Many who try to lose weight get caught in a cycle of dieting and bingeing. The result? You don’t lean up as you’d like, your running suffers as energy levels are up and down, and your self-esteem takes a nose dive. The solution? Making real, sustainable changes to your exercise routine, and your diet – and food prep is an important part of the equation.
Weight-loss expert Louise Parker devised her Louise Parker Method (see louiseparker. com for more) to help people break out of the fad-diet cycle and lose weight in a sustainable way, before maintaining a healthy weight – and a healthy attitude to eating – for the rest of their lives. In her book, Lean For Life: The Cookbook, she explains her approach which is all about getting organised. Here are some of her top food prep tips to help you stay on track…
You simply can’t leave your food choices down to chance and hope to get lucky and change your body and your lifestyle. Having said that, you also need to keep things realistic and in perspective. We’re creating habits to last forever, not white-knuckling through some ‘New Year, New You’ diet that fizzles out by February.
I simply don’t have the time or inclination to spend a day doing a big cook- up for the week ahead. It’s my idea of hell. Whenever you’re making something that freezes well, double or triple up the recipe, so you’ve got something to snatch out of the freezer in the morning.
If you are taking food from home, separate out anything that will make your meal go soggy. A simple way is to wrap items such as tomatoes or cucumbers separately, and always add any dressing just before you eat. Keep a stash of salt, pepper, olive oil, and condiments with you at work so you don’t even need to take dressing with you each day.
Sometimes it’s not the preparation but the cleaning up that takes the most time. Buying some new pans and making sure everything is dishwasher-safe, so you don’t have to spend hours scrubbing, is an incredibly simple way to save valuable time. I buy nothing that doesn’t go in a dishwasher, except special wine glasses
If you stock up your kitchen with lean ingredients, it’s the easiest way to make sure you always eat lean meals. If you can, arrange for weekly food deliveries to save time. If weekly deliveries won’t work for your schedule, then always have some fresh items with a longer shelf life just in case. For me, these are frozen prawns, feta and goats’ cheeses, tofu, frozen vegetables and eggs. This way if you run out of ‘fresh’ ingredients, you can always throw some store cupboard staples together to create a delicious stir-fry or omelette.
You can always knock up a meal with a good-quality can of tuna, a few capers, a can of beans, seasoning and the odd veggie that is lurking in the salad drawer. I always keep canned tomatoes, lots of varieties of beans, tuna and anchovies. I also keep jars of capers and caperberries and always have packs of ready-cooked lentils for rainy days. • Keep all your nuts, spices, herbs and seasonings always fully stocked.
Tweak your meals and make use of my Extra Energy Sides [see book for details]for growing children and partners, but don’t cook ‘your food’ and ‘their food’. You’ll lose the plot and it feeds the ‘diet mentality’. My kids have to try everything six times before they declare they ‘don’t like it’.
The Louise Parker Method – Lean for Life: The Cookbook by Louise Parker, published by Mitchell Beazley, £20 www.octopusbooks.co.uk