When life gets busy is when people tend to put healthy eating on hold.
If you cannot let a single second of the day be wasted, you are likely the same person who doesn’t find time to eat healthily. You probably always need more hours to plan, and as a result, it makes eating healthy a low priority. In addition, a jammed-packed schedule due to work obligations, raising a family, or tending to elderly parents, often means good eating habits are unlikely.
If this scenario fits you to a “T,” then you must take some time to rethink why and how eating healthy can and should be a part of your busy lifestyle.
Why eating healthy should be a priority
Here’s your dilemma: You lead a busy life. But if you’re going to keep up the pace, you must pay attention to your health. Your body deserves to be adequately fueled with healthy carbohydrates, fats, and protein to function at its best. If you fuel yourself with poor food choices, you will pay the price with a lack of energy, stamina, and a lowered immunity making you vulnerable to getting sick. In addition, if you ignore eating a nutrition-rich diet over the years, you’ll eventually have to make time for chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, or hypertension.
How to make healthy eating happen
1. Plan ahead
You can start by choosing any day of the week that allows you time. Often this tends to be Sundays for most people. Whatever day, carve out about an hour to sit down and plan meals and food to buy. Then, go to the grocery store to purchase what you’ll need. Buy in bulk if necessary and prepare snacks/meals beforehand to reduce weekly preparation. Once you get into this habit, it will become second nature and a valuable timesaver.
2. Never leave the house without eating breakfast
Forget about eating a labor-intensive big breakfast. Please keep it simple and easy. Eat something nourishing, fueling you up to meet the day head-on. The night before is a great time to think about what you’ll have – save time in the morning by setting out utensils, plates, food ingredients, etc. Easy, quick breakfast ideas include the following:
- A carton of yogurt topped with fresh berries and walnuts
- A hard-boiled egg fixed the night before with juice and an English muffin
- Any type of smoothie, such as peanut butter and a banana blended with soymilk
- Thawed frozen berries mixed into Greek yogurt
- Apple slices with cubes of cheddar cheese and almonds
3. Make healthy food available
Do you spend much time in the car or can’t leave work? Have healthy food available. Here are ideas for delicious portable snacks easily kept in your car or work desk, making a good substitute for a light meal or snack:
- Single-serving trail mixes or make your own mixing dried fruit with several types of nuts and seeds
- Protein bars
- Peanut butter and crackers
- UHT (ultra-high temperature) single servings of milk that don’t require refrigeration
- Dried or fresh fruit
- Cut up veggies
- Low-sodium meat jerky
- Whole grain crackers with hummus
- A packet of peanuts
4. Save time by buying produce pre-chopped
Face it. Buying fresh produce and then spending time chopping, dicing, or cutting takes precious moments you don’t want to waste. So instead, purchase pre-washed and pre-chopped fruits and veggies; therefore, the only prep required is to open the bag and enjoy. As a result, you’ll save time and effort and, most importantly, consume highly nutritious foods.
5. Have a routine of eating
Nixing chaotic eating or skipping meals will help reduce overeating and poor dietary choices. In fact, a study at the University of Minnesota’s Division of Epidemiology and Community Health found that people who ate at regular times were more likely to have a healthier eating pattern. This led to a reduction of the following:
- Frequent reliance on fast foods
- Skipping meals
- Less soft drink consumption
- Eating a nutrient-poor diet.
If your eating/meal patterns have no routine, now’s the time to start. Start with one meal a day, eaten at approximately the same time each day. Once it becomes a habit, choose another meal to eat at a routine time. Eventually, your body will acclimate to this routine, becoming second nature.
6. Utilize leftovers from a meal
If you can access a refrigerator and a microwave at work, you can quickly heat food from the night before to have a satisfying meal and save money.
7. Don’t overlook the power of the freezer
Nothing saves time like frozen foods. And I’m not talking about sodium-saturated TV dinners. I’m referring to frozen foods that include whole foods frozen at their peak of freshness. Any frozen fruit or vegetable, edamame, or pre-made loaves of meatloaf, spaghetti sauce, or leftovers from the night before of casseroles or soups, can be quickly heated up and turned into a healthy meal.
8. Plan and choose wisely at fast food restaurants
If your only option on certain days is to swing through a fast food drive-thru window, at least search for healthier options on the restaurant website. Most fast-food restaurant websites have nutritional information on food items that can guide you to healthier choices. Seek items with less than 500 calories and no more than 15 grams of fat.
9. When you do eat a snack or meal, don’t be distracted
Put aside your work, shut down the computer, put checking messages on hold, and enjoy the moment of eating food. Listen to music, eat outside if possible, have a conversation with a friend, and relish the few moments to taste and savor your food. You’ll feel like you’ve had a substantial break helping to clear your mind and making you ready to tackle the rest of the day’s work.
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