How to Eat Better and Save Time While Drinking Less

Eating healthy is caring of yourself.

When I cut back drinking, I realized my eating habits weren’t so great. I often drank a glass of wine as soon as I got home as a pick me up to raise my blood sugar.

I told myself I didn’t have time to prepare or eat healthy meals, especially lunch, so I’d starve and get cranky as the work day wore on.

Since then I’ve helped lots of busy clients eat better (and lose weight) while cutting back drinking AND save time doing it.


Don’t get me wrong—I’m not telling you to lose weight. I think you’re perfect the way you are.


But as a Certified Weight-Loss Coach, I get asked frequently what to eat to be healthier and lose weight.

Today I’m sharing how I lost weight and what I now do to eat healthy, stay energized and spend less time on food.


My philosophy is that food should fuel you.


I’m also huge on modelling my eating after what has been described the healthiest diet in the world—a plant-focused Mediterranean style of eating.


Mostly vegetables, some fish and lean protein, healthy fats like olive oil, some nuts, legumes and whole grains, very minimal sugar and flour. If I’m up a couple of pounds I cut out everything with sugar and flour.


Here’s what I eat most days:

·        Black coffee

·        Handful of almonds or walnuts mid-morning

·        Two filling meals, each with: about 4 oz. lean protein, 8-10 oz. veggies, some healthy fat (visually ¼ of the plate protein, the other ¾ vegetables)

·        One serving whole fruit

·        ½ cup cooked whole grain like brown rice or a starchy vegetable at one of the meals

·        Lunch around noon, dinner about 6:30 pm


Sound boring? It’s practical.


No complicated meal planning, looking at recipes, searching for unusual ingredients.


I grab what looks good and flavor with garlic, herbs, hot sauce, olive oil, salt, pepper, lemon.


I avoid dairy and wheat because they make me bloated and bother my sinuses (so does wine). I learned I had problems with these doing a food elimination diet to check for allergies. Though skin tests showed none, when I eat these, I have problems, and when I stop, within 48 hours they’re gone. Try a food elimination plan like Dr. Oz’s to learn how different foods affect you.


At restaurants, I usually order seafood/chicken with vegetables. Salad at lunch, hot meals at dinner. I aim for lean proteins and unsaturated fats due to my high cholesterol. I don’t question the server about whether salmon is grilled with olive oil or butter. I do substitute vegetables for pasta/potatoes.


With kids at home, my goal is to eat together at home 4 nights each week.


Here’s how I organize my weekly plan. Once a week an hour before dinner, I pick up:

·        3 easy to prepare entrée proteins (think already portioned and/or quick-cooking ones like boneless chicken breasts, turkey burgers, boneless pork chops, pork loin or turkey “loin,” fish fillets, tofu, etc.)

·        1 rotisserie chicken

·        6 fresh vegetables (easy to prepare, a mix of greens and others, preferably already washed/cut: spinach, collard greens, kale, turnip greens, green beans, broccoli, broccoli slaw, zucchini, asparagus, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, matchstick or baby carrots, yellow squash, etc.)

·        bag of lettuce like arugula or spring mix

·        2 frozen or canned legumes

·        Packet or two of cooked salmon

·        In-season, low-glycemic index fruit like berries

·        Apples


I keep stables like olive oil, onions, a jar of chopped garlic, and serving-size almond packets on hand.


When I get home from shopping, I put a large pot of brown rice on the stove, not for dinner but for meal prep for the rest of the week.


That night, we have rotisserie chicken, sautéed greens and some other steamed vegetable(s). I make extra veggies for lunch the next day.  


After dinner, I put ½ cup rotisserie chicken plus ½ cup brown rice into 5 leak-proof containers and stick 4 in the freezer.


Subsequent nights I cook a protein/meat, 2-3 vegetables (usually greens, a yellow vegetable and a starchy one like legumes or small potato).


I cook meat in a skillet with oil and seasonings (or Husband grills) and sauté/steam veggies, which takes about 15 minutes.


Or I chop everything, put it all on a cookie sheet, season with salt, pepper and oil, and oven roast. It takes about 30 minutes to cook. Once in the oven it’s hands-off.


If I’ll be working late, I put meat in a crockpot (chicken, pot roast, seasoned pork loins and turkey “loins” work well) and serve with a hearty salad.


Once a week we go out, have leftovers or DIY it.


Pans go on the table with trivets, or we serve ourselves at the stove.


Every night after dinner, I add veggies from dinner to a rice/chicken container and stick it in the fridge. In the morning, I pop one into my work bag with an apple and packet of almonds. Sometimes I microwave it before eating and sometimes I eat it room temperature.


This system gets both dinner and lunch prepared in 15 minutes of effort—faster than pizza delivery.


If you think you don’t have 15 minutes to eat healthier, track how much time you spend daily on your phone with an app like Moment.


This system is easily varied and forgiving. Substitute different proteins and/or go meatless.


Nothing packed the night before for lunch the next day? Throw salad mix and already washed raw vegetables and half a can of beans with some dressing into a leak-proof container. Bring a salmon packet or not.


To save more time, order online and use stores that deliver or have curbside pickup.


Because I have hungry teens, I regularly put bread and olive oil on the table or microwave potatoes for them.


Yes, they miss what they call “the glory days” when I regularly made lasagna, mac n’ cheese, barbecued ribs, chicken potpie and meatballs from scratch.


My husband, the good southern man he is, still says my cooked-in-bacon-fat, iron-skillet cornbread is the best he’s had.


On the other hand, we’ve all been counselled by our doctors about BMI.


I still make favorites rarely, but not every night.


If this sounds too basic for you, consider how much pleasure in your life is focused on food and alcohol. Maybe you’ve had enough consuming-type of joy for a while. What if you made eating simple and your life amazing?


Note, if you try cutting out sugar and flour for 30 days, you’ll likely taste and enjoy “healthy” food more.


Take care of yourself. You’re worth it.

—Julie Ernst, CCJD

P.S. Visit to take my free course: Stop Overdrinking in 3 Steps.

Julie Ernst