Making Rituals Work for You

We all have certain rituals that we follow everyday, every week, every month or each year. 

Rituals can be powerful things.

  • Rituals connect us to a recurring cycle of events. Whether it’s a holiday or simply your regular Friday night get-togethers with your buddies, rituals are about the regular rhythms of life.
  • Rituals connect us to the past and the future. Rituals let us review events that have already occurred (e.g. a year gone by) and look ahead to what’s to come (e.g. a new year ahead of us).
  • Rituals place us in the present and connect us to our lives right now. By actively participating in rituals we are effectively saying “I’m here, paying attention to what’s happening”.
  • Rituals can connect us to other people. Most of our rituals are social rituals  Rituals give us a chance to check in with others and be part of a collective group.
  • Rituals can connect us to ourselves. We can use rituals as a way to “touch base” with ourselves as well as other people. Meditation, for instance, are rituals that people use to step out of the flow of daily life, and to pause for a few moments of self-engagement and reflection.

Food rituals are much the same.

Indeed, most of our rituals involve food: The cake on our birthday. The buffet at the wedding. The familiar dishes on holidays. The breakfast we make ourselves every morning, without fail, exactly the same way as yesterday.

Whether big or small, rituals ground us. They organize us. They’re a chance to “check in”. To refresh, renew, regroup, and rejoice.

The food prep ritual

The food prep ritual is a simple idea.

Plan and prepare some healthy food in advance, so that it’s easily available when you want and need it.

This includes things like: 

  • Creating a list for the week
  • Grocery shopping 
  • washing and chopping vegetables
  • cooking/preparing protein (e.g. cooking up some chicken breasts)
  • cooking meals in bulk (e.g. casseroles, soups, stews, chili)
  • preparing the dry ingredients for things like protein shakes 
  • soaking grains/beans beforehand so that they’ll be ready to cook later
  • sorting foods into smaller containers or baggies
  • freezing and refrigerating food for later
  • planning healthy meals that someone else cooks (e.g. using a meal delivery service, deciding in advance what to order at a restaurant, etc.)
  • looking ahead to ensure healthy eating strategies during the next few days, especially during difficult times (e.g. a busy week, traveling, etc.)

Here are some ways to implement this. 

The Sunday ritual: 1–2 hours

This doesn’t necessarily have to be a Sunday. It can be any day where you have a few hours to shop, cook, and prepare some food in advance.

On this day, you can do things like:

  • buying groceries for the week (or at least the next several days); stocking up on easy staples such as canned beans, pre-washed veggies, etc.
  • cooking large meals that can be refrigerated or frozen in smaller portions (e.g. chili)
  • cooking lean protein in bulk (e.g. roasting a couple of chickens, putting several meat patties on the grill, boiling several eggs, etc.)
  • washing, peeling, and chopping veggies

The evening ritual: 15 minutes

Evening rituals can help you prepare for the next day and lower stress in the morning. If you are willing to take an extra 15 minutes in the evening, you can often prep enough healthy food for the following day.

This can include:

  • making extra dinner so that they have leftovers for lunch the next day
  • doing a little extra veggie chopping or protein prep while dinner is cooking
  • chopping some veggies and meat, putting it in a slow cooker dish, and refrigerating the dish; next morning,  pull the cooker dish out of the fridge, pop it into the cooker, turn the cooker on, and enjoy coming home that evening to a delicious home-cooked meal

The breakfast ritual: 15 minutes

This one is for the morning people. If you are willing to take an extra 15 minutes in the morning, you can prep healthy food for the rest of the day.

This can include:

  • making a Super Shake to bring to work
  • packing a lunch (e.g. some of your pre-frozen chili or other bulk meal, dinner leftovers, a wrap)
  • doing a little extra veggie chopping or protein prep while breakfast is cooking

The 1-minute ritual

Even if you feel you can’t spare 15 minutes, you can at least spare one minute.

One-minute “plan and prep” actions can include:

When you’re already at the store

  • Pick up a rotisserie chicken.
  • Pick up pre-washed vegetables or pre-made salads.
  • Think ahead to the food prep sessions and buy in bulk.
  • Grab an apple or bag of baby carrots to snack on as you peruse the aisles, so you don’t make decisions while being insane from hunger.

When you’re out for dinner

  • Check out the restaurant’s menu in advance and decide beforehand what to get.
  • Take leftovers home.

When you’re already cooking

  • Chop, wash, or prep one extra item (e.g. peel one more carrot; chop one more pepper; toss one more chicken breast on the grill; wash an apple; etc.).
  • Put away leftovers immediately (so you’re not tempted to snack on them) into a container for later.

In general

  • Think “one meal ahead” and “one behavior ahead”. In other words, anticipate what you might need, want, and/or feel in 2-4 hours from now.
  • Anticipate hunger levels and food needs; anticipate feelings like “At 3 pm, I know I’ll want to eat ____.”
Start paying attention to the rituals that you already have in place and see where you can add some of these things in more often. 
These were powerful concepts and ideas brought about in my Precision Nutrition Level 2 course, so I thought it only made sense to share them with you! 
Live well, be well.