The fitness industry likes to preach about food prep - it is the holy grail to sustainable change. There's no way you can get results if you're eating out every day and not in complete control of what you're eating.
Except that's not true.
Life in the city is hectic - a lot of the clients we serve here are on-the-go from dawn till dusk. This means that are not able to prepare food for the next day and they rely on eating out at the nearest place that serves food.
This doesn't mean that you have to kiss goodbye to your results though. This post is the first of a new series exploring the ways in which you can stay on track when you're on the go and reaching for something from your favourite chain.
To help, we'll compare popular choices against choices that are going to help you fuel your day, as well as your body goals.
So where should we start?
Pret-A-Manger (prêt a manj-ey), otherwise known simply as 'Pret' is a popular starting point, and we'll start with breakfast - the meal that can set you up for a day of productivity.
We love a carb fuelled breakfast in the western world - cereal, porridge, toast. It's all about the carbs! To start our day right, we should be looking for a balanced meal - one with ample protein, some slow digesting carbs and some fat.
If you're 'traditional' you may opt for a 'Proper Porridge' topped with, maybe, mango and seeds. This will set you back 364 calories (12.8g protein, 43.3g carbs and 14.3g fat).
A simple switch to the 'Poached Egg, Sausage and Beans Power Pot' saves you 104 calories at a total of 260. This switch also means that your meal is far more balanced (12.7g protein, 14.7g carbs, 16.7g fat).
Alternatively if you're vegan you could opt for the 'Green Smoothie Breakfast Bowl'. It's tough to get a fully balanced vegan meal as they tend to be carb heavy, but this selection ensures that you're at least saving calories with the nutritional stats being: 311 calories (6.4g protein, 40.8g carbs, 12.4g fat)
Another typically carb heavy meal. Who still has a sandwich and packet of crisps for lunch? Hands up! Alternatively put your hands up if you reach for a pasta dish instead.
Keep your hands up if you usually experience an energy crash mid-afternoon.
At lunch, we're looking to top up our energy levels for the afternoon by eating a balanced meal.
If you're in Pret at lunchtime, you could choose an appealing pasta dish - something like the 'Short Rib Beef Macaroni Cheese'. Doing so will fill you with a whopping 709 calories, broken down into 32g protein, 39.1g carbs and a huge 53.5g of fat. If you're looking to drop body fat, 709 calories is quite a lot of calories for just one meal.
Instead you could go for the Chicken and Butternut Squash Stew. A far more balanced meal with good helping of protein (31.4g), moderate carbs (34.3g) and a nice amount of fat (15.1g). As a result the calories for this is far lower than the macaroni cheese (424).
You could also save calories with a vegan ragu and red pepper hot wrap (420). This provides 15.2g protein and 10.6g fat. It's high carb at 62g, but with chunky veg & lentil sauce, it's slightly more wholesome than other carb sources.
Snacks and Treats
If you're main meals cover all of the macronutrient bases and provide a steady source of energy, you're much more likely to avoid high calorie snacks during mid-morning and mid-afternoon.
Snacks are a good way to bridge the gaps between main meals, but are often a sign of desperate hunger rather than just topping up the energy tank.
When it comes to snacks we're looking for something relatively low calorie but packing plenty if nutrition. With that in mind, what can you choose if your looking for a snack?
My favourite low calorie snack in Pret is the chicken, broccoli and brown rice soup. It's not big enough to suffice as a main meal in my opinion, but with 13.7g protein, 14.1g carbs and 3.3g fat it provides a good amount of nutrition to tide you over to your next meal.
Coming in at 186 calories, another great snack is Pret's tamari pumpkin seeds. They come with a decent serving of protein (8.2g) and a healthy amount of carbs and natural fats (5.1g and 14.7g respectively).
What can you do if you fancy something sweet?
You could check out the mango and coconut pot for 190 Calories. This will give you 2.9g protein, 7.5g of carbs and 16.3g of fat (from the coconut yoghurt).
Alternatively you could go for the popcorn bar at 176 calories. The carbs are much higher than the other snacks with 20.4g. It also comes with small amount of protein (1.8g) and moderate fat content (9.5g)
The above is just a handful of the meals available at Pret, and without being aware of what you're eating it can be easy to opt for higher calorie meals that provide less nutrition.
If you were to choose the higher calorie meals, such as the porridge, macaroni cheese and two treats such as the popcorn bar and mango and coconut pot, across the space of a day you would be consuming 1439 calories. These selections would be high in fat (93.6g) and carbohydrates (128.7g) and low in protein (49.5g).
Compare that to the more balanced meals of the power pot, the stew, and breaking up your meals with a soup and the pumpkin seeds and you'd be saving yourself over 400 calories whilst increasing your protein intake and lowering carb and fat intake. The food sources are much more nutritious and are less likely to provide you with energy crashes midway through meals.
Now, you may be looking at the calorie intake and thinking that is way too low - for most of the population it is!
The meals above allow you to make choices that are in line with your goals whilst you're on the go. It also means that when it comes to dinner, you can have a certain degree of flexibility as your last meal of the day will allow you to eat something that provides you with any calories you have left over at the end of the day.
So, next time you're in a rush and think 'screw it', remember that there are options out there for you that will help keep you on track!
If the talk of calories and macronutrients has you confused, check out the '14 Days To A Better You Email Guide'