Do you ever feel too rushed or busy to be able to actually sit down to eat, let alone eat a healthy meal? Does it seem like there’s just not enough hours in the day to plan ahead or take the time to take care of your health through proper food choices? Is your schedule so full due to work obligations, going to school, raising a family or maybe all three that eating healthy gets pushed down the list of things to do? If you’ve answered “yes” to any of those questions, it’s time to take some time to rethink why and how eating healthy can and should be a part of your busy lifestyle.
Why eating healthy should be a priority
We all lead busy lives and if we’re going to keep up the pace, we don’t want to neglect our health. Our bodies need to be fueled properly with the right mixture of healthy carbohydrates, fats and protein to keep us functioning at our best. If we choose instead to fuel ourselves with poor food choices, we will soon pay the price with lack of energy, stamina and a lowered immunity making us vulnerable to getting sick. In addition, if you continue over the years to negate a good diet, at some time you’ll most likely have to make time to deal with a chronic disease such as diabetes, heart disease or hypertension.
How to make healthy eating happen
1. Plan ahead. Pick a day of the week that allows you some down time. Often this tends to be Sundays for most people. Whatever day it is, carve out about an hour to sit down, plan out meals to make, food to buy and then go to the grocery store to purchase what you’ll need. Buy in bulk if necessary and prepare some snacks/meals ahead of time to cut down on preparation throughout the week. Once you get in the habit of doing this, it will become second nature and can be a true timesaver.
2. Never leave the house without eating breakfast. The nice thing about breakfast is it doesn’t have to be anything traditional and can be one of the meals that’s the easiest to make. It doesn’t have to be large or elaborate, just something nourishing and will fuel you up to meet the day head on. The night before is a great time to think about what you’ll have – you can save time in the morning if you decide what to eat and by knowing what utensils, plates, food ingredients, etc. you’ll need. Easy, quick breakfast ideas could be a carton of yogurt topped with fresh berries and walnuts; a hard-boiled egg fixed the night before with juice and an English muffin; any type of smoothie such as peanut butter banana with soymilk or frozen berries with Greek yogurt and orange juice; or apple slices with cubes of cheddar cheese and almonds.
3. Make healthy food available. If you spend a lot of time in the car or can’t break away from work, have food available for you. Healthy food of course. There are some very good portable snacks to buy nowadays that can be kept in your car or at your desk at work that make a good substitute for a light meal or snack:
· Single serving trail mixes or make your own mixing dried fruit with several types of nuts and seeds
· Protein bars
· Peanut butter and crackers
· UHT (ultra-high temperature) single servings of milk that doesn’t require refrigeration
· Dried or fresh fruit
· Cut up veggies
· Low-sodium meat jerky
· Whole grain crackers with hummus
· A packet of peanuts
4. Have a routine of eating. A recent study at the University of Minnesota’s Division of Epidemiology and Community Health found that people who ate at regular times were more likely to have a healthier eating pattern. This led to reduced eating of fast foods, skipping meals, less soft drink consumption and a healthier diet in general. If you currently don’t have any particular eating routine, now’s the time to start. Start with one meal a day that you will eat at around the same time each day; once that is a habit, choose another meal to eat at a routine time. In time, your body will automatically become accustomed to the routine and it becomes second nature. Chaotic eating or skipping meals tends to lead to overeating and making poor dietary choices.
5. Utilize leftovers from a meal. If you have access to a refrigerator and a microwave at work, you can easily heat food from the night before to have a quick yet satisfying meal and save money in the process.
6. Plan ahead and choose wisely at fast food restaurants. If your only option on certain days is to swing through a drive-thru window, at least take time to search out healthier options on the restaurants website. Most fast food restaurants websites have nutritional information on their food items that can guide you to healthier choices. Seek out items with less than 500 calories and no more than 15 grams of fat.
7. When you do eat a snack or meal, don’t be distracted. Put aside your work, shut down the computer, don’t check messages, just enjoy the moment of eating food. Listen to music, eat outside if possible, have a conversation with a friend and relish the few moments to really taste and savor the food you’re eating. This will help in making you feel like you’ve had a more substantial break and helps to clear your mind, ready to tackle the rest of the days’ work.
ABOUT CHERYL MUSSATTO
Cheryl Mussatto MS, RD, LD is a registered dietitian and an adjunct professor at Allen Community College, Burlingame, Kansas and Butler County Community College, Council Grove, Kansas; she teaches Basic Nutrition and Therapeutic Nutrition. She is also a certified health and wellness coach, and a clinical dietitian for the Cotton O’Neil Medical Clinic in Osage City, Kansas where she does individualized nutrition counseling. She writes Eat Well to Be well, a column about health and nutrition forwww.osagecountyonline.com and is a blog contributor for Dr. David B. Samadi at www.samadimd.com. Contact her at email@example.com, visit her website www.eatwell2bewellrd.com, or like “eat well 2 be well” on Facebook.