It’s often difficult to eat healthy foods when you’re on the go and busy. Work, family obligations and keeping up with the pace of life often takes precedence over meal prep and smart grocery shopping.
Before you settle on takeout for lunch again or calling out for pizza delivery after a busy day, consider our eight tips for eating healthy on the go.
1. Keep Healthy Snacks in Stock
When you’ve got a hectic schedule, the best thing you can do for your diet is stock up on healthy snacks and “grab-and-go” foods. Be sure to select both sweet and savory items to have on hand. Keep them at arm’s reach. Baggies and small containers are helpful for single servings. We’ve got a list of some excellent snacks to keep in stock at your home, in the glove box of your car and in your desk or locker at work.
- Nuts: Almonds, pistachios, walnuts, and cashews are great to have on hand for a healthy, crunchy snack. Very little carbohydrates and a whole lot of nutrients make nuts a good choice for dieters.
- Seeds: Pumpkin and sunflower seeds are loaded with nutrients and very satisfying. Similar to nuts, seeds are low-carbohydrate foods.
- Popped corn: Prepare a large batch of popped corn in the air popper or on the stove. Cool it and portion it out into snack bags to keep anywhere that you’re likely to munch. You can also buy it pre-popped, and divide it into single servings.
- Trail mix: Small cereal, organic dried fruit, pretzels, seeds, nuts, granola, cacao nibs, coconut flakes — all of these ingredients work well in a trail mix. Mix up a large bowl of your favorite bite-sized snacks and package it in small containers or snack bags for hearty snacking.
- Whole fruit: Keep organic apples, bananas and other seasonal fruit around for when you’ve got a sweet tooth. Whole fruits are generally excellent sources of dietary fiber, vitamins, and electrolytes.
- Vegetables: Carrot sticks, cucumber slices and bell peppers are particularly healthy and perfect for snacking on the go. Cherry or grape tomatoes are also nice to have around.
- Boiled eggs: Look no further than the humble, boiled egg for a nutritious and satisfying snack. Boiled eggs can be kept in the refrigerator or at room temperature for an hour or so. So, they’re easy to take along on a hike or stick in your bag before a long, work conference.
- Jerky: Turkey, beef, chicken or vegan jerky — yes, vegan jerky is a thing — are all fantastic snacks to have on hand when you’re feeling meaty.
- Tomato juice: Tempted to snack on some salty potato chips? Try drinking a can of tomato juice instead. It’ll likely hit the spot when you’re in the mood for a savory snack.
2. Plan Your Meals
You’re busy. You hit the grocery store after work to buy things that you think you probably need — along with a frozen pizza because you want something quick for dinner tonight. Tomorrow comes. You’ve got food for breakfast, but you pass on eggs and pick up a bagel on the way as you rush to the office. After work, stir-fry sounds good. You’ll have to swing by the market again to pick up some garlic and bell peppers.
If the above description sounds all too familiar, meal planning will turn your world around. In fact, weekly meal planning will save you money, time and calories.
Meal planning is easy. The night before you plan to do your weekly grocery shopping, get a notepad and stand in front of your refrigerator. Note the perishable items that need to be used up. Also, take stock of any product you have at room temperature and add that to the list. Then, head over to the pantry and look at your dry goods that could pair with the noted items to create meals. You’ll likely have all the ingredients to make two or three good dinners. Then, come up with a few other dishes that you’d like to make this week. List the necessary meal ingredients on your grocery list. Do the same thing for lunches, breakfasts, and snacks.
You’ll plan, then shop once a week. Meal planning is one of the best ways to save time, money and stick to your healthy diet. Try it, and you’ll be hooked.
3. Prep Breakfast the Night Before
After you’ve decided which healthy breakfasts you’ll be eating through the week, take a few minutes before bed to prep your breakfast for the next morning. You might decide to make overnight oatmeal in the refrigerator, boil a few eggs to enjoy with toast or put all your smoothie ingredients in one bag, ready to toss into the blender. Prepping your breakfast the night before can make your mornings so much easier. You’ll also be much less likely to indulge in that box of donuts in the break room at your office.
4. Make and Freeze Dinners
Freezer meals are a wonderful way to make healthy dishes that you can heat up quickly on busy weeknight evenings. Soups, curries, enchiladas and casseroles are very easy to make ahead and freeze. One great way to start with freezer meals is to make double batches of your dinners for a few weeks. Then, freeze the extra batches in large zipper-seal bags or Mason jars. Label the containers with contents and cooking instructions, and you’ve got next week’s dinners ready to go.
Another option is to spend a few hours on your day off cooking and prepping freezer meals for the next few weeks. Either way, you’ll save yourself time and eliminate convenience foods from your weekly menu. Type “freezer meals” into your search engine to find loads of fantastic ideas and recipes to make ahead and freeze.
5. Wash, Cut and Peel Fruits and Vegetables
The best snacks you can eat are the ones nature provides. However, it’s often inconvenient to spend a minute or two peeling orange or cutting grapefruit segments when you’re in a hurry.
One way to replace certain unhealthy snacks with fresh produce is to wash, peel and chop it right when you get home from the market. Then, portion it out into snack-sized bags or small containers. Peel several oranges and put them in an airtight container. Cut carrot sticks and pepper spears. Slice cucumbers and spiralize some zucchini. Then, when you need an on-the-go snack, you can grab a bag full of produce rather than a handful of chips.
6. Order Your Groceries Online
Many large grocery chains now offer an option where you can shop and pay online, then pick up your groceries curbside. Often, this service is completely free.
Take advantage of this service and select your groceries during your lunch break or while you’re in a waiting room. Then, swing by the market and pop the trunk. Employees will load them into your car. You’ll never even have to leave the driver’s seat.
7. Pack a Super-healthy Lunch
Whether you’re headed off to work for eight hours, or you plan to make a day of hiking or shopping, pack a variety of healthy foods to take along. Never put yourself in a position where you’re relying on a vending machine or takeout.
One simple and quick lunch to pack is a leftover serving of whatever healthy meal you had for dinner the night before. While you’re cleaning up the kitchen, fill a reusable container with a portion of that nutritious dinner and add some cut vegetables and fruit.
Another healthy packed lunch is a Mason jar salad. Start with a clean, 1-quart Mason jar. First, put about a quarter cup of your favorite salad dressing in the bottom. Add to that a layer of hearty vegetables like shredded carrots, grape tomatoes, chopped cauliflower or sliced onions. Next, you’ll add a layer of beans. Top the beans with whole grains like cooked quinoa or pasta. After that, add in diced chicken, tofu or crumbled cheese. Finally, fill the rest of the jar with chopped salad greens. Put the lid on, and you’ve got a salad — complete with dressing, that won’t be wilted when you’re ready to eat it at lunchtime.
Mason jar salads can be made up to five days ahead. So, on Sunday night you can make one to put in your lunch for every day of the week.
8. Eat Out Wisely
When you find yourself out and about with nothing packed to eat, you’ve got no choice but to eat out. Fortunately, these days, plenty of restaurants cater to health-conscious individuals.
For a business lunch or dinner out, order creatively. Nutrition and wellness lifestyle coach Lora Ulrich in Fort Myers, Florida, says, “You can add vegetables to just about anything if you just ask. I always ask for extra veggies instead of the rice or potato that may come with the meal.” Stick to water or iced tea to drink.
If there are no options but fast food, try ordering a grilled chicken sandwich “protein style.” Instead of the cheap, white bread hamburger bun, they’ll use lettuce leaves to hold the meat inside. Also, at most restaurants — even fast-food restaurants — you can normally find some sort of salad.
When eating out is your only option, do your very best to pick the healthiest thing on the menu. While everyone else is enjoying their french fries, remind yourself of how much healthier, leaner and stronger your body is becoming as you fuel it with the best foods available.
Eating well is not just for people who have extra time on their hands. Even with a crazy schedule and while you’re on the go, you can make healthy dietary choices. Follow our tips to keep your diet clean while you keep up with the hectic pace of life.
Ulrich, Lora. (2015). Tips to eating out healthy. Retrieved from: http://www.thenewyoulifestyle. com/tips-eating-out-healthy/