This is a guide to help busy mums break free from the diet cycle and achieve healthy sustainable weight loss.
Yes, it can be done!
As a mum, life is a whirlwind. There’s never enough time to do everything.
You want healthy habits that last for life, and to be a role model for your kids.
You want a body that’s fit, energised, and that you’re proud of.
And you want to eat foods you love – enjoy the odd meal out, piece of cake, or few glasses of wine, guilt-free.
You can do all of that.
When you’re looking after everyone else, you need simple plans that work for you. Structure and guidance. Decisions made ahead of time to help you stay on track towards becoming the best version of you.
This is a two-part post – here we’re talking about what to eat, food plans, setting up your environment for success.
Next time we’ll discuss emotional eating, cravings, self care and mindset.
Note – I am not a mum. But I’ve worked with so many wonderful women who are that I know the struggles you face.
There are a million demands on your time, and it’s easy to end up grabbing food on the go. Going too long without proper nourishment, eating sugar for energy and stress relief.
Finishing the day feeling exhausted and craving more sugar (or wine) as a way to unwind.
Often this all stems back to a key problem – putting everyone else’s needs ahead of your own.
It’s what mum’s do.
But to be the best you can be for others, you have to take care of you too.
Here I’ll give you some guidelines to follow, so you can create your own routines that work for you.
What to eat
Food is your fuel. You are rushing around looking after everyone else every day.
You NEED good quality nutrition to keep you going.
Not toast grabbed on the go, a random cereal bar, kids leftover food, and biscuits to keep you going.
You are a superhero.
Superheroes deserve the best.
Specifically, foods that will keep you satisfied and energised for hours, so you can get on with your day.
A template to follow
To feel energised, satisfied and at your best:
- 3 easy main meals that include protein and vegetables / fruit
- 2 snacks – protein (such as greek yogurt, boiled egg or a protein bar) or fruit
- 1 – 2 servings of healthy fats daily (avocado, eggs, salmon, olive oil, nuts, seeds)
- 1 – 2 servings of natural high fibre carbs daily (oats, potatoes, beans, lentils, wholemeal bread, rice)
Note that it says ‘template’.
Not ‘this is exactly how you must eat every day, otherwise you’re doing it wrong’.
The goal is just to have frameworks in place to minimise decision-making later on. By all means, adapt to suit you.
Once you have a template that works for you – perfect.
Stick with it and rotate through meals you enjoy, leaving an optional amount of time open to try something new each week too.
Here’s some ideas that have worked well for clients:
Key points – include a source of protein to keep you fuller for longer. Greek yogurt, protein powder and eggs are all good options. Combine protein with veggies or fruit for fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Then you can slow release carbs such as oats or wholemeal bread, or go for healthy fats such as avocado or nut butter. Carbs and fats your preference – go for whatever you enjoy (checking portion sizes if weight loss is your goal), and what makes you feel best.
- Overnight oats made with Greek yogurt and berries
- Protein smoothie– see the infographic below
- Porridge mixed with protein powder and topped with berries
- Poached or scrambled eggs on wholemeal toast
- Pre-made frittata
- Egg muffins
A meal that you can make quick and easily, or one that’s already made. Shop bought is fine if needed – don’t try to be perfect! Key point again – include a source of protein and some veggies or fruit too.
- Homemade soup
- Shop bought soup (good quality one with veggies and some form of protein – lentils or chicken are good ingredients. Or you could mix with Greek yogurt)
- Sandwich – yes, nothing wrong with this! Quality wholemeal bread, a protein filling if possible (chicken, ham, tuna, smoked salmon, halloumi), a piece of fruit and perhaps a yogurt (see infographic for high protein yogurt options)
- A wrap filled with protein and veg – I love cooking up extra fajita chicken (we do it with frozen peppers, courgettes and aubergine too, as well as a little bit of diced chorizo for extra yumminess) and then having that for lunch in a wholemeal wrap. Greek yogurt is a great alternative to sour cream here. Add salsa and some mashed avocado – delicious.
- Leftover dinner– casserole, chilli, stew
- Eggs – poached or scrambled with wholemeal or sourdough bread
- Salad with a source of protein – chicken, turkey, boiled eggs, tuna, salmon, beef, cottage cheese, halloumi, lentils, beans, chickpeas.
Here – *broken record* – protein and veggies are your priority.
You need that protein to help your body repair itself after a tough day. And a spectrum of different colour veggies to keep your immune system strong. Half the plate filled with vegetables ideal – roasted, steamed, stir fried, fresh, frozen, microwaved, it’s all good.
Most of us have our favourite dinners so here I’ll list a few other ideas that could be useful:
- Slow cooker – a wonderful invention
- Could you cook extra portions to save for lunch or a future dinner?
- Batch cooking curries, chilli, paella, casseroles and fajita chicken all works well
- If Plan A goes wrong, what’s an easy Plan B meal you can keep the ingredients for? Beans or eggs on toast, omelet, prawn stir fry and fajitas are some meals my clients have chosen
- Nothing wrong with a ready meal – knowing what to look for or having a back-up in stock is helpful. Check out the infographic below for some ideas – 20-40g protein and 300-500 calories are good ballpark figures. Add some easy veg on the side to complete the meal
- Some of my clients love choosing meals and ordering recipe boxes from Gousto
At home – fruit or protein tend to work best – slowly and mindfully eaten so you know you’ve had it.
When out and about, it can be a lifesaver to keep a snack bar in your bag for emergency situations. Very much decreases the chances of succumbing to a (much higher calorie) snack when you’re out, or raiding the cupboards if you arrive home starving later on.
Check out the infographic below for a few other ideas depending on your preference.
- Protein shake
- High protein yogurt
- Nakd bar
- Trek bar (some are under 200 calories)
- Protein bar (look for one around 200 calories and 20ish grams of protein – Grenade carb killas are a favourite)
Dessert (if you crave something sweet)
Again it helps to decide this in advance, and have low calorie options available if you have a sweet tooth.
Me personally – I just love a taste of something sweet after dinner. Low calorie ice cream is ideal – a third of a tub is around 120 calories, or a mini choc stick from Aldi is nicely portioned out and around 140 calories. If I’ve eaten a lot, a 30ish calorie mini milk or a few berries does the job nicely.
- Low calorie ice cream (Halo Top, Breyers and Oppo are all good options. We shop at Aldi and get their tub of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream – 350 calories for a tub and it’s delicious.)
- Mini ice creams (Aldi have a box of 12 ‘mini choc sticks’ that are great – 140ish calories each)
- Mini milks or mini twisters
- Fruit and yogurt (tinned peaches and Greek yogurt – yum)
- Fresh berries
- Protein brownie – check out my recipe HERE
- 2 squares of dark chocolate (good for antioxidants and topping up your magnesium too 😉 See how slowly you can enjoy it)
Do you eat fast?
Snack standing up or on the go?
Rush through meals so you can get on to the next thing?
When we’re in the habit of whizzing through the day trying to get stuff done, we rush through food and don’t even get to enjoy it.
If you love food as much as I do, this is a travesty.
We need to get back to being present with what we eat.
So our brains actually recognise that we’ve eaten it, and we feel satisfied.
Mindfully enjoy every delicious bite. Including and especially the ‘naughty’ stuff.
We often overeat junk food because we feel ‘bad’ for having it, so we scoff it down before our brain catches up.
Have you ever done that? Then you feel guilty, and you didn’t even get to fully enjoy it in the first place!
Let’s bin off all that feeling naughty, bad and guilty rubbish.
Nothing is off limits – savour each mouthful, knowing you can have it again anytime.
Practice sitting at a table when you eat, with no distractions, so you can fully enjoy the experience.
This way you can stop when satisfied, guilt-free.my
For more on regaining control of food – check out the infographic below, and my mindful eating article HERE.
So, as we’ve just discussed, no foods need to be off limits.
The method that works for weight loss – unlimited permission to eat, but choosing to show restraint.
Making plans and sticking to them, because you want to achieve your goal.
Save calories for what you enjoy most.
Cake out with friends, a meal at a restaurant, a couple of glasses of wine on a Friday night.
Those are really enjoyable experiences for most of us.
And it’s amazing how many calories we can stop wasting in the week to actually save and spend on the good stuff.
Write a list of what’s no longer worth it.
For many mums I’ve worked with, that list includes
- unplanned nibbles on nuts, crisps, granola, trail mix
- shop bought cakes
- snacks bought for the kids
- kids leftovers.
Hundreds of empty calories can be saved each week by setting those guidelines.
Save them up and spend them on something truly satisfying, happy in the knowledge that you are also still making progress towards your goal.
You are in control, and it feels great.
Set up your environment for success
Even with all your good intentions and healthy eating, you’re still going to have times where you’re tired or stressed and crave junk. Foods that you easily overeat – keep them out of the house for the time being.
If you’re going to buy snacks for the kids, get them healthier options, or things that you won’t be tempted by. Set up your environment for success and make it easier for yourself to stay on track.
A key point: it’s best not to tell yourself (or other people) that you ‘can’t be trusted’ with certain foods in the house.
Mindset to adopt: you can be trusted, you are in control. You’re just choosing not have them in the house right now.
Studies have shown that this is what successful people do. They’re not blessed with amazing willpower. They just (consciously or subconsciously) have habits and routines that make it easier to stay on track.
Remember you can still go and get them anytime, and keep them in your house in future – you’re just choosing right now to make life easier. Progress is coming.
To sum up Healthy weight loss for busy mums…
That’s the end of part one.
Thanks for reading! I hope it’s helped.
In the follow up post we’ll cover more about mindset, emotional eating and self-care.
Here’s a quick summary of key points we’ve covered here:
- Plan easy healthy meals that you enjoy
- Protein is your friend – aim for a serving in each meal
- Bulk out meals with colour vegetables or fruit
- Have snacks available – fruit or protein as a default
- Practice slow and mindful eating
- Remember you’re allowed to eat whatever you want – choose what you love most
- Set up your environment for success
You are doing an amazing job.
If you need any help or advice, please get in touch with me HERE.