Healthy in a Hurry: Tips and Tricks for Eating Well When Life is Busy
I hate packing lunches…how about you?
It’s true! My son isn’t even school aged yet but the routine of packing lunches for preschool seems like a chore at the end of a full and busy day. More often than not, his lunches are a random assortment of healthy food from the fridge as opposed to thoughtful and creative treats. However, it makes me really happy to know that he is going off to preschool with the right kind of fuel to keep him healthy, happy and strong. I try not to be too hard on myself when his lunchbox doesn’t look like a piece of art.
September brings with it a ‘back-to-it-iveness’ that either means the necessity to pack school lunches or perhaps, simply the resolve to start bringing our own lunches again instead of eating take out all of the time. The pace of life gets a little quicker this month and, thankfully, there is a sense of new beginnings that can be very motivating for creating change in our lives for the better.
Packing lunches is a commitment I make to a build a healthier family..but it doesn’t mean I have to love it! So this post is a bit of an antidote to all the very inspiring (but not always realistic) back-to-school lunch posts that are all over the web right now. And for those of you without munchkins to pack for, I want to ensure that you have some tips to help keep you in tip top shape this fall too.
I even have a few tricks up my sleeve to make packing lunches less of a pain..so read on and be sure to share your favourite tips for eating well on the go on my social media with the hashtag #healthyinahurry!
- Get serious about leftovers. The cornerstone of my lunch strategy is that we are a leftovers-for-lunch house. That way, you can create an assembly line of plates for dinner and storage containers for tomorrow’s lunch. In an instant, a third of the lunch is already accounted for! If prepping veggies for a dish, prep extra and store them in the fridge for easy snacking and adding to recipes.
Get serious about batch cooking. For everything. Even if, maybe especially if, you are cooking for one. When you are worried about fresh food going bad, cook up big batches of chili, soups or casseroles on the weekend that you can then use all week for lunch. Cook up big batches of beans once a month and then freeze them in individual servings in ziploc bags so they are ready for dinner for one. Roast up enough chick peas or freeze enough grapes for healthy snacks all week long. Hard boil eggs for protein rich snacks or tossing in salads. Buy fruit on sale, chop and freeze what you won’t eat in a few days to use for smoothies later on. That way, when life really does get crazy, you can pull out the chili from the freezer and have a home cooked meal even when there is no time for home cooking.
3. Be efficient. If I can, I pack the rest of the lunch while dinner is simmering away. Don’t just stand there scanning the paper or Facebook while dinner cooks! Get lunches packed and clean up the kitchen. There is nothing better than getting little ones fed and off to bed and having no more food prep left for the day.
- Don’t overlook pre-prepped food. Triple washed baby kale is your best friend when you want to eat well. A big salad can be yours in minutes if you are stocked with baby greens, canned beans or fish and a bunch of pre-chopped veg in the fridge.
Keep the following in your fridge or pantry at all times: whole grain pasta, organic pasta sauce, 3-4 cans of beans, low sodium vegetable stock, quinoa, frozen peas, eggs, baby greens, whole grain wraps, hummus, cucumbers, apples, pears, frozen berries, bananas, unsweetened vegetarian milk, organic tofu, carrots, feta cheese. A surprising number of 5 minute meals, from tofu scramble to smoothies to soups, can be made with this arsenal and most of it lasts for a long time in your fridge so no spoilage.
Plan ahead. I might sound like a broken record but doing a meal plan and weekly grocery shop will save you so much time and mental energy. It’s one hour out of your week so that you don’t have to think about what to eat for the rest of your week.
2+2 for a healthier you. In your lunch, ensure that there are 2 veggies and 2 fruit to help you get all the nutrition you need during the day. Fruit is an effortless lunch packer – you just need to make sure you buy enough (see number 6) and veggies can be stuffed into wraps, sandwiches or salads. When pressed, I have been known to take whole carrots or celery with me to work and I eat whole, with hummus. Whatever works when you are in a rush!
Stock your snack arsenal. Once a month, make sure your desk drawer is stacked for upcoming snack attacks. Buy plenty of non-perishables like raw trail mix, raw energy bars, tea and instant protein shakes so that when you get peckish you can resist the pull of the donuts in the kitchen.
Don’t underestimate the family smoothie. How else can you get multiple servings of fruits and veggies into your family, with just one container to wash in under 3 minutes? It’s a smoothie! Don’t forget about protein: add Greek yogurt, silken organic tofu or whole food protein powder to keep you all energized. You can even drink it on the way to school or work (just leave the blender to soak) if need be.
Eat out wisely. Know your healthiest options near your office and make choices that are largely fruit and veggie based. Take note of what you like to eat there and add those items to next week’s grocery list so you are prepped to pack!