A couple of columns ago, I broached the topic of whether or not it was possible to eat healthy on a limited financial budget. This time, I’d like to talk about whether or not it’s possible to eat well on a different sort of budget ... a budget of time.
Most of us seem to feel limited by the number of hours we have in a day. It’s one of the biggest complaints I hear from clients: They just don’t have enough time to get everything done and prioritize their health.
I get it. I’m a pretty busy gal: I run my own business. I also work for the Treasure Valley Family YMCA. I write. And I have 10-year-old twins. I’m also committed to working out a minimum of 90 minutes a day, 6 days a week.
I don’t have a lot of time or energy to invest in making elaborate meals. So how can one make eating healthy work with a limited investment of time? Here are a few suggestions:
▪ Keep it super simple: Healthy does not need to be elaborate! When preparing a meal, I focus on picking a protein, a veggie and a whole grain or fruit. This keeps me focused on nutrition versus getting caught up in the details of a particular dish.
▪ When you do have the time to cook, prepare extra and freeze it in small portions. For example, when I’m cooking chicken breast and quinoa, I’ll cook a little more than my kids and I will eat. Leftovers go in small zipper bags or containers and then into the freezer. The next time I’m crunched for a dinner plan, I can stir fry some frozen veggies and throw in the pre-cooked chicken and quinoa for a quick, healthy meal.
▪ Salads are your friend in a time crunch. Start with a bed of greens and add a little fruit, some protein (such as a boiled egg, tuna or leftover chicken), a bit of healthy fat (such as avocado or walnuts) and sprinkle with a little balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
▪ Packing food to go but don’t have a lot of time? Focus on easy staples such as Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, boiled eggs, pre-shelled edamame, nuts, cheese sticks, raw veggies, apples, bananas, oranges. You get the idea. And it’s just as quick as going through a drive through for fast food, and it also may be less expensive.
▪ On the run and didn’t have time to pack your lunch? Stop at any grocery store and pick up a piece of fruit and Greek yogurt. (A couple of my favorites are the Chobani 100 and the Oikos “Triple Threat.”) If you need more sustenance, you can also grab items like a cheese stick, pre-packaged veggies or nuts. Many convenience stores have items for the health-minded now as well. I did my homework on this one and stopped at a local gas station/convenience store. Some of the options I found there included: Greek yogurt, cheese sticks, pre-packed salads, jerky, a wide variety of protein bars, nuts, fresh fruit (apples, oranges, bananas), small containers of low-fat milk and hot green tea.
▪ Always rushed to get out the door in the morning? Here’s something tasty you can prep the night before and grab on your way out the door. Combine about 4 to 6 ounces of plain Greek yogurt with a few tablespoons of uncooked oats and some frozen blueberries. Stir in a few walnuts, a touch of stevia and half a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Let the mixture chill in the fridge overnight. In the morning, you have a delicious, healthy breakfast ready to go.
▪ Keep a few back-up/emergency snacks on hand at work or in the car. Things like nuts, dry cereal (such as the plain version of “GoLean”) and fruit work well. That way if you have a moment of desperate hunger, you have a back-up to tide you over.
At first, it may take a bit of effort to incorporate these healthy tweaks into your routines, but with a little practice, you will quickly find it to be second nature. And, hopefully, you’ll find it is feasible to fit healthy eating into a busy schedule.
Samuel Johnson is credited with saying, “The chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.” Fortunately, this can work in your favor if your habits are healthy.
Maggie Williamson is a health coach, NASM-certified personal trainer, fitness nutrition specialist and weight-loss specialist. She has a master’s degree in social work and a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Her business, BoiseStrongMom.com, specializes in working with women seeking to improve their overall health and well-being.