One of the biggest reasons people give for having suboptimal eating habits is a busy schedule. Individuals believe their hectic lifestyles limit their eating patterns in various ways, including not having enough time to prepare meals, not having the energy to go grocery shopping, and not having the time it takes to consume a meal or snack. As a result, they might order takeout or stop at a fast food drive-through each day, or decide to skip meals entirely. And while takeout options are certainly okay to include in moderation as part of a balanced diet, consuming them for every meal can eventually have health consequences. Similarly, consistently skipping meals due to perceived lack of time can negatively affect a person’s physical and mental health.
Although consciously prioritizing healthy eating patterns is difficult with a chaotic schedule and on-the-go lifestyle, it is not impossible! Moreover, it is very important that we take the time to not only eat throughout each day, but to eat nourishing and satisfying foods, despite what our calendars look like. Here are some easy steps to help you plan your meals and keep yourself fueled and healthy during a busy week of school, work, and other responsibilities:
1. Assess what the week ahead looks like. Which days will you be busiest? Those are the days that you will make an effort to pack prepared meals and snacks with you.
2. Make a menu for the week. Make sure it includes meals that are not only quick and easy to prepare, but ones that you will enjoy!
3. Grocery shop. Grocery shopping once per week will ensure that you always have nourishing snacks on hand to take along with you.
4. Cook for the week. Setting aside a specific day every week to cook food in bulk ensures that you will have leftovers to bring to work and school all week long. It can also make the other days a bit less stressful, since you won’t have to worry about cooking. Pack your leftovers into containers, store them in your fridge, and take them along with you to provide fuel during a busy day.
Following these tips can help you to create a more consistent eating pattern, with balanced and varied meals and snacks. With a bit of planning ahead, you can develop eating habits that allow you to feel energized, focused, and ready to take on a busy week.
Written by Simone Gmuca, nutrition volunteer at Restore Family Therapy.