weight loss & meal plan for busy moms

Who is honestly busier than a mom? You've got work, kids, and life in general, and if you're trying to get healthy, you can probably add crash dieting to that list. The problem with traditional diets is that they really just don't work.

It's easy to follow a new fad diet for a few weeks and see some reasonable weight loss, but that's just going to lead to burn out. Our bodies want equilibrium, and in order to get in shape - especially as a busy mother - you need long term planning and goals that "dieting" doesn't provide.

So to really get healthy, you need to make sure of two things:

  • You learn about and then apply nutrition information to your way of eating
  • You exercise in a way that fits your schedule but is consistent and fun (so you want to keep working out). 

That's it! It may not be easy but it's pretty simple, and with a little bit of information and application, you can fit nutrition and wellness into your busy mom schedule and get in the best shape of your life!

Nutrition and the Busy Mother

We all hit the drive-thru from time to time, but the busier you are the more likely it is you rely on this fast food fix to solve dinner dilemmas. Perhaps you work more from the freezer section, something we all are guilty of for sure. While these quick-fixes can help in a pinch, they're definitely not sustainable.

Likewise, most nutrition information you've probably received over the course of your life is a little left of helpful. While nutrition pyramids, plates, or trapezoids are telling you to fuel your body with grains and bread, you're steadily gaining weight. We're not suggesting you cut out all carbs and go full keto diet, but excessive carb intake - particularly fructose - is a huge cause of diabetes and obesity.

So what does a healthy diet look like? It's pretty simple, actually. You want most of your calories to come from fat and protein, and the rest (your carbs) to come from healthy, whole sources like vegetables. Throw in a pinch of expertly chosen grains and you've got a nutrition plan that will make weight loss effortless.

Healthy Proteins

Protein is the building block of all of your muscles and organs, and so if you don't get enough of it, your body will suffer. You want to aim for about 50-100g a day depending on how active you are. Some of the best sources of protein are:

  • Grass fed meats, particularly beef. Don't fear what you've been told; fat and red meat are healthy in moderate amounts
  • Oily, cold-water fish like mackerel, tuna, salmon, and yes, even those little canned creepers sardines
  • Eggs. Eggs are incredibly healthy, providing nutrients in doses that no other food can
  • Beans, if you're vegetarian, are an amazing and delicious source of protein
  • Tofu is another vegetarian source of protein that has so much versatility that it absolutely should be in your cooking repertoire

Fats

Fats have been maligned for decades but emerging, unbiased science is painting a different picture. Making sure you get a good balance of fat sources from plants and animals is more important than avoiding fat altogether. Finally, avoid industrial seed oils like canola, corn, and vegetable oils, and steer completely clear of anything with trans fats.

Fat is used to protect organs, sheath your neurons for proper nerve conduction, and it's the basis for the structure of all the cells in your body. Fat is also highly satiating, which means you're less likely to overeat if your diet is primarily comprised of fat and protein.

The short takeaway here is that you need fat, even to lose weight. Some healthy sources of fat are:

  • Coconut oil
  • Avocados
  • Nuts and seeds like almonds, walnuts, and macadamias
  • Butter from grass fed cows
  • Olive oil

Carbs

Highly processed, white flour carbs like bread and pasta have little-to-no nutritional value and shouldn't be part of your diet if you're trying to lose weight. The same goes from "whole grain" versions of these things, because grains in general just aren't healthy (at least not most of them). Even rice - particularly white rice - simply isn't that nutritious and is basically just meal filler, which breaks down into sugar in the body and is stored as fat.

So where shouldyour carbs come from? Well, vegetables mostly - you can pretty much eat your fill of any green, leafy vegetable:

  • Spinach, kale, and lettuce
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Cabbage and Brussels sprouts
  • Asparagus
  • Mushrooms, though not technically a vegetable, are fair game
  • Carrots and celery
  • Green beans 

The above list is far from exhaustive, but the goal is to avoid starchy vegetables like corn and potatoes for your everyday meals.

Likewise, some grains to embrace are:

Amaranth

Barley

Quinoa

Oats

 While these are technically grains, they're more like seeds, packing all the nutritional value and far less of the excessive sugar that wheat and rice provide. An added benefit is how much easier these are to cook in most cases than say rice. Quinoa is a great substitute for rice in pretty much every application, it has more flavor, and once again, it's a nutritional and protein powerhouse.

Finally, let's look at fruit. It's honestly easier to state that high sugar fruits like peaches, plums, and bananas should be enjoyed sparingly. While a whole fruit is worlds better than juice (juicing is not healthy because it's just sugar water), eating nothing butfruit won't do you any favors.

Berries are hugely healthy, full of anthocyanins which reduce cell damage and help relax blood vessels, making exercise easier and improving heart health. Likewise the old adage "an apple a day keeps the doctor away" holds absolutely true, as multiple studies have suggested a daily apple is nearly as effective in preventing cardiovascular events as statins.

Foods to Avoid, and the Takeaway

So if you're trying to lose weight, you needto avoid:

  • Excessive sugar
  • Excessive alcohol, particularly if you're inclined to eat poorly afterward
  • High carb fruits and grains
  • Highly processed foods, as they typically contain some or all of the above
  • Trans fats (which are entirely found in processed foods, so see above)
  • Anything that's been engineered to be "low fat" because that just means "high sugar"

Eat more of:

  • Protein, particularly oily fish and grass fed meats
  • Eggs
  • Nutritionally dense grains
  • Literally all of the non-starchy vegetables
  • Berries and apples

But Internet, How Can I Eat Healthy if I Don't Have Time to Cook?

Good question, moms. This is where the aforementioned importance of planning hits home. Despite being busy, you needto make time to meal plan and meal prep. Invest in some food storage meant for meal planning - there's plenty out there - and create a strategy that takes guesswork and reliance on fast food out of the equation.

One incredibly easy method is Sunday batch cooking. Make up some large-scale meals on Sunday (or whatever your weekend is) and portion it out for the whole week. Cooked foods will last 4-5 days reliably, so a huge pot of chili on Sunday can feed you for the week. If you don't like leftovers, the best advice you can get is that you need to get over that, because it's the cheapest, easiest way to ensure healthy meals the whole week.

Check your weekly grocery ads and plan meals around what's healthy and on sale, prepping weeknight dinners for the week ahead as well. If you don't want to really get into the weeds of batch cooking on the weekend, one of the best things you can invest in is a slow cooker. With one of these you can effortless make a large amount of protein - like a pork roast - divide it up among the week with some vegetables and bam! you've just meal prepped.

To recap:

  • Make up a protein in advance in a slow cooker and eat it throughout the week
  • Plan ahead with everything! Meal plan, meal prep, and have food on hand in case something comes up that would drive to to get takeout otherwise
  • Focus on easy-to-prepare proteins and vegetables so you don't get bogged down on weeknights with goofy, complex recipes
  • Buy a slow cooker if you don't have one

Remember the saying "bodies are made in the kitchen, not the gym" because 80% of your weight loss will be diet. The rest is our next topic, exercise.

Optimizing Exercise

As I stated previously, exercise is about using your time efficiently and in a manner you find pleasing, because if you hate it you won't keep doing it. The core of a good workout plan is resistance or weight training and efficient cardio (high intensity interval training or HIIT maximizes calorie burn in a short amount of time).

The best thing to do is join a gym and take classes, finding out what works best for you, your schedule, and finding something you truly enjoy. Yoga, Pilates, Crossfit, and Zumba are all hugely popular because they either bring peace and fitness or energy and fitness.

How Do Busy Moms Find Time to Workout?

Honestly, it's about makingtime to work out. If you don't prioritize getting to the gym, running in the morning, or doing a yoga routine, you won't "find" time for it.

Hand the kids to your spouse and go for a walk, or get up earlier and go to the gym in the wee hours of the morning. Bring your gym bag and go right after work, or wear your gym clothes to bed and go first thing in the morning. Whatever you do, you have to forceit because it won't happen otherwise.

How Do New Moms Lose Weight?

This is a bit trickier if you have a new baby, but the strategy is roughly the same. If you can't get anyone to watch the baby, then try doing an exercise routine in your home with your baby in the same room. Go for walks with the stroller, or hit up the park and chase your kids around the jungle gym.

It might sound trite but honestly you can get exercise in anywhere if you plan for it. The same goes for if you're in an office job; take your breaks and go for a walk, or see if your employer has a gym membership discount you can utilize. Chances are good if your employer provides insurance, they also have weight loss incentives like gym discounts.

Not Easy, but Simple

Weight loss is all about nutrition first. Your goals should be:

  • Avoid crash dieting
  • Cut out processed sugar (and food in general)
  • Plan to avoid the fast food fix by meal prepping in advance
  • Embrace non-starchy, green veggies
  • Eat berries, avocados, and apples, and avoid sugary fruits like pineapple and bananas in excessive amounts
  • Embrace proteins, especially animal fats, olive oil, and cold-water, little fish

Remember, weight loss success is made in the kitchen, not in the gym but don't let that dissuade you from exercise, either. In fact, when paired with a great workout plan, proper nutrition will catapult you towards weight loss without ever having to count calories or deprive yourself.

  • Make time for exercise
  • Explore all the fitness options available to you, including classes, at-home workouts, and simply running or jogging in your neighborhood
  • Make sure you include weight routines of some sort
  • Find a workout you love and stick with it

Proper application of nutrition information and a great exercise routine will yield lifelong, powerful results. Get out there and get fit, mamas!

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