Episode 45 - Tips for food prep and organisation for the time-poor athlete

Tips for food prep and organisation for the time-poor athlete

Eating for optimal health and performance doesn’t happen by accident. Think of the food choices you make when you’re time poor or in a rush…

  • You’re more likely to get takeaway or eat out
  • You’re more likely to grab and go whatever is available, quick and easy to fill a hole
  • You’re more likely to eat a bowl of cereal for dinner
  • You’re more likely to smash a protein shake after a session and go to bed without ticking all of your recovery boxes

Let me teach you some of the strategies I use to help my athletes eat better, even when they’re time-poor. A little bit of time spent in preparation and organisation goes a LONG way when you’re trying to juggle training, work and family commitments!

If you learn something new and implement one or more of these strategies, please let me know! I’ll help you earn your organisation ninja black belt too. 🥋😉 


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Episode Transcription

Episode 45 - Tips for food prep and organisation for the time-poor athlete

Taryn Richardson  00:00
Before we get into today's episode, can you do me a favour? Could you jump into Apple podcast for me and leave me review? If you don't have an iPhone or don't know what Apple podcasts is steal someone else's phone, go to the podcast app, find the Triathlon Nutrition Academy. Scroll down a bit, and you should be able to see where you can leave a review. Let me know where you're listening from what you like, anything you want to hear, because leaving a review is really going to help spread the good word of evidence-based sports intuition far and wide. You know how passionate I am about getting practical, easy to understand evidence-based information into more hands in a very noisy world where there's so much BS online, so I would love it if you could take 30 seconds and let me know what you think about it. Thank you so much.

Taryn Richardson  00:53
Welcome to the Triathlon Nutrition Academy podcast, the show designed to serve you up evidence-based sports nutrition advice from the experts. Hi, I'm your host Taryn, Accredited Practicing Dietitian, Advanced Sports Dietitian, and founder of Dietitian Approved. Listen as I break down the latest evidence to give you practical, easy to digest strategies to train hard, recover faster and perform at your best. You have so much potential, and I want to help you unlock that with the power of nutrition. Let's get into it. 

Taryn Richardson  01:24
In today's episode, I'm going to give you my top tips for getting organised as a time-poor athlete.  I totally understand how hard it can be with fitting everything into your week. Like you're super busy if you're a triathlete - you've got to swim, you've got to bike, you've got to run, as well as maybe hold down a full-time job, and potentially family commitments as well. So you are stacked when it comes to things.

Taryn Richardson  01:24
But healthy eating doesn't happen by accident. It's something that you have to put in a little bit of time and effort to make happen. Because think about the choices that you make when you're in a rush or you're time poor - you're more likely to get takeaway. And you can make a good choice here, but it's never going to be as healthy and nutritious as if you made the same thing yourself at home.

Taryn Richardson  02:17
When you're in a rush, you might be grabbing and going - grabbing packaged snacks to fill a hole rather than sitting down and having something that's nutritious and balanced for what you need. You might be getting home so late for work that your go to dinner is porridge! Or a protein shake after training so you have something in your stomach before you go to bed.

Taryn Richardson  02:37
So let me, as a dietitian, give you my top tips for how to get yourself organised when it comes to nutrition. Some of these things will be a no brainer to some of you and others, it will absolutely blow your mind. I am an organisation ninja. When it comes to colours of karate belts, I'd be a black belt. How else do you think I run a successful global business with a one-year-old and a three-year-old at home? And keep up with a weekly podcast? It's just nuts. But it's because I'm super organised.  Because I have to be. There's no other choice.

Taryn Richardson  03:09
But I also have many years of practice and knowledge when it comes to nutrition. So let me help fast track you. You might be a white belt or a yellow belt or green belt. But hopefully, after today, we can step you up a level or two. These are some of the practical strategies that I like to teach my clients and athletes inside the Triathlon Nutrition Academy program.

Taryn Richardson  03:28
A little bit of time spent in prep and organisation goes a long way. My first tip for you - it's a massive game-changer. And that is to sit down and do some weekly planning - every single week. Whether it's just you or the whole family. I definitely recommend getting everyone involved if there's other people in your household so that everyone's on the same playing field when it comes to what's coming up for the week.

Taryn Richardson  03:54
But dedicate some time on a day that's not a rush. Maybe it's on a Sunday when you're not at work, and you've done your training and you're sitting down to organise yourself for the week. Or maybe it's a Friday night when everyone's at home. You don't have training. Nobody's at work or school or soccer. And you can spend your time on the weekend wisely getting yourself set for next week.

Taryn Richardson  04:16
So as part of that weekly planning, you might want to get yourself a whiteboard or a big piece of paper or something that sits in the kitchen or on the fridge or in your pantry that you can rub out each week and write what people are doing. Sit down and talk about who's doing what on what days. What nights have you got training in the evenings where dinners going to need to be prepped and ready for you to walk in the door and eat straightaway? What nights are you out doing kids' sport? What nights do you know that you have to work late because you've got a late meeting scheduled?

Taryn Richardson  04:48
Figure out what days are going to be an absolute shit fight versus the days where you've got more time. That's where we start to form the basis of our planning. So what I want to avoid is that you're just flying by the seat of your pants every day, trying to plan and then shop and then cook dinner on the day is insane. I do not recommend it. It's a complete waste of time. And you're not likely to be eating the right foundations and the building blocks of what you need. You're making a choice based on time and convenience.

Taryn Richardson  05:20
So once you know what's happening on what nights that can help you to decide what type of meals you're having on those nights. Do you need nights that are a quick, like, 15-minute cook? Or potentially double cooking the night before to have leftovers? Those nights where you're training late or working late or running around after kids, you don't want to plan something that's going to take you over an hour to cook on nights like that. I'd suggest doing some quick-cook meals on nights like that, like the Quick Green Curry or the Salmon Stir Fry that you can find in the Dietitian Approved Recipe Database.

Taryn Richardson  05:56
I'll link that below in the show notes because it's a great resource if you're looking for healthy recipes that have been planned by a dietitian. So both of those meals will take you less than 20 minutes to cook from start to finish. Some of these Jamie Oliver's 15-minute meals that actually take you 60 - I promise, even for a novice cook or a novice chef, they're not going to take you any more than 20 minutes.

Taryn Richardson  06:20
The other thing you want to think about when you're planning your week is trying to lay in your periodisation of your nutrition to your training program. Now, I'm not going to cover that today. It's something I can teach you inside the Triathlon Nutrition Academy. But there's nights where you're going to need to eat differently compared to others and we want to layer that into our weekly planning as well. So there's quite a few components to consider when we're trying to map out our week.

Taryn Richardson  06:47
That's a few things to start with. You might have more as well that you need to factor into your planning. But sit down once a week, if it's by yourself or with your family, get everyone on the same page and figure out who's doing what. It could even include who's cooking on what nights? Are there nights where you're out and you want somebody else to cook for you? Or is there nights that you can get the kids to cook for you? How good would that be? Or what nights do you need to use leftovers - so double batch the night before that, so you know you can come home and dinner is already made.

Taryn Richardson  07:22
I have a free gift for you when it comes to planning your weeks. If you want my template that I use, personally, in my house, and give to all of my clients and athletes, head to dietitianapproved.com/planner. This is my weekly menu planner template. It's got a section to put all your meals for the week on there. And then your shopping lists to go with that too - so that you can sit down and organise your meals once, write everything out that you need to make them and then you're only going to the shops once and you've got everything at home that you need for the week. So go and grab that now - dietitianapproved.com/planner.

Taryn Richardson  07:59
I'll link that in the show notes too. Now, if you absolutely hate menu planning, and you just suck at it, I have done that hard work for you. After many years listening to people complain about how they hate doing it, I developed an entire weekly menu planning service. And this is where I fill in that template for you every single week. I map out your dinners, and I strategise what goes where. You have a massive range of protein choices. So we're not just eating chicken all week and planning the meals based on longevity as well. So think about if you shop once - a chicken is not going to last you to the back end of the week, it's going to go off. So we're strategic about where we put things in meals, knowing that you're shopping once - to get them to last you through the week too.

Taryn Richardson  08:46
So I give you the recipe that you're going to have (and you have flexibility to swap nights if you like),  but it's planned for you by a dietitian, so it's perfectly balanced. I've also given you the shopping list to go and get everything that you need to cook those meals. And you get access to the Dietitian Approved Recipe Database so you have the exact recipe to follow.

Taryn Richardson  09:05
So I've just cut out at least two hours of planning and thinking off your week for you and taking all the thought and stress out of doing it. So if you need help in that department, go to dietitianapproved.com/recipes and you'll see it all there. I have menus for every season - summer, winter, autumn, spring. So no matter where you are in the world, you can choose based on the season. I'll link that in the show notes for you too.

Taryn Richardson  09:29
Okay, so number one tip: weekly planning. Start doing it this week. Implement it. See how much of a game-changer it is.

Taryn Richardson  09:37
My second tip for you is to shop once a week. I alluded to it before, but it's such a time saver. When/if you're organised to go to the shops once a week and get everything that you need. Write your list. Make sure you're getting everything that you need. And that'll stop you going back and forth to the shops constantly because you forgot one or two things. It also means you're less likely to overspend because if you're running back and forth to the shops all the time, you're more likely to grab stuff that you just don't need - because it's on special, or you've got a craving or whatever it is. You will overspend every time you go to the shops. So let's just limit that and keep shopping to once a week.

Taryn Richardson  10:17
There are some strategies that I can teach you to be able to do that - to get longevity out of the types of foods that you choose, and the meals that you make.  I don't have time to shop more than once a week! Everything in our week is finally planned and organised because if it's not, the whole thing falls apart. And you might feel the same. So if you can, do your plan once a week, try and shop once a week too - it'll save you so much time and money.

Taryn Richardson  10:43
My third tip that you might want to implement, is doing some online grocery shopping. Now personally, I'm not a huge fan of this because I love going to the shops. I know, I'm a total weirdo. But I love to see all the new products out there and like to spend time reading labels - like a total dietitian weirdo! But if you hate going to the shops, switch to online shopping. So many people did this through COVID and have stopped. But if it worked for you, then do it again.

Taryn Richardson  11:12
One of the great things about online grocery shopping is that you can actually save your cart. So if there's things that you know you need every single week, like milk or bread or yogurt or whatever it is, save it as your weekly basics. And then all you have to do is add to that the few additional things that you need on top of that each week. If you use the weekly menu planner service, I know some of you do already, you can save the shopping carts as set weeks, so that all you need to do is add your other items for your other meals, like your lunches, your snacks. And that whole week of the weekly menu planner is pre-done for you. So you don't have to even worry about it.

Taryn Richardson  11:51
That could be particularly good if you're away and you're coming back late on a Sunday night knowing that you've got nothing in the fridge for the week ahead. To online shop while you're away, have it delivered as soon as you get home and use one of those weekly menu plans to get you through that week.

Taryn Richardson  12:07
The other thing you could try is automating a fruit and vegetable delivery box from the local farmers each week. That can be a really good way to eat seasonally and eat locally and support the local farmers. And can be really good if you're more of an adaptable, innovative cook in a kitchen. It's not so good if you need to follow a set recipe and you can't throw random ingredients together to make something, because you're relying on what's been delivered - and that's going to change every week. Some places will tell you what you're getting. Others really rely on what's happening in the weekend, and the season and what's available and giving you what's fresh.

Taryn Richardson  12:45
If you don't want to use that for your entire week’s fruit and vegetables, you could use it as, like, a midweek top up - if you're feeding a big hungry family and you've run out of fresh stuff by midweek.

Taryn Richardson  12:56
My fourth tip is to try and batch cook and freeze if you can. Now you don't need to go out and buy a whole separate chest freezer, although you can if you want to. But keep some ready-made healthy meals and snacks in your freezer for when you're really time-poor. All you have to do is make a double batch next time you cook something that's freezable. You might want to eat half at the time and freeze the rest to look after future you.

Taryn Richardson  13:21
There are lots of recipes in the database that are really good batch cook, bulk cook and freeze options like tagines, lasagna, curries. Things that actually taste good, and develop flavour over time, are great to chuck in the freezer. Now I'm not a huge fan of the weekly meal prep - where you eat the same thing for five days of the workweek. And I'll tell you why. I'm all for meal prepping and organising but if you're eating the same thing for those five days of the week, and your training is not the same, then you haven't periodised your nutrition to the type of exercise that you're doing.

Taryn Richardson  14:00
So this can work for you if you train the same way every day, or there are some strategies around meal prepping, but then being able to scale up and down your meals depending on what's going on with training. But that's something I'll teach you inside the Academy - is how to actually do that. But if you're somebody that meal preps for five days to get you through the week, that is awesome. You're one step further to being an organisation ninja, but I need you to understand that you can't eat the same thing for five days if your training load is not the same. So think about with the things that you're making. Is there a way to periodise them or not?

Taryn Richardson  14:36
You could still meal prep, but maybe it's some different things on different types of training days. He's still getting organised on a Sunday for your Monday through to Friday, but rather than it being exactly the same, you need to periodise it to training.

Taryn Richardson  14:49
Tip five is to lean on your slow cooker if you have one. And hey, if you don't have one, maybe it's worth investing one? They're not that expensive. There are lots of recipes in the database for the slow cooker. So things like lamb shanks, pumpkin soup, pulled pork. And these are the types of things that you want to chuck on in the morning and come home and dinner's made. So are there particular days in your week that you would benefit from something like that?

Taryn Richardson  15:15
You might need a little bit of time in the morning to get it on or outsource it to someone else in your house. But knowing that, when you get home at night, dinner is already done! Really good in winter as we head into the cooler weather, but also utilise it through the hotter months to set yourself up and look after future you by getting dinner sorted in the morning.

Taryn Richardson  15:36

Number six is to try and prep some snacks for yourself as well. If you prefer to make your own snacks, and I definitely suggest doing that ahead of time, there's lots of things you can freeze like our savoury muffins or protein balls, or whatever it is. Or, if you're into other pre-packaged snacks, buy those in bulk and have them ready to go in your cupboard or pantry. Or in your office desk drawer. Or in your handbag. Keep healthy food around because you're more likely to grab it and make a better food choice than if you're having to rely on the cookie jar or little packets of kids' chips, because that's all you've got in the cupboard. I'm a big fan of "Do the work once and reap the rewards later". So do yourself up a batch of 12 savoury muffins and freeze them knowing that that will get you through the next week or maybe two weeks.

Taryn Richardson  16:25
I only cook in big these days. So every time I make something, I generally double the batch. And you can implement that strategy too, because so many things are freezable as long as you've got space to store it. Alright, I hope that's given you a range of ideas to help you get started. Now depending on where you are in your organisation and food prep journey, some of that might have been absolute gold to you. And for others, it might have been a no brainer. But even if you take in one or two tiny little tips out of that, we want to set yourself up for success - to look after future you.

Taryn Richardson  17:00
We are all incredibly time-poor. It's not just me, it's not just you, the world is a very busy place. But if you're serious about eating for health and performance, then you need to spend some time organising your life - because healthy eating doesn't happen by accident. If you have to get up 20 minutes earlier, to get a slow-cooked Bolognese in the slow cooker before you head out the door in the morning, do it! Because it means you can come home to a delicious home-cooked, well-balanced meal that you know is good for you. Instead of running around like a headless chicken at the end of the day going "Crap what's for dinner?".

Taryn Richardson  17:39
I've been doing this for a long time now. So I have lots of resources to help you if you need it. I'll link in the show notes the link to the recipe database. And my free recipes if you want to go and grab those too. I'll also link in there, my weekly menu planner service, which is for you if you really want a dietitian to plan your dinner meals for the week for you. And take all that stress away from doing it. If you hate scouring through recipe books and looking at recipes online, wondering if they're going to be good or not, I've done all of that hard work and back end thinking for you. And you can just plug in and follow the plan. So I'll link that in the show notes for you.

Taryn Richardson  18:18
And please, if you don't have one already, go and download my free weekly menu planner template. It is awesome. I have a strategy around how I do the shopping as well. And you'll see what that looks like when you download it. So go to dietitianapproved.com/planner and I'll link that in the show notes too. If you try any of these strategies, and they are just mind-blowing for you or they really revolutionise the way that you do things, drop me a DM on Instagram, or flick me an email: [email protected] - I would love to hear from you. And just a reminder, if you haven't already, please jump into Apple podcasts and leave me a review. Thank you so much. I'll see you next time.

Taryn Richardson  19:03
Thanks for joining me for this episode of the Triathlon Nutrition Academy podcast. I would love to hear from you. If you have any questions or want to share with me what you've learned. Email me at [email protected]. You could also spread the word by leaving me a review and taking a screenshot of you listening to the show. Don't forget to tag me on social media at @dietitian.approved so I can give you a shout out too. If you want to learn more about what we do, head to dietitianapproved.com. And if you want to learn more about the Triathlon Nutrition Academy program, head to dietitianapproved.com/academy. Thanks for joining me and I look forward to helping you smash it in the fourth leg - nutrition!

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