In a world that never stops moving, life can get pretty busy, overwhelming even. And even when nutrition is a priority, it can often fall down your list of priorities and become forgotten. Because your job is more important. Or your kids are more important. And of course these things need to be taken care of. So when you only have a minimum amount of time to think about nutrition, using nutrition hacks can save the day.
I live a busy life: between working on my master’s and curating my blog into a business, sometimes it seems like I don’t have any free time. BUT over time I’ve developed a few tricks to keep up with my nutrition even when it seems like there’s barely time to breathe. Here are my top nutrition hacks for the busy woman.
• Sneak in nutrients
• Plan to go shopping once a week
• Pre-make meals
• Make snack packs to take with
• Know when to compromise
Sneak in nutrients
This is a fairly simple strategy, and one of my favorites. In short, it’s a game of replacements. Replacing one less nutritious food with one more nutritious food takes practically no effort, apart from remembering to actually do it.
There are two ways to look at this strategy: one is to look at it as adding a more nutrient dense food, the other is to look at it as removing a more harmful food.
In the first strategy, for example, you could replace your morning breakfast toast with fresh fruit. And to be honest fresh fruit might take even less time to prepare, as it’s generally ready to eat. Fruit is more nutrient dense than toast because calorie for calorie, it contains more nutrients.
In the second strategy, for example, you could replace your standard, sugary peanut butter with natural peanut butter (i.e. the only ingredient is ground peanuts and maybe salt). In this way, you’re eliminating not only unnecessary sugar, but also harmful preservatives. This takes literally zero extra time, and can make a huge improvement on your health.
As time goes on, you can replace more and more foods, making a seamless and time-efficient transition into a healthier diet.
Plan to go shopping once a week
The biggest mistake busy people make is not planning meals ahead of time. It can seem so much easier or faster to just stop by the store everyday on the way home to pick up what you need for dinner, but I can guarantee that this is actually wasting your time.
Not only are you spending extra time in the store, but you’re also leaving yourself no room to pre-make meals, which can be huge time-savers. You’re also leaving dinner up to a whim, which often means you’re not making the healthiest choice you could be making.
What I have found is the most efficient way to deal with shopping and meal planning is to sit down once a week and write out all my meals for the week, then just do one big shopping trip. Now there are a few tricks to making this planning process efficient and effective, and you can read about my process in my post “Top 5 Meal Planning Tips to Help You Stay On Track.”
As I mentioned above, pre-making meals can be a huge time-saver. To cite the classic example, making up lasagna and then sticking it in the fridge in the morning so you only have to throw it in the oven when you get home. Another example would be something like pre-forming/seasoning some burger patties on the weekend so that you just have to throw them on the grill when it’s time to make dinner.
Another way to look at this is to plan leftovers for dinner. I like to make a big pot of chili on the weekend and then eat the leftovers for lunch or dinner throughout the week.
Make snack packs to take with you
Snacks are often the undoing of our nutrition plan. Say you get hungry at work. It’s still 2 more hours til you get off, so you walk down to the vending machine and grab whatever looks good. You know it’s not the healthiest, but you gotta eat right??
The best way to avoid this trap is to bring snacks from home. Not only are these cheaper, but they will be a much healthier choice come mid-afternoon.
Some of my favorite snacks to bring to work are raw almonds, carrots, hummus, and homemade granola. The biggest idea here is to make sure you’re not just bringing your own bag of chips rather than buying them from a vending machine.
Know when to compromise
My final tip is to know when to compromise. You aren’t always going to have the time to be healthy, no matter how much planning you do. So it’s important to know which things are least-harmful to compromise on.
For example, take the mid-afternoon snack craving we talked about above. If you really are hungry, you can compromise and get something from the vending machine. At the same time, you can choose to get something healthier than potato chips. In terms of health, if they have Nature Valley granola bars I would choose one of those. If you’re more concerned about clean eating, Fritos are actually the way to go, because they have no preservatives.
Another example might be one day you realize you’ve forgotten to plan a lunch for the day and you’re already trying to rush out the door. Instead of skipping lunch to have a pity party, it’s healthier for you to go ahead and buy something on your lunch break. Just as long as you’re not reaching for something that comes with fries.
Really, the key here is moderation. You won’t always be able to perfectly keep up with your nutrition, and that’s ok. As long as you keep unhealthy foods to a minimum, your overall health should be just fine.
So now my question for all you busy women out there is: What do you do to keep up with nutrition? Are these all things you already do, or do you have a few extra tips you could share with me and my readers? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear from you. ☺
Rachel is a blogger and Bioengineering masters student who lives in Clemson, SC (go tigers!). After studying conventional pharmaceuticals and how they target specific ailments, she applied that knowledge to figuring out how essential oils can work to treat the same ailments, and ended up creating the blog The Essential Girl. When she’s not blogging or sciencing the shit out of something in the lab, she likes to drink tea, nom on popcorn, and binge Netflix with her Astrophysicist boyfriend.