Hectic schedules and demands on our time often drive us to the nearest fast food window. Healthy eating intentions are often just a passing thought as the demands of a busy day take precedence. Eating on the run, however, doesn’t have to be a hazard of a harried schedule if a few easy precautions are taken.
How to Eat Well When You Are Busy
Here are six ways you can ensure that you and your family are eating well, even when you are on the go:
- Develop a plan. Take one day a week to plan out your meals for the week. This allows you to take advantage of sales on meat, produce and other ingredients. Most stores have websites or apps for your phone to promote specials or provide coupons. If you go directly to the product website, often you will find recipes in addition to coupons for their product.
- Spend fewer days cooking by prepping and cooking more than one meal at a time. I like to grill as much as possible because it is quick, easy and involves little clean up. So when I have the grill hot, instead of cooking only what I need that evening, I cook extra or grill a second meat. Grilled chicken can be tossed with a bag of stir-fry vegetables for a quick Asian meal. Flank steak can be thinly sliced, warmed in the microwave, tossed on a crusty roll and topped with low fat mozzarella for a quick delicious steak sandwich. Don’t forget to grill some vegetables, too. Adding grilled onions and peppers to your sandwich spikes the flavor while increasing your intake of vegetables.
- If you see a day is over scheduled, plan easy meals and healthy snacks to help get you through the day. Cooking ahead or transforming a leftover into a different meal helps you avoid the urge to grab a bite out to eat. Don’t forget to pack your lunch and snacks for the day the night before so your day starts off stress free.
- Make sure everyone has breakfast and a mid-morning snack if possible. Several studies have demonstrated that eating breakfast is the key for optimal mental performance. Running on empty encourages “brain drain.” Breakfast can be a morning protein shake, protein bar or a cup of Greek yogurt. If you have time to sit down to eat a bowl of oatmeal or a vegetable omelet, even better. But most people jump out of bed and hit the floor running, so you need to take that into consideration when planning your breakfast and morning snack.
- Go no longer than 5 waking hours without eating. Prolonged hunger creates a one-track-mind: the food track. You’re likely to derail at the first sight of anything edible, like the candy bar from the nearby vending machine.
- Graze. Remember: fuel during the day, fast at night. Eat small, planned snacks or mini-meals throughout the day rather than one or two large meals. Make sure to include the following each day regardless of the number of meals you eat:
- Low-fat dairy products, such as fat free or 1% milk or low fat yogurt
- Lean animal or vegetable protein such as chicken, fish or soy
- At least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables
- A good source of fiber such as beans or whole grains
Four Ideas for Fast but Healthy Foods
Pasta in a Minute
When you have some time, cook enough pasta for two or three meals. Cook pasta just until firm not mushy. Rinse and drain it. Then store extra pasta in airtight meal size containers or freezer bags.
When you need pasta, simply throw the contents of the container into boiling water for no more than 1 minute and presto! Fresh, hot pasta! (You can also do this with regular rice.)
Look for the higher protein pastas with fiber. They look and taste the same but tend to stay with you a little longer, and they have less of an effect on your blood sugar levels. Portion size is still important.
Oven Baked Potatoes in 20 minutes
Preheat oven to 375 F. Wash and prick potatoes with a fork 6 or 8 times. Place the potatoes in a circle in the center of microwave. Microwave on high for 6 minutes for two potatoes; add 2 minutes for each additional potato. Then transfer potatoes to preheated oven for 15 minutes and serve.
Homemade Stock and Meal
Put water in the bottom of the steamer with one garlic clove and one small onion cut into quarters. Layer the steamer with boneless skinless chicken pieces, carrots, green beans, potatoes and any other vegetables you like. Instead of salt, try using Mrs. Dash or other low sodium seasonings. Cook until chicken is no longer pink and vegetables are tender.
You now have dinner in less than ½ hour and chicken stock for another meal.
Serve chicken and vegetables with some of the stock and save the remaining broth and freeze as stock for quick soup later.
Dinner Today, Lunch Tomorrow
Another tip when grilling chicken is to marinate and double the amount you would normally grill. Refrigerate the extra chicken for lunch or a simple dinner the next day. Slice cold chicken into to 1/4-inch strips and place on top of your favorite salad greens. Top with 1 tsp. grated cheese and low fat or fat free dressing. Serve with whole grain rolls and fresh fruit.