It’s common to feel time pressured these days as we rush from home to school to work to gym to social (phew) with barely a break in-between. Healthy eating and even healthy living in general often gets put on the wish list - something to focus on when there’s more time or to start next Monday! The only problem is there’s never going to be more time, at least not any time soon if you’re a parent or even if you have a hectic career. Therefore we need to figure out how to make healthy eating a part of our full and busy lifestyles.
How to save time and money eating healthily, even when busy...
You can do meal planning for the week ahead without much effort — even while watching TV! All you need to create a shopping list and plan for the week ahead is a pad and pen, or the notes app on your phone. Making lists on your phone has the advantage that it’s always with you so why not set up a new meal planning note that you can edit each week, wherever you are.
Plan which meals you’ll eat on which days through the week, but stay flexible about it. While listing the days is useful because it reminds you of other commitments, you can easily switch things around if you want to. What you‘re looking for is a basic roundup of potential meals so you can get all the ingredients in one shopping trip instead of wasting time on top-up shopping.
You can save money on your supermarket shops by checking apps like GreenJinn, Shopmium and Checkoutsmart and making the most of their coupons and offers, especially when they have healthy food and fresh fruit and veg on offer.
Plus it’s good to be flexible in case certain fresh food you buy needs using up sooner than you thought! Rather than waste food and therefore money, simply switch some of your meal paln days around.
Creating a meal schedule also highlights how often you eat out during lunch breaks at work. It can be hard to eat healthily when eating out. Most fast food is not the healthiest option, so swapping out one or two bought meals for those you take from home can benefit your purse as well as your body. If you make your own packed lunches then you are totally in control of the ingredients and can ensure they are super healthy.
Of course you can always add a few pre-prepared meals to your shopping list for lunches if you want to. Just remember to choose healthy options, such as non-GMO, organic, vegetable-based meals to make sure you are getting nutritious wholesome meals.
Facing hours in the kitchen after a busy day is daunting. It’s when you’re tired that unhealthy eating is most attractive. One answer is to cook more than you need on days when there’s more time for meal prep and you’re less tired.
You can either freeze what you don’t need, or pop it in the fridge ready to use as the base for dinner the following day. You can even make portions to take to work to heat up in the staff microwave, if you have one.
An example could be a delicious plant-based lentil cottage pie. When making the pie, cook way more of the lentil, saucy part of the meal than you need for the main dish, then use what’s left to create more meals such as a quick pasta bake. All you have to do is bulk out the sauce with veg (if there isn’t quite enough), simmer some pasta until it’s soft, then drain the pasta and mix it with the heated-through sauce. Grate some vegan cheese on top or create a creamy cheese-like sauce with nutritional yeast, mustard and plant-based milk and pop it in the oven for about 20 minutes.
Now you have the cottage pie you intended to make, but also a pasta bake! You can save portions in the fridge or freezer for lunches and dinners at a later date. You can even store more of the lentil sauce part and use it with spaghetti for a vegan style spaghetti Bolognese or as a topping on a baked sweet potato. You can do the same with many more sauce-based dishes.
Cooking like this will save time and also ensure you stay on track with your healthy eating goals.
Frozen and pre-prepared foods
Including a few dishes that come ready cooked and prepared is a lot different from relying on ready-meals. Rice veggies are one example, with cauliflower rice being a popular choice. You can use the likes of cauli rice or broccoli rice in place of ordinary rice, with tossed salads or as a quick lunchtime meal on their own. You’ll save time in the kitchen, and in terms of health and nutrition over many other quick lunch options on a workday.
Frozen veggies are also a fine alternative to fresh ones. They contain all the nutritional value of fresh vegetables (maybe even more since the shelf life of fresh veg is very short) but without the need for extensive preparation. Plus they’ll last a lot longer which can help to prevent food waste.
Save time at the chopping board by using frozen prepared veg such as chopped onions or peppers, and include side servings of frozen mixed vegetables with main meals. These days, freezing methods ensure that lightly cooked frozen veg retain the texture and taste of their fresh alternatives.
Frozen vegetables that are frozen soon after picking will retain their nutrients. Lightly steam them to save as much of that nutrition as possible.
You can also freeze portions of fruits and veggies for making smoothies. It's a great way to use overripe bananas as they turn brown rather than throwing them away. Chop and freeze bananas and other delicous fruits and veggies to easily whip up a green smoothie recipe in the future when you're busy. Green smoothies are a great way to get a lot of nutritious goodness in a delicious drink.
Snacking can often be a roadblock for healthy eating, especially when you're on the go. Processed snacks, junk food, and sugary drinks are readily available and convenient, but they can add up in terms of calories, unhealthy fats, and added sugars. A few simple swaps can help you stick to your healthy eating goals while snacking and the right choices can help you feel more energised throughout the day.
Healthy snack options
- Fresh fruits: apples, bananas, berries, grapes, or oranges are all great options that can be easily stored in your bag or car.
- Veggies and dip: carrot sticks, cucumber rounds, cherry tomatoes, and celery are some popular options that you can pair with hummus or nut butter.
- Nuts and seeds: almonds, walnuts, cashews, and sunflower seeds are all great sources of healthy fats and protein.
- Vegan yoghurt: coconut or soy yoghurt is a healthy snack option that's high in protein and can be low in sugar. You can also add fresh fruits, nuts, or seeds to make it more enjoyable.
- Whole grain crackers and vegan cheese: whole grain crackers are a good source of fibre, while vegan cheese can be a good source of protein and healthy fats (depending on what it is made of).
- Oatcakes and healthy toppings: As well as crackers, you can use oatcakes and vegan toppings for a healthy treat that's quick to make. or you can pack some oatcakes and a small tub of hummus or nut butter dip.
There are also many natural health and wholefoods brands who make their own nutritious snacks packed with wholefoods like these Aduna baobab bars. You can even make your own healthy dried fruit and nut snack bars or peanut butter energy balls.
Healthy snack prep
- Pack your snacks in advance: When you're in a rush, it's easy to grab unhealthy snacks. Pack your healthy snacks in advance so that you have them readily available when you need them.
- Get creative: Don't get bored with the same snacks every day. Mix it up by trying new fruits, veggies, and dips. You can also make homemade granola bars, energy balls or trail mix to keep things interesting.
Incorporating healthy snacks into your day can help you maintain your healthy eating goals and provide you with the energy and nutrients you need to get through a busy day. Try to choose snacks that are high in fibre, protein, and healthy fats, and limit processed snacks, junk food, and sugary drinks.
Just like with food, the drinks you choose can have a big impact on your overall health and wellness. While sugary drinks and soda can add a lot of empty calories to your diet, there are plenty of healthier options that are just as easy to grab and go. Many of these can be prepped in advance at home and taken out to work or on-the-go in a suitable water bottle, smoothie shaker bottle or a therma flask if you're a tea lover or hot drink fan.
Here are a few healthy drink options to consider:
It's hard to beat the simplicity and hydration benefits of water. Try to drink at least 8 glasses of water a day, and if you're looking for some extra flavour, add slices of lemon, lime, or cucumber. If you don't like drinking tap water then I recommend distilled water.
Fruit Infused Water
Infusing water with fresh fruits and herbs like strawberries, mint, or basil can add extra flavour without adding any calories. Try a different combination each day to keep things interesting! You can buy special water bottles that have a section to put the fruit for infusing. If you like flavoured water, then fruit infused water is a great alternative to squash which often has preservatives and sugar or artificial sweeteners.
Unsweetened Tea or Coffee
If you're a fan of hot beverages, unsweetened tea or coffee can be a great option. Both contain antioxidants, with tea also having a calming effect. Just don't add cream or sugar as these are unhealthy. For healthier options, choose matcha tea, unprocessed loose green tea leaves, herbal teas or detox teas.
Healthy hot chocolate
If you love hot chocolate then make a healthier version using raw cacao powder. This is less processed than cocoa. Some supermarket cocoas and mainstream hot chocolate brands are loaded with added sugar and other ingredients. Instead, you can make a healthier hot chocolate using raw cacao powder and hot water or hot plant-based milk.
Smoothies can be a great way to pack in some extra vitamins and nutrients, especially if you include plenty of fresh fruits and veggies. Try a green smoothie with spinach, banana, and almond milk, or a berry smoothie with strawberries, blueberries, and coconut yoghurt.
It's also possible to use an at-home juicing machine to make your own fresh juice. This is a great way to use up your fruits and veggies at home instead of throwing them away if you have too many or they are turning. Adding more veg than fruit is the key to keeping a homemade juice healthier (or a smoothie).
Remember, moderation is key when it comes to any type of drink. While some of these options are healthier than sugary drinks, they should still be consumed in moderation as part of an overall balanced diet. Of course, pure water is always the healthiest and best drink for hydration.
When you’re crazy busy, healthy eating is even more important as it gives you the energy needed to maintain a hectic lifestyle. Figure out ways to sneak in more healthy options and don’t be afraid to use some pre-prepared food to save time. Your body will thank you for it!
The media makes staying healthy seem difficult, but with the right prep and knowledge it doesn't have to be hard. Need more inspiration? Check out these healthy eating quotes to inspire you to make better choices!
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- How to eat more eco-friendly and save money
- 7 ways I’ve got healthier in 7 years
- 5 easy and nutritious vegan breakfasts to get 3 of your 5-a-day
- 5 tips to stay healthy if you work from home
Top 3 images: my own meals
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