That seems to be the response I get from people who ask me about how I eat healthier now. When I start talking about how I cook more fresh foods, eat more vegetarian and avoid processed foods (you know, the quick 5 minute type meals?) I get the same reply (albeit, in different forms): “How do you have time for that? I don’t have enough time!” That’s usually my cue to end the conversation because very few people really want to hear how to make the time. They’re more often looking for an excuse. It’s a slightly mean thing to say but people who are really interested in how I do it (the couple who have actually wanted an answer) don’t give me the time excuse. So, here’s how I do it and if you want to hear about it, read on!
First off, I’m going to run down how I have changed my diet, so it makes a little more sense. The number one thing I did was stop eating most processed food. Chips, cookies, crackers, pretty much anything that comes pre-made in a package I stopped eating. And I stopped buying it (mostly… I will explain in a moment). I also started buying a lot more fresh foods. You’ve probably heard this advice before but if not – shop the outside of the grocery store. That’s where most of my food comes from now. It makes a huge difference in health because you control what goes into that food. Yes, it’s more work but it really doesn’t take much more time. You just need to be a little creative and thoughtful. Also, I stopped eating most meats and went toward vegetables. I haven’t gone totally vegetarian but I eat far more veggies than anything else now. I also stopped eating out. Again, not a hard and fast rule but I try to eat my own food more because, again, I know what’s in it and how it was made.
So the first way I save time is by making things in bulk. So for example, this evening I decided to make a salad for lunch tomorrow. Instead of making only one salad I made 4 and the rest stay in the fridge. Now I have 3 salads to eat at a later time. Everything is measured out and stored in mason jars. You can find examples of mason jar salads everywhere. They’re pretty simple and can be made however you want. Another example is roasted veggies. The other day I roasted 2 sweet potatoes and 4 rainbow carrots. That was more than I needed but I stored the leftovers in the fridge and ate some more of that tonight. I’ll finish it up on Monday, most likely. Again, extra food, all healthy and tasty.
Another way that I manage to eat better is by making the food more accessible. Fruit is a great snack but I don’t want to buy canned fruit, which usually has extra sugar in it (not all, but you have to read labels in the stores to know) and it’s pricier. A better option would be to buy the fruit pre-cut in the produce department and I do that sometimes as well if I know I’m going to be really crunched. The best option is to buy the whole fruit and cut it up yourself. I did this today after I did the grocery shopping. I bought a rotisserie chicken from the deli (not the best option but a good one to save some time) and while the potatoes were cooking I cut up a whole cantaloupe and a whole pineapple. Now both of those are ready to be eaten whenever I want. I’m more likely to eat it when it’s all precut and so are my kids (my son loves the cantaloupe and my daughter loves the pineapple, so there was an ulterior motive in cutting those up first!). I also have some blueberries and strawberries in the fridge which don’t need to be cut. There are apples as well and while my kids like those cut, I don’t care. I also bought some plums and some nectarines (yay summer fruit!) for variety. In a real crunch, frozen fruit or freeze dried fruit is a good alternative.
Another great thing is to make the food simpler. A chicken breast can be cooked in the oven while potatoes boil on the stove. You can also roast some veggies with the chicken. The whole meal finished at the same time and you don’t need to hover over anything, so you can set a timer and do something else while the food cooks. Then you can add spices, herbs and flavorings to the food. This is one of my pre-packaged exceptions. Barbecue sauce is something I use a lot, as are marinades (if I think about it ahead of time). Those are things that I want to start making but haven’t gotten there yet. Salad dressing is another exception of mine. I only use 1 tablespoon though and I measure it (otherwise, it’s really easy to underestimate how much you’re using).
Now, for the not eating out bit. I am busy. I go to school everyday. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday I start class between 8:30 and 9:30 and get out of class around 12:30. So I eat a good breakfast. Overnight oatmeal has become popular because I put it in the fridge at night and it’s ready when I get up. Eggs can be microwaved quickly and are also good choices. Or hard boil eggs and store them in the fridge and they’re all ready. Every once in awhile I will have cereal but they’re healthier choices now (often Cheerios with fruit) or I will make a fruit smoothie with protein powder in it. Tomorrow I have chocolate protein powder with banana in a cup, all ready to go. I will also make coffee because work is early. Whatever I eat, I try to eat a small snack around 10. Nuts, cottage cheese with fruit, sometimes crackers – I aim for 100-150 calories with protein. Then after class I go home and get lunch. I do have some vegetarian options that are quick like chicken patties but I also have lots of other choices. Baked potatoes are good and you can add lots of veggies to them. Yogurt is another good option and you can add granola or fruit to it. Sometimes, I just eat raw veggies or a peanut butter sandwich.
The other thing that has been important to my success is drinking water. I know, lots of people don’t like water. I’m not a huge fan myself but I track it in my bullet journal and go for that first. I got a Yeti cup to keep my water cold because I’ve found that I prefer water colder. You can always add fruit or a juice mix packet to water. I have realized that the more I drink water, the more I want it and the less hungry I seem to be. Outside of coffee or tea, water is all I drink anymore. That includes when I eat out. When I do eat out, I look for options that up my veggies intake and try to eat at healthier places – Subway is a good choice, as is Panera (if you’re careful about calories and portion sizes and avoid pastries!) and Chipotle (again, you need to be careful). At sit down places, I get salads and low fat options and usually only eat about half of what I get. I also love pizza and eat that quite a bit. I’ve been trying to make it at home more but if you don’t eat a whole pizza, it’s not to bad calorie wise (health wise… eh… but we all have our vices).
Eating healthy with a crazy schedule can be done. You will have to think about it more and make it a priority. There are tons of places to get information about what to eat, how much of it and ways to make quick , healthy meals. I like Mind Over Munch on YouTube, as she has tons of options and choices and loads of recipe ideas and thoughts on how to switch it up. There are also options like Stephanie O’Dea’s website, where she has probably hundreds of crock pot recipes. Many of them use pre-packaged items but I’ve found that I can easily make them healthier! Once you decide to do it, you’ll find lots of resources but first, you have to change your mindset. It’s a hard thing to do but well worth it in how much better you’ll feel. And remember – baby steps. I’ve made a lot of changes but it’s happened over a long period of time and it took effort. You can do it to. Just pick a starting place and make your first change. Until next time!