Eating well when you’re wiped out
We’ve all had those days when you collapse on the couch at 8 p.m., hungry and wiped out. Frozen meals are tempting and delivery is even easier, but that’s not going to help you regain the energy to do it all again tomorrow. Meghan Telpner, a certified nutritionist and holistic lifestyle consultant in Toronto, is an expert in eating healthy when life is a whirlwind. “There are four keys to eating well when busy,” Telpner says. “Intention, organization, preparation and eating healthy.” Here, she explains her seven tips for eating well when you’re short on time.
1. Intend to eat well
Eating healthily, whether you’re busy or not, has to start with a dedicated decision to do so. “You have to want to do it and the best reason is whatever reason will motivate you to take the steps to make the intention a reality,” says Telpner.
2. Get organized with grocery lists
Are you a grocery grabber? Do you hit the supermarket unprepared and start putting things in the cart willy-nilly? If so, say goodbye to eating well, especially if you’re busy. Make it a priority to take a few minutes and get organized. “Grocery lists are critically important,” says Telpner. “Figure out what you’ll be making for the week and write out every ingredient you will need. Cross out what you already have and take that list to the store. You’ll be in and out quick as can be, plus you’ll have avoided all those impulse buys which usually don’t work with your healthy eating plans.”
3. Plan your meals in advance
For some busy folks, planning a week’s worth of meals seems impossible. But preparation is a key factor in maintaining a healthy diet. “Figure out what your week will look like, where you will be eating, how many meals you will be having at home and make wise restaurant choices when eating out,” says Telpner.
Don’t be daunted if you’re not a natural planner. Telpner recommends starting with three meals a week and trying two new recipes. “This gets us to try new foods, dip into our creativity and gives us no option but to think about our food choices. One tip is to Google the key ingredients you want to eat, or the things you have in your fridge, end with the word recipe and see what it gives you.”
4. Even a quick breakfast is better than no breakfast
Breakfast is important, and the only way to eat it regularly is to make it a part of your morning routine. While Telpner strongly advocates sitting down for 10 minutes to eat properly, sometimes there just isn’t time. Here are her quick breakfast suggestions:
• Smoothies with protein, such as nut or seed butters, hemp or brown rice protein
• Muffins. Bake healthy muffins in advance and freeze them. Take one out the night before and it will be ready to eat in the morning
• Steamed veggies and boiled eggs
• Salad. It makes a great summer breakfast with toasted nuts and seeds, beans or sliced eggs
• Granola, homemade if possible, with chopped apple, walnuts and pumpkin seeds
5. Avoid breakfast bars and shakes
If you’re trying to start your day with a healthy meal, don’t reach for the many bars and shakes on the market. “Fat and calories have nothing to do with a great breakfast,” says Telpner. “If you have a bar or drink that has high levels of sugar—whether it be honey, maple syrup or cane sugar—it will spike blood sugar and leave you craving carbs and sweets all day.”
6. Eat in moderation when you socialize
Scenario: After-work drinks and hors d’oeuvres including mini-crab cakes and a cheese plate. How do you keep on track? Telpner says to eat something healthy before you go, so you don’t arrive starving. Also, get a plate and fill it once with what you’ll be eating. Avoid grazing on every tray that comes out. “Never be shy about asking what something is. Load up on veggies and just take a few of the more decadent hors d’oeuvres. Avoid the ones that are loaded with cheese,” she says.
7. Late dinner? Go for soups or breakfast foods
You haven’t eaten dinner and you get home at 10 p.m. Eating late is a common situation for busy people, and sometimes it can’t be avoided. So what should you do? Be prepared and keep a snack on you, like mixed nuts, fruit or homemade granola so when you do get home, you’re not starving. “Keep it light and simple,” says Telpner. “Soups make the best late-night meal. Other things for late dinners are the same that make for great breakfasts like whole grain porridge or scrambled eggs.”