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Five Tips for Eating Healthy when you're short on time

Updated: May 2, 2022



The most common reason I hear for not eating healthily or exercising / moving more is, “I don’t have time.”



I get it, you’re busy, life can be really demanding. So are your fit and healthy colleagues, neighbours, relatives and friends. We all have priorities, and that's absolutely fine. It is all about priorities, and planning, and making it easier for yourself. It also all depends on how much you really want to eat more healthily and if now is the right time to make some changes? Ask yourself, on a scale of 1 to 10, how important is it for you to start on your journey to a healthy weight right now?



There’s nothing more special or unique about these other people in your life that magically grants them time to exercise and cook a healthy dinner. Everyone has different situations and different demands, that's very true, however they likely make healthy eating (and the preparation needed for this), plus moving (more) a priority because they know how awesome life is when you feel good, when you're in control and feel like you're putting your health first. This can actually have a huge impact on your self-efficacy and motivation, but that's another article for another day!


While lack of time is a convenient (and very common) excuse for living an unhealthy lifestyle, you must know in your heart of hearts that you deserve better. Right? I thought so!



Oh, and like the title of this article suggests, you can eat healthy even when you don’t have much time. Here are 5 tips to eating smart even when you’re constantly on the go.





Tip #1: Be Prepared.


Yes, I was a cub-scout, and then a scout, so I was bought up with this motto! When you’re crazy-busy, the best way to guarantee adherence to your healthier way of eating is preparation, and this is the key thing that's made a huge difference in my eating habits to. It takes the same amount of time to unwrap a banana and a hard-boiled egg as it does to unwrap a sugar-laden breakfast treat from the vending machine, or stand in the queue at the cafe/coffee shop.


Of course, the vending machine option seems easier because it’s always there. This means that your job is to make sure that the banana and hardboiled egg are always there to (insert other option that is more appealing to you). You and I both know that you’re already spending time shopping for and purchasing food. So why not use that time more constructively and purchase healthier food?


Schedule time on the weekend to do your grocery shopping for the whole week, make a list, and stick to it. You could even spend 30 minutes looking up some inspiring snack and meal ideas, and then write them down, and/or the ingredients needed to make them. If you don’t like cooking, buy a rotisserie chicken, remove the skin (unless you really like this bit, then keep it by all means) and turn it into five different meals for the week. Ta-da, Done!


The other option, which is something I've done myself and periodically do for inspiration, is a meal delivery box service. So many of them have great discounted offers and it takes a lot of the planning out of mealtimes and shopping, and it can also be a great way to learn to cook, or cook a wider variety of foods if that's something you feel you need. I certainly did! I won't mention the one I sometimes use here, but I'm happy to tell you about my experiences if you're interested. Just drop me an email to suzanna@motivatedhealth.co.uk.




Tip #2: Create Go-To Meals.


Most people habitually eat the same five meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I used to be one of them, and to be honest, when it comes to breakfasts and lunches I still am!


I start every morning with a lovely cup of tea, and I enjoy it with one of my five regular breakfasts:

1) peanut butter on sourdough toast,

2) porridge (jumbo oats are my favourite) with flaxseed, chia and chopped dates,

3) my own banana and oat jumble (basically mashed banana, jumbo oats, milk, maybe some peanut butter, seeds and whatever else I fancy throwing in),

4) mixed berries/fruit with natural full-fat yoghurt, homemade kefir (so easy to make) and flaxseeds,

5) Weetabix (rarely as it doesn't last me through the morning),

or otherwise just the cup of tea if I'm not hungry in the morning (although this is very unusual for me, but not unheard of).


All of the above are super simple and quick to make (maximum five minutes), and I always have the ingredients available and go with what I'm feeling like eating most that day.


What are your healthy go-to meals? Create your own that can be made easily and eaten even when you’re brain dead. When you have these go-to healthy meals in your back pocket, it’s almost like you’re putting your healthy weight journey on autopilot. Spending two hours (or less) on Sunday to plan your meals for the week will save you time, money, brain-power in the week (especially when you're tired and prone to poor decision making), and help you eat more healthily.





Tip #3: Make It Mobile.


During the week, resist the temptation to go to restaurants/cafes, vending machines or conference room spreads by packing your healthy lunch. When you prepare your own food, you are 100% in charge of the ingredients.


There are many fashionable and functional soft coolers (portable/personal cool bags) available these days. I have one that looks so much like a small backpack that I may have inadvertently snuck a healthy lunch into a venue that prohibited outside food, (yet only served a predominantly beige buffet). If there’s a will, there’s a way!


If your job keeps you on the road all day, maybe invest in a cooler or hot pot that plugs into your car. Need something even simpler? There’s always the good old Thermos. You’ll be grateful come 3:00 pm when you’ve passed up on the disappointing, salty petrol station sandwich for your own homemade soup or hearty salad (must be hearty, not just leaves in my experience). There’s nothing worse than an afternoon slump that could have been avoided!




Tip #4: Know Thy Restaurants.


Even with your best intentions and pre-planning, an unscheduled dining out experience could crash your healthy living party.


Thankfully these days, most restaurants have healthy choices on their menus. If they don’t have something that fits your new, healthier eating vision, don’t be shy : ask them to prepare something else for you, because many of them will if you ask. You’re the boss!


Need help?

The British Nutrition Foundation have a really useful page that lists various types of cuisines and the 'healthier' options you could select vs the least healthy. The page can be found here.

I also like a great little book called 'The Right Bite' by Jackie Lynch, which can help when in more challenging situations where healthy options may be limited and you're not sure what to choose, but you are hungry. I get no kick-back from mentioning this book, it's just one that I own myself, and at the time of writing this it is just £1.56 on Amazon (UK), however there's likely many more options out there, so have a look at what you find easiest to use and read depending on where you live.




Tip #5: Don’t Give Up.


The first week of planning will take longer, but once you get into a rhythm, you’ll save time and money. If you find yourself in a situation where you truly can’t eat that healthily, watch your portion sizes. And remember: perfection isn't required for healthy living, just hop back on the horse at your next meal. Don't beat yourself up if things don't quite go to plan, put it to the side and move on.





Bottom Line: If you choose to eat healthy, you can do it with simple preparation. I never leave the house without some sort of healthy snack because when I get properly hungry, I have to eat. Otherwise I do get 'hangry'! I have to say, by planning a bit and making sure my meals are filling and nutritious, I'm much less likely to end up in this situation now, but it does happen from time to time, and I'm prepared for it, mostly!


Progress not perfection!




Please note: This article is intended to be for educational purposes only, and does not constitute medical advice or replace professional assessment or personalised advice.


I do not hold responsibility for the information on any links to external websites within this article and information within these links/websites may change at any time or no longer be accessible. Any website pages/links added are also for education purposes only.



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