Putting meals together can seem like a burden that requires time that no one seems to have. With work, the gym, and life in general, time can feel super limited, and it’s so easy for us to brush our nutrition off to the side as we deal with everything else going on. Choosing to stop for that take-out meal on the way home from work is much easier when we’re exhausted from our day and dread the thought of spending what seems like forever in the kitchen to make dinner. It happens one night, and then the next, and before you know it you’re on a first name basis with the staff.
But it doesn’t have to be that way! Preparing and eating nutritious meals can happen, even with a super crazy schedule, if you have the patience and determination to do it! Here are some steps that can help you make healthy eating part of your routine so that it becomes more of a habit and less of a hassle!
- Set aside time each week to create a shopping list and go shop! Write down some ideas as to what types of meals you want, and then determine how much food you’ll need to hold you over until the next grocery trip. Sometimes just getting to the store can be a challenge, so try to find a time that works for your schedule each week and make it a habit to go on that day.
- Utilize the freezer! I cannot emphasize this enough. The freezer is a phenomenal place to store vegetables, fruit, and proteins like fish and chicken. It will last longer than it does in the fridge, and if you can’t make it to the grocery store for some reason, you have some backup meals! Frozen veggies can be steamed quickly and eaten right away, but proteins often require a little more defrosting time, so be sure to plan ahead if you can regarding thawing the proteins!
Get a slow cooker or Insta Pot. Set it and forget it. Slow cookers are my favorite during the winter months because I can throw a packet of chicken breasts in it, leave for the day, and come back 8 hours later with my protein already prepared! Insta Pots are another great option because they speed up the cooking time, so instead of roasting chicken for an hour, it can have it done for you in about 20 minutes, and you don’t have to do anything other than press start!
- Think carb, veggie, and protein. All of my meals start with this general format. Carbs give me the energy I need to focus in class or to push through a tough workout. Whole grains are chock full of vitamins and minerals that are essential to keep my body running the way it needs to. Potatoes and other starchy vegetables should count toward your carb, so when I have sweet potato as a side, I also will have another veggie on my plate! Veggies help add volume to a meal, meaning that fill you up so that you don’t overdo it on the carbs and protein. Also, all the different colored vegetables have different nutrient benefits, which is why we encourage you to eat the rainbow! Finally, protein is what helps build your muscles back up after workouts, as well as what keeps you full until your next meal. If you’re thinking to yourself, “she didn’t talk about fats, they must be bad!” NO! Fats are great! I tend to cook with olive oil, so I don’t really need to add more fat on the side. If you’re someone who can eat boiled chicken and raw broccoli, then you’ll want to add some fat to your plate.
- Make more than you need right now! Cooking can be tedious and time consuming, so set aside a day during the week when you can spare a few hours, and prep all the food at once so all you’ll have to do during the week is reheat and serve. I like to prep different foods in different ways, and recombine them to make meals that feel new, but with all the same ingredients! I might do sautéed chicken with broccoli one night, but the next day serve the leftover chicken in a salad or on a sandwich for lunch. Rather than having to make two entirely new meals, you can repurpose your leftovers and create a new meal! Invest in some quality Tupperware to store your leftovers in so that you can easily take tonight’s leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch!
- (BONUS) Get the Take-Out when you need to. Wait, Michaela. Didn’t you just spend this entire post telling me about things I can do so I don’t have to rely on take-out? I sure did. But this isn’t always realistic for every meal, every day. Some weeks your schedule might change, and you might not have time to meal prep. Sometimes you might reeeaallllyyy want pizza. So you should go get that pizza! The goal is to make healthy eating as convenient as take-out, not to ban take-out from our lives! When a friend invites you to grab take-out and hang out, you should do it! We should just aim to eat as many home-cooked meals as our schedule allows, but when you want or want or need that take-out, go get it!
You Got This!