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How To Eat Healthier When You Don’t Have The Time

What should you do if you want to eat healthier but have all the reasons and excuses not too? We all start with the best intentions: bookmarking healthier recipes, picking up kale and quinoa at the grocery store, and you’ve even bought one of those healthier Insta-Pots everyone’s been talking about!

Then something happens. You get slammed with a huge work project, you find yourself taking care of sick kids (or parents), or you spend all day running errands. Whatever the reason, life often leaves us no time or energy to prepare meals. What happens then?  Do you decide to hit a drive-thru or phone for a pizza, which leaves you feeling bloated and discouraged about ever eating healthy again?

Common Obstacles You May Have

These may be some of the reasons that you can’t eat healthier:

  • You don’t have time.
  • It’s not anything you believe is important.
  • You’re starving and grab what is convenient.
  • You don’t do any planning until you’re hungry.
  • You cook for you and your family and they are picky eaters.
  • Your cooking skills are lacking and nothing ever tastes very good.
  • You don’t have a wide variety of things you can cook.
  • You eat out a lot because of the people at work with.
  • It’s too hard to cook for yourself and so much easier to just buy something.
  • Other things seem more important, so you don’t spend the time or energy thinking about food.
  • You don’t enjoy grocery shopping.
  • Cooking for yourself seems like too much trouble.
  • And so on…

Where To Start

Pick two of these healthier alternatives each week:

  • Drink water all week and nothing else
  • Drink tea (any kind, but unsweetened)
  • Eat veggies as a snack (with hummus if you like) – carrots, broccoli pieces, cauliflower, cucumber
  • Eat fruits & raw nuts as a snack
  • Have a vegetable as a side dish during at least one of your meals
  • Add some nuts, berries and/or ground flaxseeds to your usual breakfast (cereal or oats, for example)
  • Let’s take one example: you’re going to eat carrots & hummus or an apple and almond butter for afternoon snacks this week.

Bonus Points

Take ten minutes to rid your home and office of all junk foods. Go through the fridge and pantry and toss out cookies, candy, chips, pastries, ice cream, etc. Then, buy one or two healthier snacks to replace them.

Healthy Restaurant Options

Look for healthier alternatives at the places you normally eat or find other places that have good healthy alternatives. Many restaurants now offer lighter fare on their menus, often with calorie counts. Take a look at restaurant menus online to see which ones provide the best options before you head out.

Then consider these tips when ordering:

Eat a small salad or broth-based soup first. It’s a nutritious and filling start to your meal that will help you consume fewer calories overall. Drink a glass of lemon water before beginning your meal.

Choose veggie-based entrees or those with baked, broiled or grilled fish or skinless chicken. Look for meals that aren’t greasy or oily. For example, instead of ordering cheese-covered chicken enchiladas, get the grilled chicken or grilled fish tacos. Choose foods without creamy sauces or heavy gravies. Ask to substitute veggies or a salad rather than have fries, coleslaw or butter-laden mashed potatoes.

Portions served at restaurants can be too big. See if smaller portions are available. Restaurants often offer “half” salads or sandwiches upon request. Or, take home one-third to half of the meal. Do it before you begin eating, this will remove your temptation to eat more. If you crave dessert, opt for fresh fruit or sorbet it’s healthier!

Better Fast-Food Choices

Eating fast food doesn’t mean you have to down a fatty cheeseburger and salty fries. There are a variety of menu options where you can find healthier picks. Many fast-food restaurants also have their menus, with calorie counts online.

Smart, quick and easy meals are places where you have more control over what goes into your order. At a sandwich shop, it’s easy to make healthy adjustments such as extra veggies and whole wheat or whole grain bread. (Plus, they also often have salads and soups.)

Ethnic eateries that offer build-your-own bowls, vegetarian options or grilled meat and vegetable plates are good bets, too.

But if you’re passing through a traditional drive-thru, keep these tips in mind:

  • Avoid fried food (e.g., french fries, onion rings, chicken strips, and nuggets).
  • A grilled skinless chicken breast is lower in saturated fat than a burger.
  • A burger without the bun – will limit bad carbs.
  • Order the smallest sizes — don’t “supersize” anything. Ordering the kid’s menu version of your favorite fast food can give you the taste you crave with far fewer calories.
  • Skip calorie-heavy sides and toppings.
  • Bypass all sugary drinks in favor of water or unsweetened tea.

Convenient Home-Cooked Meal Kits

If the time it takes to find recipes, plan what you’re going to eat for a week and grocery shop is what’s holding you back from eating healthier meals at home, there’s an easy solution: try meal subscription boxes.

There are tons of different companies that box up multiple meals’ worth of groceries and deliver them to your house each week. The cost is more than if you did the meal planning and shopping for yourself, but many find the convenience worth it. You can save some money though, by not buying ingredients that go unused and sit in the fridge just to go in the garbage.

Whether you’re dining out or eating in, it’s important to think about a balanced diet. That means making sure you’re getting a good mix of lean protein, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and healthy low-fat dairy.

With such a wide range of convenient meal options available — and the information you need to make smart, heart-healthy choices — you can feel good about what you eat even when life gets busy.

Use A Recipe Service

Lots of grocery stores are offering home delivery these days, and many of them have complete weekly meal plans you can sign up for. You get the exact groceries you need for the recipes on the plan, and instructions for how to pull them together.

Choose Quality

The majority of your diet should come from nutrient-dense foods that let you accomplish more with less. Avoid sugar and empty calories, instead, focus on making sure each snack and meal packs as much punch as possible. Remember, you’re going for fueling your body and mind so you can accomplish more.

Limit Alcohol

As tempting as it can be to indulge in a happy hour drink after work, it’s one of the worst ways to add calories to your diet.  Sorry.  While the occasional drink or two won’t hurt, it’s important to moderate your alcohol consumption, especially if the rest of your diet is severely lacking.

If you take care of your mind and body, you’ll find you’re more productive and have more energy throughout the day. You’ll also keep yourself healthy, which will allow you to avoid visits to the doctor and ongoing illnesses. When you take care of yourself, it is not just your health that benefits — your business will too.

Learn more about our Nutrition Coaching

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