Friday Five: Eat Healthier with a Crazy Busy Schedule

By: Cassie Kish, CPT, Rehab Trainer

Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan, Detroit Medical Center

Wake up at the crack of dawn, get the kids ready for school, drop them off at school on your way to work, work your non-stop eight-hour shift, pick the kids up from school, take them to practice, go home and cook dinner, eat dinner, wash the kids, put them to bed, and then fall asleep immediately afterward.

Sound familiar? Exhausted just reading that?

There didn’t appear to be much room or thought in that crazy busy schedule for healthy eating. Healthy eating is important for retention of a healthy mind, body, and soul. Read below for some tips to squeeze in time to eat healthy on the go.

1.     Plan Ahead

I know it’s easier to buy microwaveable meals, pop it in for two minutes, and Voilà! However, eating healthy does require a little bit of time. Make time by scheduling about 2-3 hours on Sunday each week for shopping and cooking. Create a meal plan for the whole week with your family, and even allow the kids to have a say in what they eat, but make sure it is a healthy choice. Then, use a grocery list based on your meal plan to only buy fresh foods for that week. Make the grocery store a Sunday family ritual and allow the kids to “find” each thing on the list. Getting everyone involved in healthy eating will make it more fun and easier to get them to eat it. Next, prepare any meals that you can for the week on that Sunday. You can store them in containers and refrigerate or freeze. For example, you could bake several chicken breasts and yams, steam a pot of brown rice and hard boil a couple dozen eggs. Also try blending together a stir fry with lean turkey, mixed vegetables and quinoa or some other form of whole grain. If eating healthy is really that important to you, you can make time to do this.

2. Eat 5-6 smaller meals per day

Eating three large meals a day is old news. Think of getting in 5-6 smaller meals throughout the day to keep your metabolism up and burning maximal calories. If you’re constantly on the go, pack healthy snacks in your briefcase or purse. You can eat these snacks in between meals to prevent getting hungry and to avoid eating a high-calorie snack. For example, you can pack dried fruit, nuts, trail mixes, fresh fruit, or nutrition bars, and if you have a refrigerator at work, bring yogurt, cheese cubes, baby carrots, celery sticks and all-natural peanut butter. You can even keep some healthy protein bars in your car for hunger emergencies.

3. Always eat breakfast

Studies have shown that people who eat breakfast regularly tend to have a healthier diet. Choose breakfast foods that have fiber, protein, and complex carbohydrates to keep you fuller longer and more satisfied. Avoid sugary, fatty, or salty foods that will only make you hungry for more of that bad food shortly after you eat it—because of a drop in blood sugar levels. Plan ahead by setting aside 15-20 minutes each night to prepare lunch and breakfast for the next day. You’ll be glad you did because you can just grab and go in the morning without a second thought. For example, grab two pre-made, hard-boiled eggs and half of a whole grain bagel on your way out the door and eat on your way to work.

4. Drink plenty of water

Water is vital because it transports oxygen and nutrients throughout the body as well as regulates various bodily functions necessary for life. Always carry a reusable water bottle with you and drink often. Be aware: sometimes hunger is mistaken for dehydration. If your stomach is still hungry after you’ve had some water, then go ahead and eat something.

5. Keep only healthy foods in the house

If you don’t have access to unhealthy foods, you can’t eat them. Replace junk food with fresh fruits and vegetables, dried fruit, nut butters, frozen fruits and veggies, nuts, seeds, cottage cheese and yogurt. Ask yourself: what is this junk food actually doing to my body? Is it benefiting my body or possibly hurting me? Just because we can’t see our insides, doesn’t mean that we can ignore what we put into it. Remember to eat in moderation though. You can still have a slice of pizza or a piece of chocolate cake once in awhile, but only have one slice or only one small sliver of the cake. Just make sure you eat healthy the rest of the day—don’t drive yourself crazy over cravings! 

Spending a little time each day to be conscious of what you’re eating will go a long way. It may be tough at first, but keep it going for a couple weeks and before you know it, you will have created a new healthy lifestyle and will feel so much better!

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