.

Buying Prepackaged 'diet Food'

If it says 'diet', 'sugar free', 'light', 'lo-cal', you should probably stay away from it.

Prepackaged foods are notorious for having tons of sodium or synthetic sugars in them to provide flavor. You're better off eating smaller portions of a regular meal than replacing it with a cheaply made substitute.

Skipping Meals

Believe it or not, skipping meals can cause you to gain weight. Your body freaks out because it thinks it's being starved, so it hoards as many calories as possible just in case it needs them to keep your vital organs running. So eat something already.

Make Meal Planning and Exercise a Family Affair

Get quality time with the kids by roping them in to your meal planning process. Get a crock-pot recipe book and lets your kids pick options for the week. You can even have them do a little homework on the healthiest foods for dads.

Load up on veggies by starting a salad bar night. Be sure to invest in high quality dark, leafy greens and include plenty of onions, mushrooms, nuts, berries and seeds to jazz it up. Add a lean protein like grilled chicken, salmon or steak, and dinner is served.

Smoothies are another great source of extra veggies and protein. Challenge your kids to come up with smoothie flavor combinations, and customize yours with a little whey protein, coconut oil and spinach for an extra fat burning boost.

Children have so much energy, why not put it to good use? Instead of spending early evenings after work indoors, challenge your kids to a good old fashioned foot race while your crock pot meal simmers. They will have a blast and you will get some much needed cardio.

Family challenges don't have to be limited to outdoor time either. Disrupt couch potato behavior by seeing who can do the most push-ups or sit-ups during commercial breaks, or challenge children to see who can hold the plank position the longest. These type of interval exercises help you shed pounds, especially as you start to increase their regularity.

Now that you know some of the ways to engage your entire family in developing healthier habits with you, let's take a look at the specific foods that will help you transform your dad bod.

Start Keeping These Foods in Your Fridge and Pantry


Chicken is probably the first lean protein you can think of and the easiest one to find. Save money by purchasing bone-in chicken breasts and cooking them in the slow cooker with some onions and chicken broth.

After cooling, pull the meat off the bone for flavorful shredded chicken you can add to salads, soups, or fajitas.

Tuna is high in Omega threes and makes a great option for dads on the go. Instead of buying the cans, opt for water-free tuna packets you can dump directly on top of greens, or add a teaspoon of mayo, some onions and a little relish for a laughably simple tuna salad.

Turkey breasts are also a tasty, affordable option for lean protein. Instead of buying pre-packaged deli meats that are loaded with unnecessary sodium, get a few whole, bone-in breasts from a farmer's market and cook them in the crock pot like the chicken.

You can also get a turkey tenderloin, cut it into thin strips, rub it with brown sugar and spices and cook it on parchment overnight at 180 degrees for the best turkey jerky you'll ever taste at a fraction of the price.


Greens, beans, onions, mushrooms, berries and seeds, or 'G-BOMBS' as they are commonly called, have long been hailed as health food superstars with anti-cancer properties.

These foods are complex enough that your body has to work to process them, and don't contain empty calories. If you make half of your plate G-BOMBS, you can pretty much put whatever you want on the other half and still lose weight.


There's more to superfoods than Kale chips. Spice up your salads with blueberries, barberries, or cranberries, some of the sweetest superfoods around.

Chia seeds are also a superfood worth investing in. They are very high in protein and basically tasteless. For a quick boost of plant protein, you can sprinkle them on yogurt, oatmeal, tuna salad, meatloaf... the possibilities are literally endless.

Good Fats

Avocados, Sunflower seeds, walnuts, and coconut oil are all good fats that are easy to find and don't cost an arm and a leg.

Try adding a tablespoon of coconut oil to your morning joe and whipping it in the smoothie maker for a creamy 'latte' that gives you a boost of energy and burns calories all day long.

Healthy, Easy Snacks

Aside from the turkey jerky recipe above, hummus is another excellent option for a high protein snack. Hummus is easy to make at home as it only requires a blender, canned chickpeas, garlic, tahini and lemon juice.

Pro tip: Make a big batch of hummus and freeze it in ziplock bags that hold a week's worth at a time.

A sweet and savory nut mix also makes a great snack that's loaded with protein and good fats. Try a combination of almonds, pepitas, sunflower seeds, cashews, brown sugar, chili powder and rosemary for a crunchy, satisfying treat for you and the kids.

Healthy snacks only help you if you have them around, so be sure to stash some snacks at work and in the car as well as at home. This will cut down on unhealthy snacking and probably also help you not to eat out as often.

Final Thoughts

No matter how busy you are, you definitely have time to incorporate one or more of the suggestions in this article into your lifestyle. No one expects you to grow six pack abs overnight, and you shouldn't expect that either.

But if you focus on developing healthy long-term habits and build on your successes, eventually you'll be able to ditch your dad bod -- for good.

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