It can be really easy to use the excuse of being too busy to make healthy choices. Between school or work, family commitments, and trying to squeeze in a social life, it can sometimes feel like it's impossible to make healthy food choices.
I've found a few things have helped me to stay on track with healthy eating even when it feels like I have next to no time. Below I'm sharing 7 tips that have made eating healthy even when I'm busier a lot easier for me.
Commit to making healthier choices
Make a mental shift to committing to making healthier choices. It doesn't have to be a ton of big changes all at once – it's actually better if you make a few smaller changes, and once you have those down, move onto other small tweaks. Trying to change everything all at once can get overwhelming fast. You'll end up losing momentum and feeling bad about not being successful.
Identify your “why” behind wanting to be healthy. Is is because you want to lose some weight? You want to feel better? You want to decrease your 10K or half marathon time? Having a concrete reason why you want to be healthier will serve as some great motivation when you're not wanting to put in the effort.
Avoid bringing junk food into the house at all. If it's not available, you don't have to worry about being tempted. That's not to say that you can't have a treat every now and again. Instead of getting a jumbo bag of chips, get a small one. Instead of buying a package of 4 candy bars, just get one.
Plan ahead – meal plan
First off, meal planning and meal prepping are two different things. Meal planning is planning ahead of time what you'll be eating throughout the week. Meal prepping is preparing all or the majority of your food at once, so that you only have to heat it up when it comes time to eat. While a lot of people love meal prepping, it's not for everyone.
I usually meal plan for three lunches/dinners each week and I wing the breakfasts, since they're typically toast and a smoothie or granola and yogurt. Because I'm only cooking for myself, those three meals that I made for lunches and dinners will typically last me for the entire week with one or two meals out with friends or with my boyfriend.
Once I've picked the three recipes I'll be making I'll start making a grocery list on my phone. I'll go through the ingredients that I'll need, check what I already have in the pantry and fridge, and then put anything that I don't have on my list. I like making a list on my phone better than actually writing it down, so that I can delete items as I put them in my cart. I know I'm done shopping when there's nothing left on my list and I don't accidentally miss anything.
There's absolutely no shame in using pre-washed, pre-cut fruit and vegetables. They may cost a bit more, but it if means that you'll actually eat them instead of letting them go bad in your fridge because they're “too much work” to prepare, it's worth the extra money. I love salad mixes because a lot of the time they'll come with carrots or cabbage in addition to the greens and some even come with croutons, cheese, and dressing too.
The slow cooker is another great time saver that I like to use. It's easy to put a meal in there on Sunday morning, and by the time dinner rolls around, I have dinner for that night and lunches for the rest of the week too.
Keep your favorite recipes somewhere where you have easy access to them when you're meal planning (either online or in a binder). I find that choosing a few recipes for the week takes time, but it's so much easier to flip through recipes that I know are delicious and I know how to make. There's no point to reinventing the wheel if you know you have recipes that you like. I typically reuse recipes every few months. That's enough time between when I make them so that I don't get tired of them.
Do all your grocery shopping at once
Making multiple trips to the grocery store each week really adds up time wise, even if it's only to get a few things. Double check your recipes, pantry/fridge, and your grocery list before you head out to the grocery store to make sure that everything that you need is on your list.
Avoid having to go into the grocery store at all and save extra time. Try using grocery delivery or curbside pick up if it's offered at grocery stores near you. Go grocery shopping when it's quiet rather than heading there where it's busy. I usually find that mornings are less busy, while between 5 pm and 6 pm during the week are busier with people stopping at the grocery store after work to pick something up for dinner.
Have snacks ready to eat
It's easy for hunger to creep up on you, so having some healthy, ready to eat snacks makes it easy to avoid an unhealthy choice. Some of my favorite quick and easy snacks are pre-washed and chopped veggies and hummus, cheese and crackers, and trail mix made up of seeds and nuts.
I also like to make sure that they're packaged in containers so that they're easy to grab from the fridge and take with me if I'm on the go. That way it's just as easy to grab a healthy snack as it is to take something unhealthy with me. I'll usually pick the healthier option if both options are just as easy to eat.
Drink mostly water
First off, it's so important to stay hydrated. I think we all know that, so I won't go into the details of why. I tend to get headaches if I'm dehydrated, so I always try drinking a glass of water to see if that helps when my head hurts.
While it can be easy to drink coffee, soda or soft drinks, and alcohol, I find that I feel my best when I'm drinking mostly water. That's not to say that I never have soda or a beer on date night though. I like to make sure that the majority of my choices are healthy, so I don't stress when I indulge. When I was in school I liked to keep a water bottle with me so that I could have something to drink during classes when I got thirsty. I find that I drink more water when it's easy to do, so having easy access to it is key to staying hydrated.
I was definitely a soda drinker when I was in university 15 years ago. I decided to give it up 10 years ago, and I honestly don't miss it at all. Was it hard at first? Definitely, but looking back now I can say that it was definitely worth it.
What's one tip you have for eating healthy when you're busy? Leave a comment below telling me about it.
My name is Fiona and I'm a CSEP certified personal trainer, yogi, soccer player, and foodie (baking is my thing) living in Calgary. Thanks for visiting Get Fit Fiona. I hope you enjoy the sneak peek into my life and the workouts and recipes that I share.