2020 was a tumultuous year to say the least, so it’s no wonder that healthy eating dropped in priority for many. With the festive season now behind us, it’s a good time to begin rebuilding our healthy routines for 2021. So here are 7 ways to help you start eating healthy again, whilst saving time as a busy woman!
1. Reinvent traditional meal prep
If you ask an influencer how they ‘eat healthy’, they’re most likely to tell you to meal prep. Searching for inspiration will reveal heaps of exciting recipes you can make in bulk to last you a week. While these recipes taste fab on the first day post-meal prep…by the last day they’re often either a soggy mess or just unappetising after having to eat them for 5-7 days straight!
One way to overcome this is to take a “deconstruction approach” to meal prep. This means preparing individual components that keep well for a week- so that you can make a whole range of meals from the same ingredients. Prepare 1-2 carbohydrate bases, 1-2 types of protein, a range of veggies and 2-3 different sauces. Vary the mix of components at each meal, and season with different spices to make each one taste unique.
2. “Cook once, eat three times”
You can still embrace batch cooking without eating it for the whole week. Think one-pot meals, stews, casseroles, Bolognese sauces and soups. The key is to pick a recipe that serves roughly double how much you need- if you live on your own, a recipe that serves 2-4 will provide you with a ‘batch’ meal. If you’re cooking for a family of 4 or more, you may need to double the recipe. Batch meals are great because they provide you with the opportunity to save fresh produce, and pack them into meals with legumes and some meat. Once you’ve cooked up a batch of food, you can enjoy it for lunch or dinner the next day. This brings us to our next time-saving tip!
3. Make friends with your freezer
After a couple of meals, the rest of your batch can be stored in an airtight container in the freezer. Rather than ordering meal deliveries, you can whip it out and reheat it again whenever you are short on time or just way too tired to cook.
If you have heaps of leftovers after entertaining, rather than letting the food go off- think about whether you can freeze the food for your next 5pm panic. Another idea to make dinners that tad bit faster, is to stock your freezer with ‘steam fresh’ veggies (such as those made by BirdsEye). These are essentially frozen veggies packed into microwave-safe bags; all you need to do is heat them in the microwave to get the same steamed veggie experience. Opt for plain varieties to minimise added salt, fat and sugar.
4. Stock your office drawers or lunch room
If you’re no longer working from home, another time and money-savvy idea is to stock your office pantry with healthy food you enjoy. If you work in your office for more than a couple of days, you might like to fill your fridge with fresh salad veggies at the beginning of the week, so that they’re ready to go at lunch time. Visit a supermarket on your way to work and pick out veggies in punnets, pre-washed leaves and ready to eat protein such as tinned fish. It takes 5 minutes tops to throw it all together at lunch time!
You could also stock your office drawers with snacks that keep well such as nuts, rice crackers and roasted chickpeas. Fresh fruit and yogurt are another great snack option to purchase at the beginning of the week- to keep in the fridge when that snack attack hits. Having plenty of healthy food that require little to no preparation will make it easier to resist holding off on lunch, as well as filling yourself up with the cookies in the office biscuit tin!
5. Shortcut your breakfast
If you start your day with breakfast, consider preparing it the night before. This mainly works if you enjoy overnight oats or chia pudding. You simply stir all the ingredients in a jar or container the night before, and allow the oats or chia to soften and soak up the liquid overnight! If you prefer savoury breakfasts, another option to speed up your morning is to hard-boil a few eggs in advance, and refrigerate them in their shells until you’re ready to eat them. Unpeeled hard-boiled eggs can keep for up to 5 days in the fridge. Alternatively, if you prefer to eat breakfast at work- consider keeping long-life milk and instant oats in your office kitchen. You could also keep a few slices of bread, yogurt or extra fruit in the fridge.
6. Shop smart, not perfect
We’ve alluded to this tip throughout this article, but it’s still worthwhile to note that you don’t have to perfectly plan every meal to save time. The key to rebuilding healthy habits is to choose to work on habits that already suit your lifestyle.
Do you spend most of your working week in the office? If so, consider stocking your office fridge and pantry. If you’re always on the go, consider pre-washed salad leaves or steam-fresh frozen veggies. Frozen meals can also be a good stand-by option for those late nights, however they tend to be high in saturated fat and salt so shouldn’t be made a staple. Nonetheless, some reasonable supermarket options are the Super Nature and Fitness Outcome single-portion meals. The best options are those that have less than 120 mg of sodium and 3 g of saturated fat per 100 g. Unfortunately there aren’t many healthy freezer meals made for large families, so it’s a good idea to stock your freezer with frozen vegetable mixes. These can be steamed or stir-fried, then served as a side with meat or leftovers pulled out of your freezer. If you aren’t able to do your grocery shop regularly- long-life milks, tinned fish, wholegrain crackers and frozen fruit and vegetables are great options to help your healthy grocery haul last that little bit longer.
7. Make healthy planning and eating fun
Last but not least, find motivation for healthy eating and planning by making the process fun! If you have children, you could spend quality time together by involving them in a small part of the process. Some great ideas for involving children of different ages are on the FOOST website, which is run by Kate Wengier, dietitian and busy mum of 4.
Alternatively, you could also involve your partner or friend when batch cooking, if you choose to go down that route. Cooking together can be a great way to catch-up, debrief on the week, learn new skills and even share the load of that dreaded clean-up! If you prefer to plan and cook on your own, you could also use the time to catch up on your favourite podcasts or jam out to your favourite music.
Need more support when it comes to eating healthy while you are time poor? Book in a FREE discovery call with me to learn about my signature program launching soon!