Did you know that humans make about 200 food choices per day?  It’s pretty amazing and overwhelming when you think about it! As an RD, my years of education and practice give me a bit of a leg up on making food decisions. But that’s not to say I eat perfectly all the time. Like Jennifer said in her post yesterday, I’m often asked about what I eat in a day, and some of the foods would surprise you (like my occasional Cheeto fix).

Rather than outline what I eat in a day, I thought I’d talk about about HOW I come to my food decisions. I eat with a few key goals in mind (more on that in a second) which are likely very different from your goals. But here are 5 factors that drive my food choices:

  1. I eat… a lot

Like many working mamas, my days are long

I wake up at 4:30 most mornings to work out, and I’m usually not asleep until 10:30 or 11 p.m. (totally not ideal!). I have more energy and get less hangry when I eat 5-6 smaller meals per day. The challenge with this, sometimes, is that I have to make more decisions about eating throughout the day. I tend to rotate through the same few breakfasts, lunches, and snacks to make things more simple. Then I mix things up a little more for family dinner.

2. I eat for performance

I am a CrossFit junkie—I coach and also do 5-6 CrossFit workouts per week. My workouts run the gamut from sprinting and jumping to lifting heavy weights. I need adequate healthy carbs to fuel my body and plenty of protein to feed my muscles.

Studies show that spreading protein through the day is best for muscle growth and repair. I aim for about 20 grams of protein every few hours, which is based on my body size. I eat meat, but I choose plant proteins as much as possible to protect my heart.

3. I’m mindful about fiber

I’m a pretty healthy eater, but I was surprised a while back when I entered my food in MyFitnessPal. Despite being an enthusiastic fruit and veggie eater, I was falling short on fiber. Part of the challenge is that I’m gluten free for medical reasons (doctor’s orders!), so I miss out on some opportunities for whole grains.

Since my big MyFitnessPal revelation, I look for opportunities to add fiber. I eat an apple or some berries every day, or I’ll choose popcorn or bean chips if I’m craving a salty snack.

4. I go for convenience

When it comes to dinner, I’m a big believer in keeping it simple. I love to cook and used to relish creating fancy dinners on weeknights, but these days I just don’t have it in me.

Most nights, I cook a protein and then round out the meal with frozen or easy-to-prepare sides. I stock my freezer with frozen rice, quinoa, and cauliflower rice, and I buy steam packs of vegetables. Some of my go-to’s include:

-fajita bowls with frozen fajita medley, rice, and shrimp or chicken

-Roasted chicken with quinoa and green beans

-Cajun rubbed pork tenderloin with cubed sweet potatoes (which I often buy precut!) and broccoli

I also love sheet pan meals, like MNT RD Mary’s Sheet Pan Curried Tofu with Vegetables.

I’d love to get back to more creative dinner prep, but for now I give myself some grace and extra time to enjoy (and clean up after) my kids.

5. I like to live a little

Like the other RDs at MNT, I’m a big believer in the 80/20 rule. About 80% of my calories each day come from wholesome foods, but I save 20% for wine/ice cream/chocolate/tater tots. Over-restriction has never worked for me, and these planned fun foods keep me from going full-on cookie monster.

What about you, friends? What factors shape your eating decisions throughout the day? If you aren’t sure and need some help figuring that out, we’d love to help! Click here to learn more.