There’s no doubt about it, leading a busy life is exciting. Perhaps you have a high-powered job, or you’re taking extra classes this semester. Maybe you’re busily juggling the demands of work and family life.
No matter what kind of busy you are, if you’re anything like me, healthy eating habits can fall by the wayside when life’s other demands increase. I’ve noticed that I have a tendency to eat unhealthily when I am busy, and many other people I’ve spoken to share the same problem.
We’re more prone to eating out, ordering take out, and choosing unhealthy options instead of dedicating the free time we do have to cook a healthy meal at home. But it’s important to maintain our health, after all, without it we wouldn’t be able to lead busy lives long-term.
How to eat healthy at work?
Is it even possible to eat healthily on a busy schedule?
The good news is that it definitely is and better health can be accomplished with just a few tweaks!
Here, I’ve gathered together some of the best tips and strategies for combining a healthy lifestyle and a hectic life. So, take some time off your busy day and let’s go over those now.
Meal Prep Is Key
Since choosing convenient and processed options can be very unhealthy, it’s important to cook at home as much as possible. That said, I’m well aware that cooking can be very time consuming, especially with an already busy schedule. This is why meal prep is key and can be turned to your advantage.
Once a week, cook a large batch (or two) of something healthy that can be frozen easily. An example is whole grain pasta with vegetables in a basic tomato and basil sauce. Bonus health points if you throw a whole bag of spinach into the sauce.
Freeze it in portions. Then, you can take out a portion every day and have a healthy option for lunch or dinner. Not keen on the idea of eating the same thing daily? Who is?! Mix it up by having several choices in your freezer at all times.
Think of getting a couple of glass food containers, they are freezer, microvawe, oven and dishwasher safe. Very handy when you eat away!
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Pack Yourself a Delicious and Nutritious Lunch
Healthy eating at work is not impossible if you swap unhealthy lunches with a packed lunch from home. We’re not talking school lunchbox PB&J sandwiches here. Lunch boxes can be sophisticated, delicious, and good for you!
Lunch can also be done swiftly with a bit of prior preparation.
- quinoa salads,
- cut up vegetables and hummus,
These are all great (and fast) choices that give you the kind of energy you need to continue the rest of your busy day.
Pro Tip: Instant-cook couscous is ready in under five minutes. Fluff it with a fork and throw in some arugula, cherry tomatoes, diced cucumber, and some cooked chicken breast. Toss it together with olive oil and a bit of balsamic vinegar. Voila, lunch in under 10 minutes.
Say Bye-Bye to the Candy Aisle and Buy Healthy Food
If you’re wondering how to eat healthy when you’re busy, start by practicing restraint when shopping.
It seems very simple but it really works. Having junk food at home or at work means that when a snack attack hits, you’re likely to eat junk over healthier choices.
Oh, and try to avoid hitting the supermarket aisles when you’re hungry.
I can’t stress that last point enough.
Eat Breakfast Every Day
Note to all busy people: three coffees does not constitute breakfast.
Skipping breakfast is a habit many people share. It is easy to do when you’re busy but trust me, your well-being will suffer. I’m not convinced by the latest Silicon Valley bullet-proof, max-power, coconut-oil-and-butter coffee trend either. Your body needs food to function. You need this energy to tackle the day. If you spend your working hours on your feet, breakfast is doubly important.
There are many easy and fast breakfasts that deliver that essential energy you need in the morning. Overnight oats are a perfect example. You can prepare it in two minutes the night before and add fresh fruit in the morning for that extra vitamin boost.
Simply mix a few tablespoons of oats with runny natural yogurt if you prefer it plain or try this delicious Peanut Butter Overnight Oats recipe by the Minimalist Baker.
Pro Tip: No time in the morning? Ditch the cleverly marketed but sugar-packed cereal bars when it comes to breakfast on the run. Grab a banana and a handful of almonds on your way out the door instead.
Make Healthy Swaps When You Eat Out
Eating out can be a very important part of professional life. Lunches and dinners with clients help secure deals and cement working relationships. It can be very tempting to order something greasy or unhealthy, especially when the other people at your table opt for the same and you feel like treating yourself.
But making a better choice doesn’t mean sacrificing on flavor. Try swapping fried food for grilled food, order a side salad or veggies instead of fries, or go for a nice glass of red or white instead of a sugary cocktail.
Plan, Organize, and Optimize Your Day
Planning your day ahead and allocating half an hour for lunch can be very helpful. Often, if you don’t plan the time to sit down and eat lunch, you end up grabbing fast food on the go.
Dedicate a short period of time for lunch. Being mindful about when you’ll eat will help you to be mindful about what you eat too.
Avoid Working and Eating at the Same Time
It’s tempting to save time and eat while you do some work, but this is less than ideal if staying healthy is your goal. Working while you eat distracts you from the food and often results in overeating, which, in turn, can lead to weight gain. You probably won’t be working that well either.
Eating healthy at work can be easy if you take the time to eat without distractions – this will help you eat the right amount of food and also get the well-deserved break you need.
Pro Tip: Are you a desk muncher outside of mealtimes? Many of us are and it’s hard to break the habit. Try placing a punnet of strawberries or raspberries on your desk instead or crisps.
Eat Dinner Earlier
Eating an earlier dinner has many health benefits. It is especially important to leave at least two hours between eating dinner and going to sleep. This is very helpful in terms of getting the best sleep possible, and, of course, with a proper night’s sleep behind you, you wake up fresh and ready for the challenges of the day.
Avoid Drinking Alcohol… In Excess
As tempting as it is to hang out at your local bar with friends after work, it’s important to realize that drinking alcohol on a daily basis to excess is very unhealthy. With a busy schedule, you need all the energy that you can get, and alcohol (and hangovers) certainly don’t help with this.
Try to cut down on the number of times you go out and drink. There’s no need to fully embrace total sobriety—unless you want to that is. But when you do go out, swap cocktails and sugary drinks for a vodka and soda with lime or, my personal favorite, a gin lime—a slimline tonic. That way you take in fewer empty calories.
Pro Tip: Drink a glass of water to match every alcoholic drink you have. You’ll stay hydrated and minimize the effects of those dreaded hangovers.
Water—Drink More of It
It is easy to forget to drink enough water when you’re busy or to eschew water in favor of coffee (hands up if you’re guilty of this!) It’s understandable, other things are on your mind, and water isn’t one of them.
However, being dehydrated is detrimental to both your health and your energy levels. Also, a lot of the time, thirst can be misinterpreted by our bodies and we reach for food instead.
Buy a funky and reusable glass water bottle and keep filling it up. Some people even set alarms on their phones which remind them to drink water. Having tried this one myself, I can wholeheartedly vouch for it. Try it and I promise you’ll feel so much better and energized.
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Wrapping It Up
The old adage “you are what you eat” holds true in many ways. And healthy eating for busy professionals is especially important as they need the right fuels to keep them productive and at the top of their game.
Our top tips for eating healthy with a busy lifestyle are all simple stuff really, but things that a lot of us don’t necessarily prioritize. Start incorporating these changes bit by bit and you’ll be surprised by how quickly they become habits.
So, what is the next step going to be for you?