Coaches will tell you that a big factor to success in marathon and half-marathon training is fuel. While the fuel we consume during the run is important, the more important fuel is what we eat when we aren’t running. It can certainly be daunting to plan out all of your meals, but the alternative is grabbing something from a drive-thru or skipping your run because your kids are screaming that they are hungry and you have to run to the grocery store. I was asked recently how I make training work with my full-time job and kids and all of the other crazy I have going on in my life, so I am outlining my meal-planning process for you.
Meal planning begins every Sunday afternoon when we have the most down-time. My favorite tool is this weekly planning calendar from Post-It that I got from the local office supply store and includes post-it notes that fit in the box and stick completely on the page.
The process begins with writing out any events for the family that might be a factor in meals, such as run nights or school events, down on the bottom of the calendar. Next, I make up post-its for meals I won’t have to cook, including Sunday dinners with parents or eating out at our favorite taco joint for post-run tacos with our running groups. From there, I begin planning out breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks. For the most part, we have a handful of recipes that are fast, easy and family favorites, so we stick with those and add in new recipes to try. Most of the process is just using the stickers I had on the previous week’s menu. My lunches usually are left overs of dinner the previous evening and I always include two or three different small snacks because I love to graze literally all day long.
There are a handful of benefits to planning out an entire week at a time:
- I can make sure I eat enough protein or increase my calorie intake on days in which I have a hard workout planned.
- I can look at an entire week and make sure I have a varied diet that includes different proteins and carbohydrates to keep me interested.
- It’s an opportunity to see if I am including lots of different colors in my menu on a daily basis, rather than just relying on green beans!
I love that this process lets us go to the grocery store once a week, which saves at least a few hours every week by staying out of the store throughout the week. It also saves a significant amount of money on a weekly basis (can we say “race fees”???) and, most important, I’m not feeling the pressure at 6pm when the kids are asking what is for dinner.
I feel like it’s been a million years since I last posted, but life sometimes happens. Spring semester for the kids hit with a vengeance on the calendar and it has been everything I could do to keep running and fueling my body as it should be rather than hitting a drive-thru. I can happily report, though, that I’m tackling it well. I finally got into the habit of fruit-infused water (for real! No more crystal light packets or Nuun tablets to make it all more palatable! LOL). My next challenge to myself (and you as well!) is to bring more color into my food. It’s not just about making sure you get a side of broccoli on your plate at dinner, either. I hate taking pills, including vitamins, and know that I can achieve quite a bit just by being more mindful of the food I eat. This is about eating from the entire color spectrum!
- Reds – This can include beets, cherries, cranberries, red cabbage, red bell peppers and tomatoes. I plan to add frozen cherries to the chocolate oatmeal I eat some mornings to bring in the red family. I really have to be in the mood for tomatoes, but I like the little grape tomatoes and will also include those and some red bell peppers on an arugula salad that I adore!
- Oranges – This includes sweet potatoes, carrots, peaches and butternut squash. I actually love orange vegetables. Sweet potatoes are so good in place of regular potatoes and carrots are a great snack in the afternoon when I need that crunch factor that sometimes leads me to eat a bag of chips.
- Yellows – Pineapple is the first that comes to mind for me when I think of yellow foods. In Dallas, I can usually find a pineapple at the store for under $3, so I get it home and cut it up immediately into chunks. It is a fantastic afternoon snack because of the sweetness. Other foods you could incorporate include lemons, yellow squash (mmmm… roasted yellow squash) and pears.
- Greens – Broccoli, kiwi, spinach, green beans. These are all the old standbys. There are a zillion green veggies to incorporate into a diet. But have you tried arugula is you like your salad a little spicier? How about sugar snap peas? These are fantastic with a mix of colorful bell peppers lightly sautéed so they are still very crisp.
- Blues/Purples – This was easy for me as well because I love blueberries and eat them on yogurt, with whipped cream as a dessert with other mixed berries, etc. You could also try plums and eggplant, purple cabbage, and even purple asparagus!
- Whites – You have the standard white veggies including cauliflower, garlic and onions, but have you tried parsnips or turnips? My husband makes a really tasty mashed potato mixing half potatoes and half parsnips. This gives it a little more depth in the flavor and the kids love it!
So, my big goal is to make up my menu plan for next week and then challenge myself to add one additional color to each of my meals. I’m thinking my first order of business is to add a bowl of mixed berries with a little whipped cream (fresh of course!) as an afternoon snack in lieu of hitting my co-worker’s candy dish a few doors down… Wish me luck!