Busy has become most people’s default setting in life. We tend to fill our schedules with work, coffee dates, birthdays, sporting events, family trips, and To-Do lists that make heads spin.
Living a full life with a busy calendar can feel amazing and inspiring if you’re working a job you love and living a life you believe in. It can also feel like you’re barely keeping your head above water when you hate your job and struggling to be happy and healthy.
Whatever kind of busy you are, there’s one thing you know for sure—your body needs food.
If it doesn’t get it, you can’t show up for life.
How often do you convince yourself that a banana counts as a complete meal, or forget to eat all together because you’re so busy running around?
Do you get overwhelmed trying to eat healthy and still fit everything in that you want to do in life?
What if I told you that eating healthy doesn’t have to be complicated, highly-involved, or take hours of your precious time?
With a little preplanning, a few quick and healthy food ideas, and some time saving tips, you can spend more time doing what you love.
Time Saving Tips
One-pot meals – Throw everything into one pot and cook it. This may be sautéed veggies with curry and tofu, or a delicious lentil and vegetable soup. Keep it quick. Keep it simple.
Cook once, eat three times – If you spend the time to cook, why not double or triple the amount you make and save the leftovers for lunch or dinner the next day.
Make a batch and freeze it – Although freshly prepared meals are the ideal, homemade frozen options are better than store-bought any day.
Make a big batch of your favorite soup and freeze it in single-serving containers. For an all-in-one meal, make your own veggie burger patties and freeze them between wax paper (to prevent them from sticking together).
Freezing is a great way to have beans, soups, veggie burgers, chopped fruits and vegetables ready for your next meal.
Grab-and-go salads – Spend 10 minutes chopping up enough of your favorite salad toppings for a couple of days worth of salads. Then simply tear up some greens (or grab a handful of already-mixed salad greens), toss in your ready-to-eat toppings, and add some extras like nuts, seeds, beans or leftover brown rice.
Cook ingredients that can be used multiple ways – Make a root bake for dinner one night—carrots, beets, pumpkin, parsnips, onion or whatever strikes your fancy. Have it with eggs for breakfast, on salad for lunch, or as a side dish for dinner the next night. Some of my favorite versatile ingredients include: brown rice, quinoa, couscous, black beans, sweet potatoes (baked), and beets (roasted or steamed).
Soak your beans/grains overnight – Before you head to bed, measure out your dried beans and toss them in a bowl of water to soak overnight. The next day, when you get home in the evening, dump out the soaking water, put them on the stove and let them cook until dinner (cooking times vary by bean variety, so make sure to cook accordingly).
Use smart appliances – Let the appliances do some of the work for you. Rice cookers with timers and crock pots (sometimes called slow cookers) are a must-have for busy people. You can make delicious soups, hearty stews, tasty grain dishes, and homemade beans (ditched the cans and say no to toxic BPA…cook your own!).
Before you leave the house in the morning, simply toss all your ingredients into your rice cooker or crock pot, turn it on or set the timer, and come home to a ready-to-eat meal!
Plan your meals ahead of time – Planning your meals in advance allows you to shop more efficiently and less often. You can plan meals that use leftovers from the night before, or similar ingredients to other meals (food diversity is still important!).
It frees up mental space and allows you to do something else with your brainpower besides trying to figure out what to cook three times a day.
Quick & Healthy Foods
Instead of reaching for the processed, empty carbs like pasta, bread, white rice and flour tortillas, try experimenting around with these fast-cooking grains. Put them on before you start cooking your meal, and if they’re done before you’ve finished preparing, let them sit covered until dinner’s ready to serve.
Quick Cooking Grains – Under 30 minutes
(GF = gluten-free)
- Quinoa (GF)
- Buckwheat (GF)
- Rolled Oats
- Polenta (cornmeal) (GF)
- Millet (GF)
- Amaranth (GF)
- Brown Rice (GF) *cooking time differs with type
Healthy Snack Ideas
You’re energy is fading at work and you’re not sure you’ll make it until lunch, but you don’t want to rely on caffeine or sugar anymore to get you through to your next meal.
The day is booked solid, and you didn’t leave yourself any time to eat, let alone make yourself food, but going without would leave you depleted and cranky.
Do yourself a favor. When you can’t give your body a proper sit-down meal, do the next best thing and give it a healthy snack.
Homemade Trail Mix – This simple snack can prevent meltdowns, avert disasters, and save your friendships and love life. Bold statement, I know, but I speak from experience!
Keep a small ziplock bag or container with you filled with nuts, seeds, and dried fruit. This protein packed snack will give you much needed energy to continue with your day
Some of my favorite ingredients include: almonds, walnuts, cashews, raisins, dried apples and apricots (non-sulfur only), sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, chia seeds, goji berries, dark chocolate chips, cacao nibs.
Grab a piece of fruit – Apples, oranges, grapefruits, and bananas travel well and can be stashed in your bag in the event of a meltdown (I speak from experience!). Okay, maybe not the banana in your bag, but it’s nutrient-packed fruit that will give you much needed energy when you’re almost puttering out.
Pre-chop some veggies – Bring your favorites with you to school, work or on your day of running errands in case you get hungry. Some good options are carrots, celery, bell pepper (capsicum), broccoli, cauliflower, and cucumber.
Make cold salads out of leftover beans & grains – I love creating my own versions of cold deli salads. Toss your already-cooked brown rice or quinoa into a container, add cooked beans (kidney, black, chickpea), shred some carrot and/or raw beet, chop up a little bit of green onion, drizzle with balsamic dressing or olive oil and apple cider vinegar. Experiment around with the combinations that excite you. The possibilities are endless.
You don’t have to choose between living a busy life and looking after your health. With a little forethought, and the right foods filling your refrigerator and pantry, you can feed your body and fuel your life.