Eating healthy doesn’t have to be complicated, but as a busy, working mom, it's my experience that meals ARE often complicated! I don't like feeling unprepared for meals, and let's face it, poor planning and being caught empty handed, coupled with a growling stomach, definitely puts you at risk of making less than desirable food choices.
I've come up with some strategies to get myself organized, and I've realized if you set yourself up with the right tools, the majority of the time you won’t have any troubles fueling your body with good food.
Here are nine simple strategies to start eating healthier today:
Keep Breakfast Simple
As much as I like variety, keep breakfast simple by sticking to a few go-to breakfast meals. Limiting choices to just a few isn’t totally boring, but makes it easier to plan and ensures you always have the healthy ingredients on hand. Plus, you don't waste time and brain power thinking about breakfast every day.
For example, go-to breakfast’s for my family are Paleo waffles, cheesy eggs, and French toast with turkey bacon. I always add a fruit on the side, whether it be defrosted frozen blueberries or apple, orange or pear slices. These meals are simple to make and nutrient dense so you’ll stay fuller longer!
Other breakfast options include avocado on toasted, sprouted bread, green smoothie, and oatmeal with fresh berries and banana.
Don’t skip lunch just because you’re swamped with work. Your brain desperately needs that fuel to stay alert and focused. As soon as your body starts to lose energy, you’re also likely to crave foods high in sugar (aka: sweets!), which isn’t what you want for your energy levels or waistline.
There are several ways to approach lunch at work. 1) Bring ingredients and prepare lunch at work (ie: pb & j, tuna sandwich, turkey wrap) 2) Make a large batch of food on weekends specifically for lunch during the week. 3) Make enough food each night at dinner so you have leftovers the next day.
Some easy, healthy foods to always keep at work include:
- cartons of Greek yogurt
- string cheese
- apples and bananas
- nutrition bars
- carrots and hummus
- deli meat
- a jar of your favorite nut butter, jelly and whole wheat bread
Meal Planning and Preparation
Once you’ve shopped and have a well-stocked kitchen, set aside one or two days per week to spend a couple extra hours in the kitchen to cook and prep as much as you can in advance.
For example, every Wednesday and/or Sunday, prep food ahead for the entire week. Examples include:
- Whip up homemade salad dressing.
- Cook quinoa and brown rice for quick healthy additions to meals.
- Make a burrito stuffing—black beans, stewed tomatoes, corn, seasonings. All you have to do is add a tortilla.
- Chop raw vegetables to add to lunches, snacks, salads, soup and stew.
- Make enough crockpot stew, soup or chili for a day or two worth of leftovers.
Whether you like them scrambled or fried, eggs are packed with nutrients and protein. I like to add a bunch of veggies, such as spinach, mushrooms, onion, garlic, and bell pepper to make a filling and well-balanced meal. It can be ready from start to finish in 10 minutes.
Always Make Enough For Leftovers
Cook once and eat twice by making more than you need and enjoying leftovers for easy next day lunches. Not only is it quick and easy to pack for work, but it also keeps you from succumbing to fast-food with your co-workers over lunch. Simply, prepare more food than you need so you have enough left over.
Carry Fruits and Nuts
Don’t get stuck outside the house with nothing but vending machines within walking distance. If you always have a nutrition bar, trail mix, or nuts in your bag you can usually put off a meal until you can find something healthy. Don’t leave home without it.
What would a post about quick meals be without mentioning smoothies?! If you’re that pressed for time, drink a green smoothie every day. These super-shakes only take minutes to prepare, and are even faster if you toss everything in the blender the night before, so all you have to do the next morning is add ice and blend. The reason I recommend “green” is because most people don’t get enough of these green veggies, and they’re full of vitamins and antioxidants.
If your market sells bananas just past their prime, buy a bunch (and save some $$), then peel and slice into blendable chunks, and freeze them on a small sheet pan. Once frozen, toss in a ziplock and back into the freezer they go. They’re perfect for mixing into smoothies.
Listen To Your Body’s Cues
One final note, people with busy, chaotic lives are often the ones who also need more sleep. It’s important to know that being tired can often lead to an increase in your hunger level because your body is trying to obtain more energy through food. To avoid any unnecessary eating, really be in tune with your body’s cues of physical hunger and fullness so you are less prone to eating when you aren’t truly hungry.
Consider the time you set aside each week to plan healthy eating just as important as your time spent financial planning or prepping for work. What’s one strategy you would add to this list to get a healthy meal even with the most hectic schedule? Share your comments.
In Health and Happiness,
Kelly Harrington, MS, RDN
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for Healthy Goods