10 Really Practical Tips for Eating Healthily when you are Super Busy
We all know that it’s important to eat healthily and it’s even more important when you are super busy. Healthy food will give you more energy and it can protect you if you’re a bit stressed or anxious, supporting your immune system to fight off bugs that you may be more susceptible to picking up. But of course, when you are busy, you may not feel as though you have the time to focus on making healthy meals. The good news is there are some easy things you can do to gain control over this area of your life, and In this blog I share 10 really practical tips that can make an immediate difference to help you on your road to healthy eating.
- Think veg: Healthy eating can seem little bit complicated, so just focusing on one thing can really help. If you think, “actually all I’m going to focus on for now is increasing my veg intake”, that’s a really good place to start. That could be something as simple as adding a bag of salad to your menu – just grab a handful with every meal and put some oil on. Pre-packed salad is relatively cheap nowadays and tastes really really good. Or if you are in the supermarket, you could grab a bag of carrot batons or a bag of sugar snap peas, as these are good to munch on too.
- Think bulking out: You might not have the time to totally change what you’re cooking at home at the moment but you can add some healthier elements into what you’re already cooking. Consider adding lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans, grated carrot, grated courgette, or diced mushrooms to bulk out the foods that you are cooking anyway. This allows you to retain the same kind of menu and the same kind of taste but actually you’re adding more health into it.
- Think bulk cook: If you’re bulking out your meals then you are naturally going to be cooking more food. And it would be silly not to bulk cook every time you cook, because it can halve the amount of time you need to spend in the kitchen each week. It’s so nice when you can go to the freezer, pull out a meal that’s already made, that you know is healthy. Use your freezer, get some boxes and bags to store the extra portions that you cook. And every time you cook vegetables, because preparing veg can be a bit of a faff, if you prepare more than you need for that day’s meal, then you’ve got veg for the next day too, saving on the next day’s prep time.
- Think swaps: You don’t necessarily have to change too much of what you’re already cooking, but think about making small changes or swaps to a recipe the next time you cook it, so you have a bit of variety. If you’re cooking spaghetti bolognese one week, next week you could swap the meat for lentils, for example. This saves you time thinking up new and different menus each week, but making one easy swap can still give you some variety. Or you could replace the spaghetti with some courgetti, or make the same meat or lentil sauce with a baked sweet potato instead of spaghetti the next week. And if you make roast beef, you could shred the leftovers, pop that in the freezer and the next week you’ve got some beef ready to add into a stir-fry.
- Think one pot: Investing in either a slow cooker or a wok can be a great idea. You can prepare things for the slow cooker when you have a chance during the day; if you get a meal ready in the morning then set the slow cooker on low all day; if you are preparing a meal at lunchtime, then set it on high for half a day and that can make a real difference to the time that you’ve got available. And you can cook a meal in a wok in 5-10-minutes. Keep it simple, stick to one pot, one pan or one dish and there are loads of recipes online for those.
- Think of grab-and-go as something different: Perhaps now if you’ve wondering what you might have for a quick dinner you might be inclined to grab a pizza and some oven chips from the freezer. But actually you could grab some frozen salmon, some oven chips and some salad, to give you more of a balanced meal. You could grab a packet of microwave rice and tomato-based sauce, some prawns and spinach for a healthier meal in minutes. Change your mental attitude towards grab-and-go; there are so many convenient healthy foods now you can grab that don’t necessarily need to be unhealthy.
- Think freezer shortcuts: Some of my favourites are pre-diced frozen onions, frozen chopped garlic, diced peppers, and the best one, diced frozen butternut squash. There are so many things you can get frozen now that taste really good and you can just pop them straight into a pan with no need to peel or chop anything, so you save those extra 15-minutes prepping things. Some frozen vegetables actually taste really good: peas, sweetcorn, soya beans, and butternut squash, and if you are adding them to other things green beans and diced peppers are actually as good frozen as fresh.
- Think no more perfectionist: Now is not the time of your life to be a gourmet cook! There might be time for that later on, but for now you’re busy and you probably just want to get some healthy food on the table for yourself or for your family. So let go of the perfectionist in you and just focus on making some nice, nutritious meals.
- Think eye level: If there’s leftover pizza or chocolate bars sitting at eye level in your fridge, then that’s probably what you’re going to snack on every time you open the door. Just having healthier things at eye level can mean that you eat a little bit more of those things. It takes a bit of time to prepare, but chopping up a cucumber would take less than a minute, chopping some carrots might take 2 minutes, boiling some eggs will take 10 minutes. Put them in a bowl or some tupperware at eye-level in the fridge and I expect you will reach for those more and fill yourself up on healthy foods without even realising it. And the same goes for your cupboards; try to keep nuts, wholewheat crackers, or dried fruit at eye level rather than chocolate, crisps or biscuits.
- Think about what you can do, not what you can’t do: It can seem a little bit overwhelming to change lots of habits at the same time, especially when you’re busy. But don’t despair, just think about what you can do and focus on those few things. Maybe that’s drinking more water, maybe it’s getting a bit more veg into your meals, maybe eating vegetarian once a week or maybe that’s just spending a little bit more time on planning and shopping.
Hopefully some of these 10 tips will help you to regain a bit of control and give you some ideas to keep you on track. And if you have your own favourite tips for healthy eating when you are busy we’d love you to share them in the comments.