We’re all busy. We work eight hours a day, commute from one to two hours more, when we get home there’s the household chores, and if you have kids, forget having much time at all. It’s just enough that we have time to eat, let alone to eat healthy.
Whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner, each comes with their own challenges. Who wants to think of what to eat in the morning? Most of us are like zombies just grabbing whatever is nearest to us. Lunch? Well it’s much easier to buy our food while at work. And forget about cooking a gourmet meal after a long day’s work.
It’s not just a lack of time though. More and more people just don’t like to cook. And others are afraid of cooking, so much so there’s a name for it: mageirocophobia. It can range from a simple concern of meals not turning out right to a more powerful anxiety around cooking. Some of it can have its roots in less and less people learning, or being involved in cooking as a child. This is important as people who learn to cook as a child eat healthier as an adult.
It’s no surprise that if you don’t know how to do something, it can be scary. Add the perception eating healthy is even more of a challenge, and no wonder so many people turn away from the kitchen. However, there are plenty of ways to eat healthy on a time budget. Here are just a few:
1. Use Frozen Vegetables
Eating fruits and vegetables is great, but unless you live in a tropical area where fresh food is forever plentiful, you’re either going to have to spend months of the year without them, or pay an arm and a leg for them to come from some far away place. Depending on what type of vegetables you buy, it may also require some prep time before even beginning to cook (think peeling carrots).
Enter frozen fruits and vegetables. They’re already prepped for cooking; peeled and cut into bite-sized portions, and come in a variety of combinations. Now before you turn your nose up on frozen fruits and vegetables, the process of freezing has improved dramatically over the years. Many of the foods are frozen at the source and can actually be fresher than the same food that has been stored and transported to the grocer. Cooking is as simple as putting them in a bowl with a small amount of water, cover and microwave. Fast, simple and enjoyed all year round.
2. Pack Your Own Lunch
You don’t have time to pack lunch, so you decide to buy it. Although I’d bet it doesn’t take any more time to make your lunch than go to a restaurant for it. But for many people, buying lunch isn’t just a time-saver, it means we don’t have to think. Who wants to spend time planning lunch? I certainly don’t, so I eat pretty much the same thing every day. And I’m not alone, many of us like the simplicity of eating the same thing for lunch.
Eating food prepared at home is generally healthier than what we buy at restaurants. In many cases, foods at restaurants are prepackaged and therefore come with a load of preservatives. Not only can eating out be bad for your body, it’s bad for your wallet as well; buying lunch can cost you more than $1200 a year. Lunch can be as simple as having one or two fruits/vegetables, yoghurt (preferably Greek for the high protein content), quarter cup of nuts and/or salad. There’s also the tried and true sandwich.
3. Hide the Cookie Jar
Notice I didn’t say get rid of it. Sure if you can, ditch the cookie jar (and the cookies too), but for many of us that may not be realistic. Leaving foods in sight makes them more tempting to eat. Our body uses a whole host of cues to tell us when to eat and one of them is what we see. It doesn’t mean we’re hungry (the act of cleaning one’s plate regardless of how much food is on it is a good example). So out of sight, out of mind (or should I say out of stomach). Put the cookies in a cupboard, preferably on a high shelf. That way you’ll be less tempted, and you might even be too lazy to go to the cupboard. Better yet, replace the cookie jar with a bowl of fresh fruit on the counter.
4. Prepare Extras Ahead of Time
If you’re looking to save time on your cooking, take advantage of the time you do cook and make extra. Making two (or more) dishes of the same thing takes less time than cooking two separate times. It’s also more energy efficient. You can cook two pans of lasagna at the same time in the oven, or make extra stir-fry in the same wok. This way you can have a healthy home-cooked meal even on days you’re busy; just pull it out of the fridge and pop it in the microwave.
If you’re one who doesn’t like to eat the same thing a few days in a row, then you can freeze the extras for another day or week. For some, the thought of eating leftovers is enough to make them gag. But you can still prepare meals ahead of time, such as on the weekend and then eat them on the days you don’t have time. There are plenty of meal prep resources online such as thing one.
5. Simple Protein
Despite all the noise about the Paleo or the Keto diets, many of us don’t get enough protein. The recommended daily intake is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight, so for a person who is 150 pounds, that’s about 55 grams of protein. To put that into context, a chicken breast is generally 30% protein by weight, while an egg has about 6 g or protein. For older adults, the recommendation is between 1.0 and 1.2 grams per kilogram of body weight.
Unfortunately, protein intake tends to decrease with age; 48% of adults over 70 don’t get enough protein. This occurs at a time when the body starts to lose muscle mass. Ensuring adequate protein in your diet can prevent this muscle loss. You may think cooking meat, and other protein sources, is even more work than cooking vegetables. But there are simple ways to get protein into your diet such as yoghurt (Greek yoghurt packs a big protein punch), eggs and luncheon meats. If you’re avoiding animal products then try peanut butter, almonds, beans and humus.
6. Water is Best
Nearly half of all adults have a pop, or other sweetened drink, every day. This translates into 130 litres of pop per year. A drink high in calories and sugar with no nutritional value. Drinking milk is a much better choice for its nutrition and source of protein. Heck, even a beer is better than having a soda, although no one will make that recommendation.
Because drinks don’t fill us up as much as solid foods do, it’s easy to rack up the calories. One can of pop has 150 calories, a sports drink is a bit lower, while that venti café latte has a whopping 250 calories. And it’s not like we’d be missing out on any nutrients if we cut down, or eliminated these drinks.
Water is a much better source, of well, water, than any other drink, and it’s calorie-free. If drinking water several times a day doesn’t light up your taste buds, try mixing in some lemon, or drinking carbonated water (that bit of carbonation enhances the refreshment), or tea (minus the sugar and other add-ons). While many of us have heard the adage of drinking eight cups of water per day, the amount of water one needs can vary in each person and even from day to day. If you exercise and sweat a lot, then you’ll need more water on those days. If you live in a dry climate, you’ll need more water. Usually we’re pretty good at knowing when we’re thirsty but a simple way is looking at the colour of your pee. If it’s bright yellow, you’re probably dehydrated. If it’s clear, you’ve got enough water in you.
These are just a few of many ways in which eating healthy can be simplified to save time, and in some cases, save money.
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