A Busy Person’s Guide to Eating Healthy: 20 Realistic Hacks

It’s not easy to eat healthy.

From work schedules to weekend warrior-ing, finding the time to shop, cook, and eat clean (let alone eat delicious food) can feel tough. We understand busy, which is why we want to share some of our favorite hacks for eating healthy on a crazy schedule. It’s possible! Last week, we shared a few tips on making a paleo diet more convenient. This week, we want to give tips that are a little bit more general – because just getting the right amount of nutrients every day will help you to boost energy, improve productivity, look better, feel better, and be the best possible version of yourself. Ahem, straight to the point: 

#1 Use your microwave.


It’s not as detrimental to your health as you think. While common belief has it that nuked food is toxic and/or stripped of its nutrition, there really is no evidence to show that microwaved food can harm your health. (Check out this interesting article from Paleo Leap, which debunks the myth.) In reality, your microwave will help you prep food faster, giving you more time and energy to do the things you love.

#2 Cook once, store, and eat many times.


Use your weekends. Cook larger portions of meals that you can store in the fridge (but not too large that you’ll waste food!) and eat them throughout the week, so that you have home-cooked, prepared meals already waiting for you. Saturdays and/or Sundays (or whatever day you have off) are a great time to cook in batches, thereby cutting down your post-work prep time (and avoiding that takeout) on busier days. It’s all in the timing.

#3 Set aside time.


Speaking of timing, it’ll help to set aside half-hour increments to eat three full meals a day. Make it intentional. Write it in your schedule. Re-positioning mealtime as a necessary, important activity rather than a grab-and-go kind of deal will help you avoid snacking on unhealthy “impulse” foods throughout the day. Planning out your mealtimes will also help you eat more mindfully, thereby helping you manage your cravings, weight, and health.

#4 Embrace food tech.


Don’t waste anymore time slogging to the supermarket. Get your groceries delivered to you. Yes, it’s a reality now, thanks to the upswing in food tech companies that understand the realities of a modern schedule. Online grocery services like FreshDirect allow you to shop online for fruits, veggies, snacks, and other ingredients, and deliver them right to your home. Of course, you might still have to cook. 

#5 Embrace better takeout alternatives.


Even better, why not order your food freshly made and already prepared? Along with online grocery stores, food tech has given rise to meal services (like us!) that cook high-quality, nutritious meals for you and send them fresh to your doorstep. At Freshly, we like to call ourselves your personal chef and nutritionist, since we take care of the recipe creation and cooking of high-protein, gourmet-quality meals for you. Just heat them and eat.

#6 Carry snacks.


Everyone needs to snack once in a while, and we’ve got nothing against snacking. It’s bad snacking we like to tiff with. Our hack: carry your own snacks with you wherever you go, whether it’s fruit, nuts in a ziplock bag or small jar, a hardboiled egg, or a healthy protein bar, so you don’t waste time hunting around for food you might later regret.

#7 Hi, crock pot.


Crock pots are your new best friend, especially if you work long days and spend most of your time at the office. We love that you can throw in your proteins and veggies into a crock pot in the morning and come back to a hot, fresh, and delicious meal come nighttime. 

#8 Prep breakfast


Try prepping your breakfast the night before (we like chia pudding, cold oats, yogurt with fruits, or avocado spread) so you can grab and go right when you get up. Another perfectly convenient breakfast? Smoothies. Nothing is easier to whip up than a smoothie, which you can drink at your desk.

#9 Hardboiled eggs are a good option.


Hardboiled eggs are probably one of the most convenient breakfast items, since they’re easy to make and store in the fridge – no warming up necessary. Boil a bunch of eggs on the stove-top in the evening, grab them in the morning, peel, and go. Protein, check.

#10 Keep canned beans in your pantry.

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Carefully chosen canned foods will be your best ally when putting together a last-minute meal. Beans are a good choice, since they’re high in protein and easy to heat up and serve over eggs, rice, and soups. Sometimes, heating up dried beans can take hours, whereas canned beans take just a few minutes. Be sure, however, to choose a low-sodium and organic option. 

#11 Keep nut butters in your fridge.


Like that can of beans, a jar of your favorite nut butter (personally, we like almond butter) will help you out when you’re feeling hungry and need to whip together a quick snack. Spread it on veggies or toast or whip it into a smoothie.

#12 Embrace frozen fruits and veggies.


It’s a complete myth that frozen fruits and veggies are somehow less nutritious than fresh. In fact, they might even contain more nutrients. Bags of frozen produce last long, so they’re both convenient and cost-effective when you don’t have time to keep ripe fruits on hand 24/7.

#13 Go pre-cut if you have to.


Bagged fruits and veggies aren’t our absolute first choice but when you’re really, really strapped for time, they can be a lifesaver for cutting down cooking prep. There is no consensus yet as to whether the packaged, precut veggies you get at the store are dangerous for your health, but it’s worth it to note that some nutrition experts still consider them a good choice. However, here’s another hack: pre-cut your own vegetables early enough in the week that you can store them in the fridge for snacking or cooking later on. Set aside half an hour on your Sunday to wash and slice a bunch of your favorite produce and store them in airtight containers.

#14 Take a multivitamin.


You’re busy. Which means you don’t have as much time to think about getting your essential nutrients in as you would if you were, well, not busy. Hello, multivitamin. While we would always recommend getting all of your nutrients from fresh whole foods, that’s just not realistic. Multivitamins, probiotics, a B-complex vitamin, and omega-3 supplements can all help to optimize your energy, productivity, immune system, and overall function. 

#15 Buy in bulk.


You’re busy. Which means, like us, you’re probably not going to have time to make multiple supermarket runs throughout the week. The healthiest foods to buy in bulk are your grains (like brown rice, millet, barely, and oats), which you can keep in airtight containers or jars. You can also buy canned tuna, frozen veggies, dried fruits, dried beans, and pasta (gluten-free, if you’re like us!) in bulk. Skip on buying olive oil, spices, and condiments, which all have a shorter shelf-life and, despite being healthy when fresh, could contribute to unseen health problems when sour.

#16 Invest in a blender.


Like the crock pot and the microwave, the blender is yet another invention of modern man that will make healthy eating 10x easier. We don’t say that about just any kitchen tool, btw. A powerful high-quality blender will allow you to whip up breakfast smoothies, nut butters, and healthy desserts like a pro. Other healthy goodies you can make in a blender? Non-dairy milks like cashew, almond, and hemp milk, almond or coconut flour, pureed fruits and veggies, and even homemade pizza dough.

#17 Dinner for breakfast.


Frustrated trying to think up yet another healthy recipe that isn’t a salad? We are big fans of dinner for breakfast. Omelettes give you an incredible opportunity to stuff veggies, lean meats, and cheese – along with the nutrients they bring along with them – in one meal that’s both quick to whip up and quick to eat. Plus, bacon.

#18 Know your protein.


Knowing the importance of  protein is your best weapon for staying healthy while busy. Protein, as you probably already know, helps you stay full throughout the day and maintain optimal physical and mental energy. When you eat lean meats, delicious eggs, or even whip up almond-filled protein bites, you won’t be craving small doses of unhealthy snacks and will be able to focus on the work ahead of you. 

#19 Stay hydrated.


Eight glasses a day might sound a lot, but ramping up your H20 will make a bigger difference than you’d ever think. Water keeps you full, strengthens your immune system, and helps you stay energized throughout the day. Water will also help nutrients circulate throughout your body properly, so all that eating healthy will have it’s most optimal effect.

#20 Manage your expectations.


Finally, if you’re both busy and trying to eat clean, remember to be easy on yourself. We believe food should always be fun, and if you’re getting stressed out trying to eat healthy, you’re not doing your body much good. If you’re following a guideline diet like paleo, Mediterranean, or even plant-based, we think it’s always important to remember that everyone has a different body, with different genes, and different dietary reactions. Not everyone can adhere to a strict set of rules all. the. time. So, having said that, manage your expectations so you don’t set yourself up for failure or stress.

In the words of one of our favorite Paleo advocates Chris Kresser, try following an 80/20 approach to clean eating: “80% of the time they should follow the guidelines very closely, and 20% of the time they’re free to loosen up and just eat what they want to eat. There’s a lot more to life than food, and in fact I believe (as did the ancient Chinese) that in some cases it’s better to eat the wrong food with the right attitude than the other way around.”