My best intentions to eat a healthy, balanced diet sometimes get sidetracked when I get too busy or stressed. In an ideal world, I’d always have time to plan and create great meals (and be relaxed about it). I’d have healthy ingredients on hand, and the lettuce would never spoil in my refrigerator. The thing is, real life is not always so accommodating and—big surprise, I know—I’m not always so organized or relaxed. Maybe you can relate? I’m guessing that most of us could use some easy healthy eating tips for busy and stressful days.
Here are a few tips for healthy eating when you are busy that work well for me. A few have also been game-changers for some busy women I know and work with.
1. Create “no-brainer” strategies. When I’m stressed or busy, I do best when I don’t have to think about every little detail. If I know in advance the times of day or meals that are likely to be a problem, I can have a few back up plans for healthy eating that may not be my favorite foods, but are quick, easy, and do the job in a pinch. Many of my busy coaching clients create “no-brainer breakfasts” by deciding in advance one or two things they can always have in the house or have with them when they travel. These may be as simple and easy as a protein bar or shake or fresh fruit with Greek yogurt. I also like having the makings of a few “no-brainer lunches” around. My fall backs include nonfat Greek yogurt with dried fruit and nuts, almond butter on toast with fruit, and individually prepared salads I can buy at Trader Joe’s. You’ll need to figure out what works for you. I recommend creating your plan in advance and making sure the food you need is easy, simple, and accessible.
2. Create automatic-pilot rituals for eating fruits and vegetables. Rituals are like habits on steroids. They are so automatic that you might not even realize that you do them. Rituals are activities that we simply assume will happen because they are so naturally a part of your life. If you want to eat more fruits and vegetables (a perpetual goal of mine), you might try ritualizing the way they fit into your routine. We have a ritual in our house of putting out fresh veggies and hummus while dinner is cooking and the table is being set. Plates of carrots, pea pods, and red pepper have been consumed on autopilot as we scamper around the kitchen getting ready. My mom raised me with a belief that breakfast includes juice and lunch includes a piece of fruit. Always. I don’t drink juice anymore, but the fruit thing has stuck with me. Maybe you’ll decide that dinner always includes a salad or that you buy seven pieces of fruit each week for your midafternoon snack. You can make it a ritual to always buy a banana when you go to Starbucks. The key is to decide on a pattern—in advance so you don’t have to recreate the wheel each day deciding “how can I eat more produce?”
3. Figure out your water plan. Stop telling yourself you need to drink more water and simply decide how you are going to do it. Remember—easy and automatic. Try connecting your water drinking to another habit. Drink a glass of water when you brush your teeth or every time you get up and pass the water cooler at the office. Decide what your water goal is each day and create an easy way to know that you’ve achieved it. I have a big glass that holds 32 ounces of water. I know I need to drink at least two of these every day. I always keep it full and it’s on my desk or somewhere nearby. It’s a simple strategy that causes no stress, and just about always works.
4. Learn these portion-sizing cheats. The sad truth is that portions are out of control and what we are told is a serving is frequently way out of whack with healthy eating. This makes eating healthy when you go out to eat an especially difficult challenge. Don’t let other people (or huge plates) determine what a portion size is for you. One easy tip that I love is learning simple ways to remember healthy portion sizes. Now that I’ve heard it, I’ll never forget that a serving of meat is the size of a deck of cards. This easy portion size guide gives you some other easy ways to visualize portion sizes whether you are traveling, eating at your favorite restaurant, or dishing up your plate at home.
Do you have quick tips for healthy eating that help you? I’d love it if you’d leave a comment and share the wealth!