A Month with No Kitchen: 3 Lessons I Learned

As I hinted in my first weekly update and a couple of recent social media posts, my kitchen has been undergoing a major remodel. It still isn’t done, but we are getting closer! I’ve been without a fully functioning kitchen for about a month, and I’ve eaten restaurant food for almost every meal. Here are the top three lessons I learned as well as ten tips for anyone trying to eat well on-the-go:

Lesson One: Failing to plan DEFINITELY means planning to fail.

Lately, I’ve eaten a lot of lunches that look like this:

You’ll have to excuse the poor quality of this photo. No amount of good lighting or fancy arranging is going to make this look like a decent meal for a self-respecting adult.
Nice, right? I often work through lunch, and if I don’t pack something, my options are seriously limited. I could have packed lunches throughout the kitchen renovation, but because I didn’t make a plan, I never seemed to have the right foods on hand (or the right equipment…I have no idea where I put the mostly-full, Costco-sized box of Ziplocs when I emptied the cabinets, and silverware? Please.). Fail.

I also realize now that I should have set up my camping equipment in the backyard. I have a fully-equipped camp kitchen (not the fancy kind, but all the essentials–stove, grillwashbasin, etc.). Had I taken the time to set everything up at the beginning of this process, it wouldn’t have felt like the biggest struggle in the world to make some spaghetti at the end of a long work day. Fail.

I definitely failed to plan these past few weeks, which is why we’ve eaten so many restaurant meals (and so many sad snack-food lunches), but let me tell ya, once this is over, I’ll appreciate the convenience of my kitchen more than ever before.

Lesson Two: Mindset matters.

In the past, I’ve looked at restaurants as a place to splurge, but this month, since I was eating out more than ever before, I changed my mindset completely. As I mentioned in my second weekly update, I skipped some of my favorite indulgences. I may have been eating at restaurants, but I wasn’t celebrating anything other than making it through another random Tuesday, so there was no need for a “treat yo’self” mindset.

Another cool side effect? I appreciated the home-cooked meals I ate with friends and family more than ever.

Lesson Three: Small choices add up.

I didn’t gain a single pound during this month with no kitchen, and I truly believe that is because I changed my mindset and chose healthier options as often as possible. Looking back, I could have done a lot of things differently, but even my small choices made a measurable difference.

Here are 10 basic tips I would give to anyone trying to eat well under less-than-ideal circumstances:

  1. Drink water throughout the day and with all of your meals.
  2. If you start the day with tea or coffee, choose unsweetened.
  3. Make a meal plan, even if you won’t be doing much cooking.
  4. Include a protein source with every meal and, if possible, every snack.
  5. Keep easy-to-grab fruits and veggies like apples or carrot sticks on hand for snacks or to supplement packaged or fast food meals.
  6. You can find balanced, healthy meals almost anywhere. I think the healthiest lunches I had this month were Starbucks’ protein bistro boxes that I grabbed on my way to work.
  7. Practice portion control. Restaurants serve much larger portions than most people need to eat, so consider splitting an entree, saving some for later, or ordering the smallest available portion.
  8. Save desserts and sweets for special occasions. If you must indulge, share.
  9. Take note of how you feel after eating certain foods. Listen to your body.
  10. Remember your “why.” You’ll have a much easier time staying motivated if you remember why you wanted to eat healthier in the first place.

What are your favorite on-the-go meals and snacks? Tell me about it in the comments.

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