You know what it’s like, constantly trying with the best intentions to eat well and stick to a healthy meal plan. It sounds straight forward enough on paper, until life gets in the way and the shear volume of daily tasks you need to carry out derails you.

You can’t shirk your responsibilities, but it’s so convenient when time’s short to make a compromise with your food choices. I get it, I really do. What’s one fast food meal between friends when you’re tired and short on time? You’ll get back on track tomorrow, no problem.

Sure that’s great in theory, but let’s face it, as a parent you’re going to be pretty much slammed for years to come, so you need to create a strategy that enables you to stay on track regardless of what life throws at you. It all boils down to consistency, and the easier it is for you to go off piste and eat crappy food, then the further away from your goals you’re going to be.

Following a nutrition plan requires a certain amount of discipline, and let’s face it, you simply can’t eat whatever you want and still rock a six-pack. It doesn’t work like that and I can’t fathom why people get frustrated that they fall short of their goals, when they aren’t willing to put in the necessary effort.

Diets don’t have to involve severe deprivation. OK so you can’t carry on injudiciously shovelling down doughnuts, or whatever amounts to your own personal gastronomic kryptonite. But you certainly don’t have to starve yourself either. It’s all about aligning your intake with your goals. The more active you are, then the more you can consume, so long as it’s nutritionally sound and not full of empty calories.

So here’s a short list of tips to help keep you on track.

Save Time With Batch Cooking

How much extra time does it take to cook a meal for two, as opposed to half a dozen? A bit of extra chopping and cleaning up to do, but not much at all. If you get acquainted with the delights of the slow cooker, then you don’t even need to be hovering over the pan, or in fact at home while your food is cooking.

When it’s done, simply divide up your portions and you’re good to go for days. Just a little planning ahead here and you’ll save yourself so much time in the long run.

Eat Similar Meals Every Day

This doesn’t have to be as boring as it sounds, especially once you’ve discovered some great recipes you love. Personally I don’t get bored too quickly with eating the same thing each day. I see it as a means to an end which allows me to easily monitor any weekly changes in performance or body-fat levels, and tweak my intake accordingly.

I rotate between a number of recipes, and by the time one batch is finished, I’m really excited for the next one. Don’t forget that this is about sticking to a diet and maximising your results, so sacrificing a little variety is surely a small price to pay?

Don’t Skip Meals

If you’ve optimised your diet plan then it’s really important to get your meals in. This is especially so if you’re training hard and need those nutrients. There’s no harm in varying your mealtimes, and when life’s busy then flexibility is essential.

I often used to go without a meal break, but always managed to eat. My strategy was to carry food that tasted good whether hot or cold, so I wasn’t dependent on having access to a kitchen. Sometimes I was reduced to taking a few bites every hour. Nevertheless I still got all my food down.

Carry Healthy Snacks

Planning ahead means you never have to experience the guilt and frustration that accompanies careless snacking when you simply can’t hang on until your next meal. Good luck trying to find a healthy option that’s readily available when you need it. The only stuff that’s ever around is laden with sugar, and designed to entice the wider sweet toothed populace.

My preferred choice is either a protein shake or a generous handful of cashews. Or if it’s the day after an intense workout and I’m ravenous, I’ll scoff both. The point is that’s it’s guilt free and serves a nutritional purpose. Of course if you don’t need them, then save them for another time. Nuts keep well, and protein powder only needs water adding.

Stay Hydrated

I’ll admit it took me a while to get on board with the whole hydration thing. I reckoned I drank enough during the day, and couldn’t see how important this aspect was given that water was calorie free. It was only when I actually calculated how much liquid I was consuming did I realise it probably wasn’t enough.

To keep me on track I bought a 2 litre water bottle, and whether at home or at work, I had to drain it before the end of the day; no ifs or buts. I also got into the habit of drinking a large glass of water as soon as I got up in the morning. So now I was up to about 2.5 litres. Then however much tea or coffee I consume during the day, all adds to the total.

The difference has been amazing. I never get as hungry as I was before, and I don’t seem to get as many food cravings. The other upshot is that when your body is used to being properly hydrated, it won’t need to carry a store under your skin. When your body holds water you don’t look as good and can feel a little bloated. Regular hydration takes care of this.

I know what you’re thinking, that you’re going to spend half the day peeing. Not so. Once your body adjusts you won’t go any more frequently, although when you do go you’ll make the visit worthwhile!

Why not give these five simple tips a try, and see how planning ahead can keep you on track.