We’ve gone over the nutrition basics, what eating healthy includes, and some rules to go by. The next step is to learn how to take to make healthy eating a reality. More often that not I hear people say “I don’t have time to be healthy.” Time is a huge barrier in our society to being healthy—fast food, convenience, drive-thru are often the words that describe our meals. Eating healthy can be just as feasible, it just takes more planning. Here are some steps to take in order to make the healthy choice the easy choice:
Plan Your Meals
You know the feeling, you are driving home, stuck in traffic, you woke up late and worked an extra hour—the last thing you want to do is to make dinner. This scenario often results in stopping by Popeye’s or throwing whatever you have at home together at the last minute. Planning your meals will allow you to have your refrigerator stocked, and ideally your food already prepared. What I do is cook for the week on Sunday night; that way I have dinner ready to heat up when I get home from work on Monday. Another thing I like to do is use my slow cooker, this way my dinner was cooking all day and is finished when I walk in the door!
Make a List and Stick to It
After you have planned your meals make a list of items you will need. The time it takes to make a grocery list will save you money and calories. Making a list will prevent you from purchasing impulse items at the grocery store, which are most often high-calorie snack foods. It will also help you stick to a budget, if you know what you are going in for you won’t just buy things because they are on sale but because you know you will use them. Writing down what you plan to buy will also help you take a second glance at the foods in your diet. Use the list Ann gave you last week as a start!
Have Backup Plans
I am a realist, I understand that there will be weeks and days when cooking just isn’t feasible. In this case have your backups. When I use the slow cooker, since it is just my husband and I we usually freeze half of it. That way for weeks when I don’t have time to cook we have a meal ready to defrost. It might also work for you to keep a few Lean Cuisines or Smart Ones in the freezer. No, these aren’t home cooked meals, but they are portion controlled for a last minute option. Lastly, my go to on really busy nights is peanut butter and jelly on whole wheat bread—a little protein, fiber and you are good to go.
The key to taking steps towards healthy eating is thinking ahead, planning, making lists, and having alternatives in place when life seems to get too busy. I challenge you to plan your meals for the next week, see how it goes, let me know what challenges you face and if it seemed easy or difficult.
Come back next week for tips on healthy grab-and-go breakfasts!
Lauren Futrell Dunaway, MPH, RD, graduated from the University of Georgia with a degree in Dietetics. She then completed her dietetic internship at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. After becoming a Registered Dietitian, she began to pursue a Master of Public Health in Maternal and Child Health and Nutrition at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. Lauren currently works at the Tulane Prevention Research Center as a program manager for their core research project focusing on the built environment and how it affects obesity. Contact Lauren at email@example.com