By now you’ve probably heard over and over that “abs are built in the kitchen”—but we can’t stop saying it because it’s true! A diet full of healthy and nutrient-rich foods is the best building block for living a healthier lifestyle. Though it may seem daunting at first, there are several things you can do to help make your daily meals easier and more nutritious.
Here, Aaptiv Trainer Ackeem Emmons shares five things he does to ensure he stays on top of his diet, even on the busiest days.
When it comes to meal prep, you may feel like you’ve already heard it all—from the ingredients you need to have in your kitchen to easy recipes to make sure you never skip breakfast. But Emmons swears by meal prep, saying it’s a big part of what keeps him on track day after day. “I preheat the oven as soon as I get home because it motivates me to actually cook,” he says. “If I sit down or I start doing something else, it’ll be the last thing on the agenda.”
Finding little ways, as Emmons does, to make sure you’re setting aside time for meal prep can help keep you accountable.
Schedule Your Day
Emmons adds that more than just scheduling out your meals, it’s important to schedule out your entire day. “The night before, I look at the next day, and I plan it out, in terms of clients, meetings, my commute, when I’m actually going to work out, and when I’m going to eat,” he says.
Eating mindfully is a big part of healthy eating. Meal prepping meals that are full of macro and micronutrients is half the battle. Making sure you take some time out of your day to actually enjoy the fruits of all your hard work in the kitchen is the other half. Plus, studies show that when it comes to weight management, mindful eating helps you become more in tune with your body’s signals. It can also help to positively change your relationship with food.
Get Your Sleep
Sleep is a must when it comes to eating healthier. “When I take time off to rest, my body responds better,” Emmons explains. “Sleep helps you have a clear mind and make better decisions. You don’t feel like you’re catching up. Instead, you’re ahead of the game.”
Numerous studies have shown that a lack of sleep causes an increase in ghrelin, the hormone that promotes hunger, and a decrease in leptin, the hormone that helps you feel full and signals to your body when you’ve had enough to eat. In other words, when you don’t get enough sleep, you’re more likely to eat more because your body can’t easily tell when you feel full.
Use Healthy Food Hacks
When trying to maintain a healthy diet, sometimes having a healthy food hack handy can make it easier. The hack Emmons swears by is Hungryroot. “Hungryroot is great because the food is fresh and they provide healthy substitutes,” he says. “I have a sweet tooth like no other, and they have a black bean brownie batter that is amazing. It satisfies my craving without sacrificing my diet.”
While Hungryroot is an option that works for Emmons, if you find yourself struggling, do some research on various grocery and meal prep companies and find a hack that works for you.
Start a Fitness Routine
Getting into a regular habit of exercising is another great way to stay on top of a healthy diet. Though it may sound counterintuitive, healthy eating and exercise go hand in hand. When you work hard and start to see the results of all your hard work, you’re often more hesitant to put something into your body that could damage it. That doesn’t mean you’ll never want a burger again—all it means is that you’ll probably focus your energy on nutrient-rich meals for most of the week.
Another plus: according to Emmons, exercise helps improve your anabolic window. Within this window your intake of protein and carbohydrates is better absorbed into your body, making it easier to build muscle mass. This window can last anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours after training.
Don’t Overthink It
Above all things, Emmons stresses that to make healthy eating as easy as possible, don’t overthink it! “It’s not rocket science, and it doesn’t need to be a nine-course meal. Convenience breeds consistency,” he says.
The best way to stick with a healthy habit is to make it enjoyable. So, find a way of healthy eating that works for you and your lifestyle—and have fun with it!