Philadelphia, PA - Your summer was full of action-packed memories of jumping waves at the beach, funnel cake & fireworks on the 4th, seeing your favorite band on a picture-perfect evening, or laying poolside with friends and loved ones catching some rays. So now that Labor Day has passed with the unofficial end of summer now becoming official.
It’s time to get back to the daily grind of the kids being in school, sports, and other activities for your children and a seemingly overwhelming work schedule occupying your days. All these daily plans can make eating healthily somewhat of a challenge when you have an active lifestyle. Try including these seven easy to follow tips to help make your busy life that much healthier.
1) MENU PLANNING - You plan your entire life; meetings and deadlines with work, school events, and after school activities, and fill your free time with plenty of family fun activities. So why not plan one of the essential elements of your life? Taking a few minutes to do the simple task of writing down what you plan on eating for the week means you are consciously thinking about your nutritional consumption, which puts this fresh in your mind and leads you to make better dietary decisions. Menu planning also helps to maintain a budget when you are grocery shopping, as you are less likely to make impulse purchases since your shopping list is comprised of items from your menu. Having your menu already decided ahead of time also speeds up the dinner process, as you don’t have to spend time deciding what to cook based on what you may have defrosted or what may be the most relaxed meal to prepare. (which is usually the least healthy choice)
2) COOKING FROM SCRATCH - It may seem very convenient to grab frozen prepared meals at the grocery store, which only take a few minutes to heat up on the stove, or worse – with the microwave. However, what you save in time & convenience, you most assuredly lose in regards to health as most prepared meals are incredibly high in fat, sodium, and other unhealthy preservatives. I would also suggest spending a few hours in the kitchen during some of your free time. Use this time to do all of the prep work for your week's meals, portion them into ziplock bags, and this way your meal is halfway done when you get home from your busy day during the week. You can also use this time to cook some of your meals ahead of time, which speeds up dinner through the week as all you have to do is reheat your meal.
From scratch, cooking is always the healthier option as you are controlling precisely what goes into your meals, and let’s face it, there’s nothing quite as good as a home-cooked meal. Now you may be thinking that from-scratch cooking requires more culinary knowledge than you may have. Have no fear, as cooking from scratch is not as hard as you may believe it is. Many beginner-friendly recipes are online. Then there is also the plethora of information on Google or in the many cookbooks available at your local bookstore; today’s world has many resources to aid in your growth in cooking ability. I am also willing to answer any questions that you may have.
3) PLAN YOUR MEAL TIMES - You look over your schedule for the week and adjust your routine to meet the needs of your table in many aspects of your life. So why not do the same with your eating times? As an example, if you know that you have a late afternoon meeting with a prospective client but don’t have much on the schedule during your mid-day then eating your big meal for lunch would make the most sense. Alternatively, you can use one of the dinners you cooked ahead of time when you were planning your menu for the week. Remember, just like spending time making your work schedule helps your career, so does planning out your meal times also improve your diet.
4) DO YOU TAKE ADVANTAGE OF YOUR CROCKPOT? - Alternatively, is it just collecting dust in your pantry? There are many benefits to using your crockpot, with the time-saving aspect topping most people’s list. I love coming home and having the house filled with the pleasant aromas of tonight's dinner. Cooking in the crockpot allows for the better nutritional content of your meal. With everything being in one pot, any nutrients that may cook out of your vegetables or meats will still be in the meal; unlike the potential loss of nutrients when you cook your vegetables in water and then strain them as one example. Remember how you portioned each meal into zip lock bags the other day? Well, one of the benefits of this process is all you have to do is put everything in the crockpot and turn it on. This allows for the minimal time allotted for your dinner on that morning.
5) AVOID SNACKING AS MEAL REPLACEMENT - Your boss may have just given you a workload that would occupy ten people for the next week, expecting it on their desk before the end of the business and you decide to work through your lunch. Why not just snack on a box of crackers while plugging away at your office? In most circumstances, the snack replacement for a meal means you are consuming more calories than if you had eaten a regular lunch. Additionally, the health contents of your snack (especially if it is a pre-packaged item like crackers or chips) leave a lot to be desired. Please don’t get me wrong, snacking between meals isn’t a bad idea at all. Choose snacks that are healthy for you like apples, grapes, or yogurt with granola as a few options.
6) BYO-LUNCH - All your friends are heading over to your favorite local lunch spot to grab a burger, and you would like to go; it’s straightforward to say yes to this kind of mid-work fun. It’s probably best to avoid this kind of impulse meals, as they are usually very costly (in comparison to packing your lunch) and will be less healthy. Going back to the from-scratch cooking being the healthier option. Now, this doesn’t mean that occasionally doing the eating out for lunch plan is a bad one; I wouldn’t recommend doing this every day. As this starts to form a habit in your mind, and you slowly begin to eat out more frequently instead of eating at home, or you slip up on the menu planning & kitchen prep time that was mentioned earlier in this article. Everything in moderation is a good thought for this point.
7) EXERCISE - When you are super busy, it’s easy to either forget about the gym or put it off due to conflicting activities. If you can find 20 minutes in the day to devote to physical activity, then you are ahead of the game. There are many high-intensity workouts that do wonders for the body and don’t require much time to do them. Exercising will help boost your metabolism, will help fight depression, and will lower stress levels. When we are stressed, even if unaware of the stress, your body reacts by increasing our fat storage. A few tips to help are walking to do your errands whenever possible. Even if that means driving to one central location and then walking around town for your errands. Using the stairs instead of an elevator is an excellent way not only to get more activity, but it’s also a great way to work out the heart. Meditation is also a handy tool when someone has a busy lifestyle. Meditation before bed will increase your mental awareness, helps improve your ability to focus, lowers stress, and helps improve your sleep.
IN CLOSING - With Labor Day closing out the always exciting summer, and our schedules returning to the normal routine may mean many hectic days ahead for many of us. This doesn’t say that it’s bad news for our diets. Following the tips in this article will help keep you and your family eating right, even when time may not allow it.