5 Tips for Eating Healthy When You Have No Time
Whether you are trying to stay away from processed food, trying to lose weight or like me, are on a specific diet for a condition (I’m currently on a mash-up of AIP, SCD and Low Fodmap for Crohn’s) sometimes making the not-so-convenient choice can be difficult. People have very little time as it is and coming up to the holidays, time is going to be squeezed that bit more which can sometimes make the healthy choice more difficult. So I thought I’d share some tips on how to stay on the healthy road even when time is at a premium.
While I don’t particularly like following set meal plans, I do like to have a look at the week ahead and see what’s on my schedule. It lets me know how many meals I need to cook for myself and I jot down a rough outline of meals each day (e.g. what proteins I’ll have at what meals each day, what veg will go with them etc). I usually do this on a Saturday or a Sunday morning before I go to the farmers market and/or supermarket. This gives me an idea of what I need to buy for the week so I can do all of my shopping for the week in one go and I don’t overbuy and waste food and money.
Sundays are usually my batch cooking day. I say day, but really it only takes a couple of hours. I utilise the stove top, the slow cooker, the blender and the oven so I’m multi-tasking and making the most of what resources I have.
I usually roast chicken (full chicken, chicken thighs and drumsticks or chicken breasts), salmon and a mix of vegetables together in the oven. I try to utilise all the shelves. I’ll cover a whole butternut squash or pumpkin (skin and all) in tin foil and pop it in the slow cooker on low overnight. It’s perfectly cooked and the flesh is ready to be scooped out by the morning and I don’t have to waste any time chopping when they’re raw, saving time (and my arms!). On the stove top, I’ll cook some round mince (beef/turkey) and steam some veggies. If you eat whole grains you could cook some on the stove top also. When my vegetables are all cooked (roasted or steamed) I’ll add some to a stock and blend to make soup for the week also.
While everything is cooking I’ll make up some green smoothies and keep two in mason jars in the fridge for Monday and Tuesday. I either freeze the rest or I’ll prep the ingredients and put them in bags in the freezer (banana, berries, spinach, kale avocado etc) so I can just pop them into my Vitamix with some coconut water or milk and other ingredients of choice, whizz and go later on in the week! I’ve seen people prep overnight gluten free oats for the week in mason jars too and they just add their toppings of choice each morning. As I don’t eat grains, I don’t do this myself but it looks like a good idea.
I also then prep some raw veg (chop, slice and put into containers) so they’ll be ready in the fridge to throw into a quick stir-fry or salad or into the slow cooker one morning to make a stew later in the week.
It may seem like a lot of work and time but it doesn’t take that long and actually saves so much time during the week as I can grab my breakfast and go, assemble my packed lunch easily and have dinner in flash.
Cook Once Eat Twice (or Three Times)
If I do end up cooking again later in the week, I make sure to cook enough to have leftovers the next day for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Otherwise I can freeze a portion or two for times when I’m in a bind.
Have plenty of healthy non-perishables on hand
It’s good to have staples on hand. Not only will it get you out of a pinch, it will also make the healthy choice a little easier. I always have tinned fish (Wild Alaskan salmon, sardines or mackerel in olive oil etc), herbal teas, coconut milk, coconut flour and dried fruit (I’m currently obsessed with white mulberries and baked strawberries and bananas) in my cupboards and frozen fish, meat, vegetables and fruit in the freezer. If you eat nuts, gluten free grains and seeds, these would be good to have on hand along with nut butters and flour also. All these things can be bought in bulk so you can avail of bulk buying discounts, saving some money too!
Prep snacks for the week and for emergencies and keep them handy
I think it’s really important to have healthy snacks and treats on hand in case the munchies arise. I know that I tend to get ‘hangry’ if I get too hungry and with meeting up with family and friends, festive events, shopping for gifts, and the general reshuffling of my schedule this time of year it’s always good to be prepared for when time slips away and you’re not near your next meal.
Fresh fruit, sliced veggies, little packs of protein (prawns are always a good option), dark chocolate, nuts, seaweed snacks, protein balls are all great options. It’s also important to make sure to have them on hand – there’s no use having them in the fridge rather than in your bag or car! Have an emergency snack on hand at all times.
What’s important about doing all of this, is that it means that I’ve made the healthy choice the convenient one. There’s no weighing up options, deliberating or having to use willpower. No real thought or effort is needed which means temptation for the less healthy choices is less likely to rear its little head. A little bit of preparation goes a long way and definitely saves time during the week.
I’d love to hear other people’s tips for eating healthy when time is at a minimum.