Eating healthy when you are busy is super challenging. It is something I am constantly struggling with and working on.
Eating healthy plays an extremely important role in our health, including our mental well being. One thing I have noticed is that whenever I am very busy I (not surprisingly) end up eating out a lot, and end up eating a lot of junk! During these times, I find myself feeling terrible. I feel bloated, my mind is foggy, and I feel down about things. I just feel off!
Obviously, there are times when eating out is totally unavoidable. On days I get home at 8:30 at night, the LAST thing I do is start cooking dinner. But as much as I can, I really try to make home cooking a priority. Home cooking can be a fun way to destress, and it leaves me feeling accomplished! That meal right there? I made that!
Now, certain exercise programs or food bloggers advocate doing a giant meal prep on Sunday and then eating what you prepped throughout the week. I tried this and failed, so if you are in the same boat as me, it’s okay, you’re not the only one! I found it worked for me on Monday and Tuesday, but by Wednesday all my food was meh and I was sick of it. It was also completely overwhelming and didn’t want to spend my whole Sunday cooking.
About the only “meal prep” that I do is cooking a large pot of a grain — usually quinoa or farro — at the start of the week. I love the 10 minute farro from Trader Joes (they also make a Barley) because it cooks up nice and easy. I will also wash all my greens and put them in a plastic bag with a paper towel (to absorb residual moisture) to make sure they are easily available for when I need them. Then, the night before work, I will throw one of the grains and some greens to a pyrex, top it with some other salad ingredients, and voila – lunch! I’ll also bring some dressing to work in a small container. Sometimes instead of lunch I’ll just eat this for dinner!
Typically I also grocery shop at the beginning of the week. I then pick 2-3 nights during the week (Monday through Thursday) to cook. I try to make extras so that we can eat leftovers one or two of those days. On weekends, we try to cook at least one of the nights, ideally two — and then we got out the other night! This way, we have a nice balance between going out and cooking at home.
The key to cooking when busy is finding simple and nourishing recipes that can be prepared in under an hour, and bonus if they make leftovers.
One of the best resources for easy recipes are The NY Times cooking section. If you haven’t checked it out, you are missing out! They also have an app which is awesome — it’s full of videos and tutorials, and basically every recipe you could ever want. My favorite recipes are probably Melissa Clark’s recipes, but really they are all good. A few that are staples in our house are this one, this one, and this one.
My husband and I also love the Everyday Food cookbooks, specifically this one and this one. They are full of recipes that are not only simple to make, but delicious. I especially love Great Food Fast, because it breaks down the recipes by season, so you can cook seasonally. This was actually the first cookbook my mom ever bought me, and both my husband and I learned to cook using it.
If all else fails, I have a few go to recipes. My favorite is this one. Also, never underestimate the power of some olive oil, salt and pepper on roasted vegetables along with a veggie burger for ultimate last minute meals.
What about you? Any tips and tricks on healthy eating when you are busy?
Photo credit Brooke Lark