Written by Sydney Based Nutritionist Alex Middleton
Life gets busy when you’re working long hours, getting errands crossed off the list and having some sort of personal life in between. With a busy schedule, practicing healthy habits is hard for most. Maybe you skip morning yoga for extra sleep, or replace freshly cooked meals with take out in front of the television. Maybe the gym is sacrificed for an after work drink or you don’t have time to drink water through the day. The list goes on and on.
It is possible however to stay happy, healthy and energized on a busy schedule. All it takes is a little organization and a can-do kind of attitude. Below are my recommendations on how to stay healthy on a busy schedule.
1. Getting up earlier
Setting your alarm 15 minutes earlier than usual can create a dramatic impact on how well you feel as you get going in the morning. 15 minutes gives you time to:
- Drink a huge glass of warm water upon waking. Add a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar and a pinch of cayenne pepper to the water before drinking it on an empty stomach. This flushes the liver, stimulates digestion, boosts the metabolism thus gets you going for the day.
- Throw a lunch together to take to work (pre-prepared ingredients ,see below).
- To eat a quality, high protein breakfast.
2. Meal options vs a rigid meal plans
Rigid meal plans that include scheduled breakfasts, lunches and dinners is too much for the average person to think about, let alone those who are on the run with things like work, parenthood or both. Rather than timetabling your meals, make a simple list of potential breakfasts, lunches and dinners you can make for the week according to what you have in the pantry and fridge. When you get hungry and don’t have time to think of what to make, use it as your go-to list.
3. Use your Sunday evening to prepare food for the week
This habit is by far the one that that saves me the most time during the week. Consider:
- Baking huge trays of roast vegetables. Store them in the fridge and add them later to salads, in wraps or even on top of wholegrain pizza bases.
- Boiling a dozen eggs for the week ahead. These serve well as snacks but save time especially in the mornings if you are looking for a high quality protein option for your piece of toast.
- Make a large pot of brown rice and store it in the fridge. Use it as a side to main meals, add it to instant organic miso soup or use in homemade sushi handrolls. http://spiralfoods.com.au/
- Make simple vegetable soups in the blender, divide them up into single servings and freeze them for dinners later when you have no time to cook.
4. Intermittent Fasting
When you fast intermittently, your digestion gets a break, your body has a chance to repair itself and you save time on preparing and eating food. Consider skipping dinner at least twice a week, aiming to have 16-18 hours off food completely. What works for most people is to stop eating at 3pm, eating breakfast the next day around 8 or 9am. This saves you time whilst helping you lose weight and look younger. NB: if you have blood sugar issues, adrenal fatigue or find you are starting to wake up during the night (hungry or not), eat a mouthful of protein and fat before going to sleep. Two good pre-bed options include a teaspoon of organic peanut butter eaten straight off the spoon (or any other nut butter), or lavender tea with some warm almond milk.
5. Fast hydration
Our bodies contain upto 70% water, making it imperative to drink a minimum of 2L of clean, fluride-free water during the day:
- If you’re out and on the run, buy still mineral water stored in BPA – free plastic bottles. Mount Franklin is an easily accessible, BPA free option.http://mountfranklinwater.com.
- Store water-filled, non-plastic, reusable water bottles everywhere: by your bed, in the car, on your desk and in your hand and workout bag. Every time you see one, take a few gulps, thirsty or not.
- Never re-use plastic bottles.
- Avoid aluminum reusable bottles, opting for stainless steel or copper options instead.
6. Storing snacks
Small high protein snacks will sustain your energy and serve as great fillers when you’re just too busy for lunch. Store them in case of emergency in your backpack, handbag, car or at your work desk. Consider:
- Boiled eggs
- ½ a Megaburn bar
- Almond bounce ball
- Fermented Brown rice protein bars
- Raw nuts and seed mix (preferably activated). If you haven’t tried 2Diefor range you are missing out.
- Tamari almonds or pepitas
- Small organic apples.
- Instant organic miso soup. The best on the market is Spiral…
7. Alternative healthy take outs
Sometimes you are too tired and just can’t be bothered to cook. Fair enough. You are human after all. There are however many healthier options to consider before you dial you local thai or pizza joint for some take away. Instead consider:
- Iku, which offers delicious, vegan wholefoods. http://www.iku.com.au/stores
- Chicken shops that offer organic rotisserie chickens, spatchcocks and salads.
- Japanese foods such as brown rice sushi rolls, sashimi and seaweed salads.
- Middle eastern foods such as falafel, salads, tahini, hommus, dolmades and tabouli.
- Grilled fish and salads from your local fish and chips shop.
- Ordering healthy pre-made, delivered meals. Local favourites include The Living Lunchbox and EatFitFood. http://www.thelivinglunchbox.
8. Prepare for stress slumps and moments of fatigue
Staying on a healthy eating track can be difficult in moments when we feel tired, overwhelmed or cranky. This is especially common around 3pm when blood sugar runs low, the brain becomes foggy and fatigue from the day’s work sets in. In times like these, consider:
- A healthy high protein snack (see above).
- Opting for green tea vs another coffee.
- A green vegetable juice from your local fruit shop or juice bar.
- Avoiding the vending machine and eating a healthier, sugar free chocolate option instead (you will need to buy this at a health food store or grocer and store it for times in need; check out chocolate addicts article for good options).
Getting to your local health food store or farmers market can often be time consuming and inconvenient. Instead get to one of the larger chain supermarkets who now offer aisles dedicated to alternative as well as locally sourced, organic vegetables, fresh meat and dairy products. If you are so short on time that even the supermarket is too hard to get to, use an online delivery service that leave a box of fresh, organic veges by your doorstep each week.
10. Accept the fact you are not perfect and cannot do it all
It’s always ideal to find the healthiest meal option available. Sometimes however “healthy” is just not possible, and you’re forced to splurge. Contrary to popular opinion there are health benefits to splurging. Relaxing and enjoying whatever food you want on occasion releases a flood of chemicals that boost the immune system, metabolism, mood and overall health.
Healthy bodies are fairly resilient and can cope with a guilt-free blow out now and then. Life is about more than just eating well after all. A good rule to follow is the 18/21 rule, where you choose eighteen healthy meals a week and whatever you want for the other three. Balance is the key.
When you’re too busy or tired for exercise, it may be worth redefining what a work out means to you:
- If you’re too tired for an hour at the gym, just do 20 minutes of cardio at any pace, or go for a long walk instead.
- At yoga substitute the 90minute classes with a 60 minute one to save on time. If you’re tired, take the less strenuous option and do a beginners class instead (giving you the opportunity to refine your technique and alignment).
- If you’re too tired for laps in the pool, get to the ocean and float in the water. You may not be technically exercising, but the salt water clears the mind and detoxifies the body from any negative energy it may be holding onto.
Alexandra Middleton is an Accredited Naturopathic Nutritionist committed to inspiring the world with nourishing foods and healthier lifestyle choices. She is realistic and loving and just down right wonderful to be around. I highly recommend you check out her blog for regular recipes and ideas.