10 Tips for Eating Healthy When You're Busy
Most of us are very busy. Between commitments to work, kids, family, and friends, and our numerous other obligations, finding time to also prepare and eat three healthy meals a day can sometimes feel impossible.
However, if you are short on time, there are definitely some meal and snack prep tips and tricks that can make healthy eating at home and on the go a lot easier. It's all about making these tips and tricks part of your daily or weekly routine to help set you up for success. Here are a few ways to help you eat healthy when your schedule gets hectic:
Chop everything at once
Chopping some vegetables for dinner? Don't stop once you've prepped just what you need for that meal. Always chop extras to keep in an air-tight container in the fridge for a quick snack or for tomorrow's meal, or freeze veggies such as onions, peppers, broccoli to later add to soups, stews, and stir-fries.
Frozen is just as good as fresh
Sometimes washing and cutting vegetables can be too time-consuming, and this is where pre-cut frozen veggies come in handy! Just as nutritious and often frozen at their peak freshness, frozen vegetables (and fruit) can save you lots of valuable time, and can easily be added to meals such as stir-fries, soups, and casseroles, and can even be enjoyed on their own as a side dish with some simple seasonings.
Buy pre-cut and bagged foods
Sometimes you may just need to pay for convenience if that means saving precious time. Vegetable trays or bagged salad kits can definitely help you get a healthy meal on the table quicker, and ease stress during meal prep time. Try to select salad kits with a variety of dark leafy greens (spinach, kale, romaine lettuce), other veggies such as carrots, purple cabbage, broccoli, as well as nuts and seeds (slivered almonds, sunflower seeds, etc.). However, keep in mind that these kits often include more dressing than you typically need, so stick to only about 1/2 to 3/4 of what is provided, or if you have the time, make your own dressing.
Embrace the "snacky" meal
This is one of my favourite time saving meals! A "snacky" meal is very easy to make healthy when you keep the right ingredients on hand. Fill half of your plate with fruits and chopped vegetables, then add some whole grain or grain-free crackers with hummus or nut butter, a hard-boiled egg or two, some nuts and seeds, or maybe some cheese and lean meats such as turkey or chicken. This type of meal is perfect for lunch or dinner.
Cook large quantities and freeze or save for leftovers
When you are making things like quinoa or brown rice, roasted vegetables or sweet potatoes, always make extra that can easily be used in future lunches such as buddha bowls, salads, or stir-fries. Or, prepare multiple small batches of the same buddha bowl, pasta dish, or salad that can be stored in the fridge for easy grab and go lunches during the week. Meals such as soups, casseroles, and lasagna or pasta bakes, are all great to prepare in large quantities to freeze for future meals that can simply be thawed and reheated.
Prepare breakfast the night before
There are multiple ways you can make a healthy breakfast quicker in the morning by preparing or prepping it the night before. One of my favourite ways, is to prepare smoothie freezer bags - place your desired chopped fruits and veggies (banana, berries, spinach, zucchini, etc.), nuts and seeds (walnuts, pumpkin seeds, hemp hearts, etc.) in a freezer bag (make multiple servings at once in separate bags) in the freezer, and then in the morning, simply add these frozen ingredients, and your other preferred add-ins such as Greek yogurt, protein powder, nut milk, and/or water to a blender and enjoy! Another favourite quick breakfast of mine are leftover pancakes from a weekend breakfast. Whenever I make pancakes (or waffles) on the weekend, I always double or triple the recipe to ensure we have lots of leftovers to freeze for healthy breakfasts during the week - simply thaw, add some berries and other desired toppings, and enjoy! Favourites of mine include these Almond Flour Chia Seed Pancakes, and these Greek Yogurt Pancakes. Overnight oats are also a great option that literally take no time in the morning if prepared the night before. You can find the recipe for my Peanut Butter and Chocolate Overnight Oats here.
Keep it simple
Not all of your healthy meals have to be gourmet and made completely from scratch. Soft shell tacos made with whole grain tortillas, store-bought precooked shredded chicken, black beans, veggies, cheese, salsa, and any of your other favourite taco ingredients, make a very healthy, quick meal that the whole family will love (and can help prepare!). Tacos have a permanent spot in our meal rotation for those very reasons - quick, simple, and a family favourite! Whole grain pasta (or chickpea, brown rice, quinoa pasta) topped with a simple low-sugar or no sugar added tomato sauce, some veggies and/or lean meats is also a great simple meal option that can be prepared quickly (and don't forget to make leftovers!).
Keep it organized
A clean, organized kitchen where everything has its place (and everyone knows where that place is), will definitely shave a few minutes off of your meal prep time. Knowing where all of your ingredients and tools are will help you move more quickly while preparing a healthy meal. Try to keep your work spaces clear, but do keep your most used small appliances easily accessible on the counter.
Always have a plan
This doesn't necessarily have to be a meal plan, but rather a routine of repeating some of your simple favourite meals on a weekly basis. These should be meals that the entire family enjoys and can be prepared in 30 minutes or less with minimal prep and clean up time. But, if you need even more structure, then a weekly meal plan can be a fantastic tool for helping meal times run smoothly during busy times.
Use a meal service
Meal services have become very popular as of late. Whether a service that provides meals completely prepped and ready to eat, or supplies the ingredients all prepped and ready to cook, they can come in handy when your schedule gets very busy or you just need a night off from prepping and cooking. Many of these meal services also focus on healthy meals prepared with fresh whole food ingredients, and provide numerous options depending on your diet preferences and/or restrictions. So, no need to feel guilty about having someone else do the prep work or even the cooking, enjoy the break, and enjoy your healthy meal.