Balancing a busy life with good nutrition for cricket is tough. I'm sure we have all been in a position like Darren, who emailed me recently:
"I'm finding it hard to control my diet and to find something suitable to eat due to my unusual hours of work/activity and mix of office work and coaching.
"When and what should I be eating to generate sufficient energy to be at the top of my game for the coaching sessions and to avoid the dreaded service station temptations whilst driving?
"Any help you can offer would be gratefully received so I can get more energy at the right time."
The answer can be summed up like this: Create yourself a food preparation strategy. Don't worry; it's not as tricky as it sounds. If I managed to do it then I know you can. Here are my tips for going from chaos to calm.
Plan a week in advance
If you are like most people (including the way I was). Food planning involves heading to the kitchen to see what's in the cupboard and cooking something. If the cupboards are bare (or you are miles from home) it's takeaway time. If you are really organised you might have made sandwiches for lunch while you are out and about.
Instead try moving your food planning to one particular time of the week.
This makes it easy to stick with healthy eating when time is of the essence.
Pick a day when you are not as busy (Sundays are good for most people) sit down and decide what you are going to eat for the next 7 days. You don't need to make a gourmet meal every meal but you need an idea of how much you are going to eat and roughly when you are going to eat it. Use the 10 habits for a good eating strategy.
When I do this I plan for 5-6 meals a day, you might prefer the more traditional 3. You know your own hunger levels through the day. Make sure you include healthy food for snacks too though.
In my case I would sit down and think of 35-42 meals, what food will I need for that?
Many days will involve the same meals. You don't need 30 odd different meals, just balanced food you enjoy. For example, I tend to have chicken salad every day at the moment. It's fast, easy and filling.
By the time you are finished you should have a list of meals and a list of ingredients for those meals.
Hit the shops
Go to the supermarket with your list and buy a week worth of food. Some people prefer to go twice a week to maintain freshness in vegetables and meat. That's fine too.
If you don't have any airtight food containers, get some. I also recommend a decent blender and cooler bottle.
Bonus tip: Only buy the stuff that's on your list. That's why you made it.
Cook in advance
The aim here is to be fast when you need it. What we want to be able to do is scoop up your meals in the morning without thought. The way to do that is to cook as soon as you get home.
When you get back, chop up and cook a few days worth of food in advance. You can chop and steam veg, grill chicken, fish and beef, cook rice, pasta and potatoes all in advance. Stuff will keep in the fridge. If you want to keep prepared food for longer keep it in the freezer and defrost it the night before you are going to eat it.
I'd recommend making a big pot of something too. I love chilli and do enough for a few meals to store in the fridge or freezer.
For stuff in the fridge, you will need to repeat sometime in the week. With practice you can do 3-4 meals in less than 20 minutes. I have learned how and I'm a kitchen klutz.
Another trick for quick preparation is to make shakes. Not using the horrible meal replacement stuff you see in powder, but from your own fair hands. If you have a blender it only takes 5 minutes to make something from all natural ingredients. Once ready just put it in a cooler bottle and drink it as a meal on the go.
Once you get in this habit of planning, buying and cooking food in advance you will hardly ever find yourself in a position where you are hungry with nothing nearby except a bar of chocolate or a McDonalds Drive-Thru. I know I don't anymore anyway. Sure, it might happen now and again but once or twice a week will not kill you if you are eating healthy with all your other meals.
What are your experiences with eating on the run?