With your busy day balancing work, school, errands, social events and family, it may be difficult to find the time or energy to eat healthy. Breakfast is usually a muffin or coffee on the go, and grabbing a pizza seems much less daunting than making lunch or dinner. However, with some preparation and planning you can save time and eat healthy with a busy lifestyle.
Eliminate all unhealthy and packaged foods from your kitchen, car and office or desk. When you are hungry and busy, it is convenient to reach for these nutrient-poor foods that are also high in added fats, sugars and salts. These include microwave dinners, instant noodles, chips, cookies and sweets. Take away the temptation to make it easier to choose healthier options instead.
Create a weekly food plan that lists three balanced meals as well as snacks per day. Making a daily and weekly menu lets you plan in advance so that you have all the ingredients on hand and know what you will be eating. This helps to reduce unhealthy food cravings and binging on junk foods.
Purchase healthy food staples such as whole-wheat breads, pastas, tortillas and pizza shells, brown rice, quinoa, couscous and oats. Also stock up on convenient and high-nutrient ingredients such as canned tuna, canned beans, chicken breast, low-fat cheese slices, low-sodium pasta sauces, yogurt and low-fat peanut butter. Keep these basic ingredients in your kitchen at all times to prepare a balanced meal quickly.
Add fresh fruits and vegetables to your weekly grocery list. Wash, peel and cut the fruit and vegetables and store them in plastic containers in your fridge. You are more likely to snack on fresh produce if it is already prepared and ready to eat.
Prepare your breakfast the night before by boiling oatmeal or adding fruit to a bowl of granola. In the morning you can simply add milk and reheat or add yogurt. Choose whole-grain cereals that do not have added sugars or artificial flavors. Also replace bagels with healthier options such as whole-grain bread and English muffins.
Prepare your lunch the night before by making a sandwich with lean protein, veggies and whole-grain bread, or packing healthy dinner leftovers in a plastic container. If you are buying lunch, choose healthier options such as grilled lean meat or fish and vegetables. Skip the fries and other greasy foods and ask for a baked potato instead.
Keep dried fruit, nuts and seeds in your kitchen, car, desk drawer and other places where you can access them quickly when you are hungry. Dried fruit such as dates, apricots and figs are rich in dietary fiber and nutrients and provide carbohydrates for fast energy. Nuts and seeds are also high in protein and healthy fats.
- Use a food pyramid guide such as the one provided by the MayoClinic.com, to help you choose a balanced and nutritious diet every day.
- If you are unsure of your daily requirements of the different food groups, consult a nutritionist.
- Invest in good quality plastic and glass containers with tight-fitting lids to store foods and take snacks and meals with you in the car and to work.
- Keep a refillable water bottle in a convenient spot and ensure that you drink enough water throughout the day. You can also make your own sugar-free ice tea by steeping green or black tea and adding freshly squeezed lemon juice. Make enough to last for two to three days and store in the fridge.
- A healthy lifestyle includes a balanced diet as well as adequate physical exercise. Add mini-workouts to your daily schedule by taking a stroll during lunch, taking the stairs and walking instead of driving whenever possible.
- If you have diabetes, heart disease or other chronic disorders, consult your doctor or nutritionist before changing your diet. Even foods with natural sugars such as fresh and dried fruit should be carefully monitored in a diabetic diet.
- If you are taking prescription medication for any reason, consult your doctor before changing your diet.
- Skipping meals or not eating enough during the day can lead to overeating in the evening or craving snacks at night. It is important to eat breakfast because your body requires fuel after a night of fasting.
- It is important to consume enough daily nutrition and calories. Eat a balanced diet and replace unhealthy, junk food with healthy, filling foods, instead of dieting. This will help you reach and maintain a healthy weight.
Nadia Haris is a registered radiation therapist who has been writing about nutrition for more than six years. She is completing her Master of Science in nutrition with a focus on the dietary needs of oncology patients.