I like working with dads and helping them learn to take better care of themselves.
A favorite topic for busy dads is fast food. The guys know it's bad for them, but still they eat it.
"Eating nutritiously takes too much time and effort" is a typical reason I hear.
My response might surprise you: I eat fast food and it's good for me. Let me teach you how fast food can be good for you and help you lose weight.
I take my clients seriously. If they say that they don't want to spend a lot of time cooking, I look for ways to teach them how they can eat well without spending a lot of time fixing food.
Why do we think nutritious food can't be fast? Maybe it's all those cooking shows that have turned food into an art form.
Or maybe it's hearing about slim celebrities who hire personal chefs.
But in less time than it takes to get in your car, drive to the fast-food restaurant, place the order, eat it and drive back, you can prepare a healthy meal that you'll feel good about. It can even be faster than calling a pizza joint and waiting for delivery.
The key is being prepared with a good supply of colorful, nutritious food. Here's how you do it:
1. Make a list of the healthy foods that you like and that are satisfying physically and emotionally. This will be your "Perpetual Grocery List." To list just a few of my basics: fresh and frozen vegetables, fresh fruit, raw nuts, frozen veggie burgers, canned beans, almond milk, organic veggie chips, high-fiber crackers and ingredients for my Mind Over Fat Matters Health Cookies.
Keep the list on the refrigerator, in your smartphone or wherever you can't miss it. Make a note anytime you're running low on an item so you don't run out. Try laminating a paper list so you can reuse it.
2. Set aside a regular time (once a week is ideal) to go food shopping. Use your list faithfully. Put your items up front in the pantry and fridge. You're more likely to eat them if they're the first things you see.
3. Next, learn some simple, fast recipes for those occasions when you don't have the time or energy for something more complex. I start my clients off with this one:
The Perpetual Salad
1 bag each of favorite lettuce (no iceberg — go for deep green) and fresh spinach
8 to 10 different fresh vegetables and fruits of your choice chosen by their colors: red, green, purple, orange, yellow
Favorite light salad dressing, homemade or bottled
Protein sources you like, such as raw nuts, seeds, hard-boiled eggs, low-fat cheese, chicken, canned beans such as garbanzos
Throw all ingredients in a clear glass or plastic bowl (except for dressing, nuts and seeds, which you should add to each serving).
As you consume your salad, replenish ingredients, placing fresh items at the bottom so nothing goes off before you can eat it.
Add dressing, nuts and/or seeds to each portion just before serving so everything stays fresh-tasting.
A tip: Purchase already washed and cut bags of lettuce, carrots and broccoli to save time. You can find chicken already cooked and diced in the frozen food section, and you can even find eggs already hard-boiled.
Place the bowl at eye level in your fridge so that when you open the door, it's the first thing you see. Your brain will be immediately enticed with bright colors and fresh-looking food. It's far too easy to forget your good intentions when they're stored in a closed bin at the bottom of the fridge.
Lavinia Rodriguez, Ph.D., is a Tampa psychologist and expert in weight management. She is the author of "Mind Over Fat Matters: Psychological Barriers to Weight Management."