Healthy eating is challenging when you’re busy. It requires preparation and planning, but maintaining healthy eating habits is easier than you may think—and the rewards are well worth it. Eating a nutritious diet can help improve your health, boost your energy and immune system, reduce stress, and protect your overall well-being. If work and other responsibilities keep you busy, following nine simple tips can help you create a healthy eating plan that fits your hectic schedule.
1. Eat a high-protein breakfast
Breakfast is an essential meal that helps your mind and body get ready for the day. While you may think that skipping meals will help with weight loss, not eating a nutritious breakfast can make it difficult to concentrate and leave you feeling hungry, irritable, and less productive. And, you’re more likely to be so hungry by lunch that you will overeat. Eating a protein-rich breakfast gives you the energy you need to power through your morning.
2. Blend up a green smoothie
Use your blender to whip up a wholesome breakfast smoothie before you rush out the door in the morning. A smoothie is also a great post-workout snack. Experiment with different ingredients, including fresh and frozen fruits and veggies, nuts and seeds, Greek yogurt, and protein powders. For an even healthier smoothie, add kale, spinach, or other leafy green vegetables.
3. Stay hydrated and watch what you drink
Busy people often drink coffee throughout the day to keep themselves energized. Moderate amounts of caffeine can enhance your alertness and productivity, but too much caffeine can raise your blood pressure, leave you dehydrated, and reduce your brain function.
When you’re thirsty, it may be tempting to grab a soda or juice, but sweetened beverages contain added sugars and empty calories. Health experts recommend that you drink plain water, which keeps you hydrated and prevents dehydration headaches. Water also helps flush toxins from the body and carries nutrients to your cells.
Bring a reusable bottle to work and keep it filled with water. Download a free app on your phone that will remind you to drink water throughout the day.
4. Pack your lunch
Fast food may be convenient, but it’s often filled with calories, unhealthy fats, and sodium. Rather than grabbing fast food for lunch, pack your lunch the night before so you can control what you eat and avoid unhealthy options. And, set a fixed time for lunch. Being mindful of when you eat can help you become more conscious of what you eat.
5. Choose healthy snack options
It’s easy to lose track of how much you eat during the day. Making your own pre-portioned snacks can prevent you from overeating and help you save money by avoiding the vending machine.
Snacking can actually help you maintain a healthy weight—and even lose weight—as long as you pay attention to the types of foods you snack on and make smart choices. Healthy snacks you can eat without gaining weight include apple slices with almond butter, pretzels with hummus, yogurt, and air-popped popcorn.
Limit processed snacks, like chips and crackers, and store cut up fruits and vegetables in the fridge—or keep healthy snacks in a cooler at the office or in your car.
6. Make healthy choices when you eat out
When you have a hectic schedule, you’re more likely to go out to eat. Learning how to make healthy choices at restaurants can help you maintain healthy eating habits and protect your well-being.
Choose dishes that contain mostly vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins, and opt for grilled or baked foods instead of fried foods. Skip the fries and order a side salad, but go easy on the dressing.
As a general rule, fill half of your plate with vegetables and fruits, while keeping a quarter of your plate for whole grains and another quarter for lean protein.
Pay attention to portion sizes. Restaurant portions are often large enough for two or three meals. When eating out, take at least half of your meal to go, or share a meal with a friend.
7. Plan and prep meals on your day off
Planning meals for the entire week in advance makes grocery shopping and preparation easier. Chop vegetables and prepare ingredients on your day off for upcoming stir-fries, casseroles, and sheet-pan meals.
Slow cookers and crockpots are convenient for making healthy soups, chilis, stews, and more. Simply fill it with ingredients in the morning and turn it on. By the time you get home, you’ll have a healthy meal waiting for you. Crockpots can also turn tougher cuts of meat tender. Store leftovers in the freezer for upcoming meals—just heat and serve.
8. Look into grocery delivery services
If you don’t have time to go to the store, consider grocery delivery or pickup options. And, save time by opting for pre-chopped fresh fruits and vegetables in the produce department. They cost more but are a convenient way to stock up on healthy ingredients and healthy snacks. In many communities, you can sign up for a meal delivery service that will send you fresh, pre-chopped ingredients you can use to create simple, healthy dinners.
9. Practice mindful eating
Busy people often eat mindlessly while working on a computer or making phone calls. When you eat in front of a screen, you’re more likely to keep reaching for snacks without paying attention to how much you’ve eaten.
Put down your phone, turn off the TV, and pay attention to what you eat. Take 20 minutes to unplug while you enjoy your meal. It’s a great way to reduce stress and recharge for the rest of your day. Eating slowly and chewing food completely can help you eat less. It also helps your body absorb nutrients more easily.
The key to healthy eating is to incorporate simple changes into your lifestyle that you can maintain over time. Taking care of your body and mind will help you become more productive and give you the energy you need to stay at the top of your game throughout the day.