In a fast-paced world where every second counts, taking a break (no matter how well-deserved) seems more like a challenge than a necessity. Women have grown accustomed to juggling multiple responsibilities at a time (career-slash-motherhood-slash-family-slash-personal life-and everything in between!) that doing something simple and mundane – such as enjoying a quiet lunch away from our work desks – sounds straight out of a distant dream.
Can you even remember the last time you have sat down comfortably to enjoy a meal? Or has it been too long ago that you have already forgotten how incredibly satisfying it is to savor each bite of a tasty, well-balanced meal?
As they say, the busier we are, the less chance we will opt for healthy meals. Imagine running late for work after pulling an all-nighter, and you open your fridge to get something to eat. Would you choose a) a bunch of fresh fruits that you can throw in with some granola, chia seeds, and almond milk, or b) a convenient pack of artificially-flavored energy bar and, if time permits, a tall order of your favorite sugary coffee drink at the little café just beside your office? Most likely, you will choose whichever you can consume in the least amount of time because you are being practical, right? And also, carbs do not count when you are hungry and running late!
As a busy woman myself, I admit that I also find it hard to set aside some time to eat healthy food. But after a lot of trial-and-error and failed attempts, I have come up with an easy-to-follow healthy eating guide, which I am going to share below:
1. Plan your meals ahead
Healthy eating is not a spur-of-the-moment thing - it requires careful planning. If you decide to ‘wing it and eat whatever healthy food that you can get your hands on, you might end up eating more processed food and less healthy, fresh produce. The best way to go through this is to plan your meals. You can start by making a list of the food you want to eat for breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner the following day, and if you can stir the meal preparation the night before. This will save you a lot of time in the morning. It also leaves less room for excuses, as you have everything ready for when hunger pangs strike.
You might think, though: where will I get the time and energy to do meal planning every day? But you will be surprised to know that it does not take more than 15 minutes to plan a healthy meal! The key is consistency. Once you have incorporated this task into your daily habit, it gets easier and faster to do!
Another option is to plan meals for an entire week. It may seem daunting at first, but you will eventually get the hang of it, especially if you have already mastered the art of daily meal planning. You can start by keeping small food portions in glass containers or Ziplock bags. My favorite ones that I consume for the snack are dried fruit, nuts, grapes, berries, and sliced cheese. Labeling the container or bags with the day of the week when you are planning to eat the snack adds a little fun, too!
2. Make fruits and vegetables a priority – always!
Fruits and vegetables pack a lot of essential vitamins and minerals, so these should be a staple in your pantry. You can eat them in so many ways as well – raw, steamed, stir-fried, stewed, juiced, blended, in a salad – you can be as creative and adventurous as you want!
Fruits and vegetables also make great snacks because they are easy to eat. Instead of heading towards the vending machine for a late afternoon munch, you can eat an apple or banana rather. Both are sweet, filling, and nutritious and have fewer calories than chocolates or potato chips.
When you come home from work feeling sluggish, you can rely on frozen vegetables for a quick dinner. I highly recommend getting frozen bags of spinach and kale that you can microwave. This is a good option if you do not have any fresh produce and want to save time.
3. Choose lean meat and fish.
A hearty sandwich from a local deli or a big, greasy fast food cheeseburger is tempting when you forgot to bring (or were not able to prepare) your healthy lunch. However, there are ways that you can enjoy meat without guilt. Roasted chicken is a healthy alternative to processed, fatty meat.
You can also add slices of chicken breast to your salad instead of bacon or ham. Chicken breast, which contains lean protein, is a good source of amino acids. Amino acids are essential in building muscle tissue, while a higher protein intake helps the body maintain bone mineral density.
4. Hydrate and hydrate properly.
When feeling hungry, drinking a tall glass of water helps! Then you can decide afterward if you want to eat, or you want something (basically anything) to fill your stomach. The brain and body rely on water to function correctly, too. According to a study, if our hydration status is not sufficient, it may harm our mood and ability to concentrate.
It is a good idea to keep a flask or thermos near your desk to ensure that you have access to clean water all day. You can make infused water with slices of lemon, cucumber, mint leaves, and berries if you want something more refreshing than plain water.
A final word of advice
You do not have to instantly make drastic changes to your diet; it is alright to start with small, manageable steps. You can slowly incorporate healthy items in your meals before transitioning into the full healthy-meal-planning version of yourself. There are a lot of valuable and detailed guides available – you have to choose one that suits your lifestyle and personal preference.