We can all agree: juggling work and family while squeezing in time for friends and hobbies is no small task. Especially now with back-to-school schedules in full swing, many parents might be wondering: How can I eat nutritiously with such a busy (and at times, unpredictable) schedule?
You’ve likely seen “What I Eat in a Day” lists published in health and nutrition magazines, on fitness blogs or celebrities’ Instagrams, providing insight into the fit, fresh and trendy meals these influencers regularly consume. Unfortunately, some of those food-diary snapshots might not seem relatable for busy on-the-go professionals, especially working parents (like me).
But don’t despair — there are plenty of quick, easy-to-make snacks and meals that we can turn to without sacrificing our health and cravings for something tasty. All it takes is a bit of thoughtful consideration and creativity. If I can do it in between working and chasing after a toddler, so can you!
Here are few tips for keeping your nutrition on track with a full calendar:
Plan, plan, plan!
When some of us see the phrase, “meal planning,” or “meal prepping,” our first instinct might be to ask, “Who has time for that?” But give it a chance—you don’t need to plan out 15 intricate recipes each week. Just stock your fridge with a few key staples early in the week, and use those ingredients to pull together quick and easy recipes from whole, unprocessed foods, like crockpot chicken fajitas, or quinoa with sautéed vegetables. A good rule of thumb to follow: Pick meals that require five or fewer ingredients, and you should have no problem when in a pinch!
The key to successful meal-prepping is to make leftovers to use for future meals. Don’t limit each recipe to only one purpose; cook in larger batches so you’ll have extra. Throw the leftover chicken from fajita night on top of a salad for lunch, or chop up the unused veggies to make a quick stir-fry for dinner. The possibilities are endless, so get creative!
Protein + carbs + fats = all-day energy!
If you get hungry while you’re out and about, you might be more likely to splurge on “cheat eats” if you don’t have healthy snacks on hand. Before heading out for the day, pack a few handfuls of trail mix, nuts, pieces of fruit or string cheeses to curb your appetite. High-protein snacks will keep you fuller for longer, and help you fight the temptation to grab a treat instead.
Take the time to plan, but don’t be afraid to take shortcuts. If it’s not realistic to prep all your ingredients from scratch; it’s easy to find lightly processed, pre-made foods at most grocery stores (just be sure to check the label so you know what the ingredients are, and can decide if it meets your standards). And, give yourself grace if you fall off course a bit — it’s not all or nothing.
Now, I realize you might still be wondering, “Where do I start?” It’s important to remember that everyone has their own groove and as you experiment, you’ll learn tricks to leverage one meal into three! Trial and error is your best option here.
When it comes to everyday choices, make eating healthy food a priority, as it not only affects your long-term health, but also greatly impacts how you feel on a daily basis.
At first, it might be tricky to establish a routine, plan ahead and identify which healthy meals and snacks work best for you and your family, but you’ll thank yourself later when it becomes habit — and you might even have fun along the way. Bon appétit!
Sarah Fairchild is a family medicine physician at EvergreenHealth Primary Care in Redmond. EvergreenHealth is based in Kirkland and has locations in Redmond and Kenmore.
For more healthy eating tips, snack and recipe ideas, visit EvergreenHealth’s lifestyle and wellness site at healthiestbest.com/health-food-recipes