The number one reason people have trouble making smart eating choices is having no time! Between a busy schedule and never ending to do lists, it’s easy to understand how eating healthy can feel like mission impossible. While making healthy eating a part of your routine takes a bit of planning, it can be made easier by incorporating a few simple strategies into your week.
By investing a short amount of time into planning, keeping healthy and eating well can end up saving you time. When you can cook once and eat twice by enjoying leftovers, your small time investment results in a big pay off in the form of satisfying healthy meals and less time spent cooking.
Let’s face it, if you’re meal choices are being decided on your way home from work, you may be missing much of what you need to put your meal on the table, including the motivation to get to the grocery store. This is when it hits you, the meal crisis. You’ve realized you can’t make the healthy meal you’d wanted and your stomach won’t stop growling, so you resort to impulsive food choices. These impulsive choices can often be the recipe for straying from your meal program entirely. Instead of your planned balanced meal, you resort to those quick and easy processed (often sugar and sodium filled) alternatives that you’ve been trying so hard to avoid.
Here’s the good news! With a little strategic planning you can be prepared for and overcome a meal crisis without leading to the impulsive processed junk food options. The strategies below are realistic, easy to implement and can be fit into even the busiest of schedules to help maintain a healthy lifestyle.
- Make a list. You know those lists you make and devotedly follow to keep on top of your busy schedule? Well, take some time and make one of those a grocery shopping list. Head to the grocery story and buy all of the ingredients you’ll need for the week. Not only does sticking to a list save time and money, it keeps you focused on the healthy foods that will be available to you during the week. Hint: if you find yourself in a meal crisis, don’t go to the grocery store and fill up on processed junk!
- Go frozen. Frozen organic vegetables and meat can become a real timesaver. Frozen grass-fed beef, and wild-caught salmon can be thawed overnight and cooked the next day. Buy the very best quality of vegetables and meat that you can find, this can be cost effective if you have the freezer space to take advantage of bulk order discounts and sales. This can keep you stocked up for upcoming weeks or even months with the right essentials. Believe me, you’ll be thankful to have stocked up to avoid the need for mid-week last-minute hectic grocery store stops.
- Choose pre-prepared. If you know you’ll be short on time for the upcoming week, give yourself and break and make the cooking process easy, quick and painless! Choose fresh pre-washed organic leafy greens, like spinach, kale, and romaine. Pre-cut produce is also often available and can drastically decrease time spent in the kitchen.
- Schedule a meal-prep day and make it fun. Once you have a well-stocked kitchen, you can prepare healthy meals for the days ahead. Choosing a day or two to spend a few hours in the kitchen cooking and preparing upcoming meals will save you time each day. You can prepare, organize and label your meals so that you’re not rushed to pull together a last minute meal. This can be done as a weekly social activity for the family to make the process consistent and enjoyable.
- Read the label. Canned and jarred foods (e.g., vegetables, chicken stocks, sardines) can come in handy for quick and healthy last-minute meals. It’s important though, to read labels carefully to make sure you’re (1) choosing reduced sodium options where available and (2) not including any unwanted ingredients into your diet. Hint: a good place to start is looking for labels that have been pre-approved with a check-mark, such as the American Heart Association Health-Check symbol.
- When you’re strapped for time, at least go healthy. We all have those days where everything falls apart and even throwing together a simple salad becomes impossible, but that’s okay because you’re prepared. You’ll have nuts, seeds, and other healthy snacks that you stocked up on at the grocery store and these balanced snack choices can hold you over until dinner. No one is perfect, but we can all do the best we can with our circumstances. On some days this may mean stopping at your local grocery store and picking up a pre-made rotisserie chicken and frying up some of your frozen vegetables and a balanced healthy lifestyle often involves these days on occasion! Choosing a healthy option when you’re in a time crunch is an important step-up from choosing the damaging drive-thru alternative food options.