It’s not easy to eat healthy, even if you live a laid back student lifestyle. If you’re a busy professional, however, it can be nearly impossible to stick to a healthy eating plan, and make all three of your meals low fat, high protein and high in fibre, vitamins and minerals. It’s not impossible, though! If you have a bit of willpower and you’re a little bit organised you can easily get your eating habits back on track and build some good nutrition habits that will last a lifetime.
Handy tips to help you to eat healthy on a busy schedule:
- Make a list of all the foods you like. It’s impossible to do it all in one go, because you’re bound to forget something – but carry a little notepad around with you for a week and every time you remember something you really enjoy eating, write it down. Next, rate each item in terms of how ‘fatty’ it is, on a scale from 1-5. This will help you to be more aware of what kinds of things you’re eating.
- Cook big, but eat small. Don’t try to cook every single meal on its own. You’ll waste hours every week. Instead, buy a pre-cooked chicken. Dice up one breast and make a salad, another to make a sandwich. Use the drumsticks and wings as a dinner for two with some potatoes and vegetables – be creative! Making the most of a single cooking session is the best way to eat healthy on a busy schedule.
- Stop frying, start grilling. Instead of frying chicken or fish, brush it lightly in olive oil and lemon pepper and grill it for 15-20 minutes depending on thickness. The meat will retain more of its natural flavour and come out a lot healthier and lower in fat and cholesterol than frying.
- Buy ready-made fruit salads from the store and keep 2 or 3 of these on hand all the time to snack on or treat yourself. If you mix a little custard with it, it makes a great dessert that doesn’t have to be high in fat.
- Learn to love breakfast. A lot of people skip breakfast in the mornings if they don’t have time, or aren’t the type of people who enjoy breakfast. I know I’m not, and I found that trying to eat a bowl of cereal in the mornings was torture. However, if I brought the same cereal to work I enjoyed taking five minutes out of my morning to sit in the kitchen and eat it. Make sure it’s a healthy breakfast rich in bran, or a high protein breakfast like an egg with some fresh fruit on the side.
- A pasta meal never takes more than 15 minutes to cook. Always go for whole wheat pasta, and toss in a can of tomato and onion mix with some canned tuna or chicken to make a high-protein, low fat and high fibre meal that can be prepared in just over 10 minutes.
- Always have tortillas. Keep them in your cupboard, in your fridge – in your drawer at work! They’re an easy, fast way to make a meal out of just about anything! You can buy turkey strips at the deli down the road, add it to a little salad and you have a filling, high protein meal for lunch that only takes a minute to prepare.
- Soup is the way forward. Learn to make different kinds of soup. All you need is a deep pot and a good food processor, and you can make dozens of low fat soups that keep forever, are easy to reheat and always make a good meal. All you need to turn a frozen Tupperware full of soup into a meal is a stove or microwave and a high fibre bread roll.
- Learn the difference between healthy and unhealthy snacks, and stock up on the former. Nuts, dried fruit, hard boiled eggs and popcorn are all low fat snacks that you can eat just about any time, and will fill you up way better than something that’s made out of salt and sugar but little of any substance.
- Get to know how to use a pressure cooker to make delicious stews. They’re not difficult, but if you time it right you can get a lot of food out of a little effort. All you do is put some meat, potatoes, carrots and whatever vegetables you like in a pot with some broth and let the cooker do the rest. Prepare it the night before, turn it on in the morning and by the time you get home from work you’ll have delicious meals for the rest of the week.
- You can make a quick stir fry by doing some brown rice up as a base, and then frying some frozen stir fry vegetables in olive oil and soy sauce. It’ll take a total of 15 minutes, be completely vegetarian and very low in fat and cholesterol – a great way to eat healthy on a busy schedule.
- If you like eggs, try to have at least one a day. Much more than that might not be healthy, but substituting an egg for a high-fat snack or meal every day is a great way to eat healthy on a busy schedule. Eggs are versatile and can usually be made into just about anything in under half an hour.
- Canned meats and vegetables are your friends! Use good quality canned goods, but keep canned tuna and canned soups around all the time to make a quick meal when you’re in a hurry. A canned soup with some instant noodles makes an excellent, filling and low-fat meal that costs less than $3.
- Drink water, and little else. That includes flavoured, sparkling waters. Carry around a bottle of water all the time, and give up on sugary sodas altogether. Water does not include fruit juice, tea or coffee – it means pure, unflavoured water. You know you have to, so do it!
- Finally, make salads a part of your life. If you always have lettuce, tomato, cucumber and carrot around, you can always make a salad. Experiment with some salads that work as meals. By adding tuna, chicken, bacon or pasta to the above you have a full-on meal.
And that’s enough to get you started! If you can pick up some of the good habits above, you should have no problem learning to eat healthy on a busy schedule.