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12 Easy Ways To Eat Healthy With A Busy Schedule

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Written by Jenn LaVardera, MS RD, Registered Dietitian with Daily Harvest

We’ve partnered with our friends at Daily Harvest to highlight the importance of good nutrition that’s built on fruits and vegetables to inspire you to perform at your best. Carry these resources into your daily lives – for yourself and your patients.

Eating healthy is important for overall well-being—both physical and mental—but it may feel difficult to eat well when you have a busy schedule (as most healthcare professionals do!). With a little planning ahead, it’s possible (and easy!) to eat healthy when you’re on the go or when you don’t have time to cook. Here are 12 ways to eat healthier when you have a busy schedule.

What is Healthy Eating?

Though a “healthy diet” is subjective and can vary depending on a person’s nutrition needs, culture and other personal factors, there are a few things most healthy diets have in common. 

At the core, healthy diets include plenty of fruits and vegetables—at least 5 cups a day. Research shows eating about 5 cups of fruits and vegetables a day may reduce risk of death by 31%. Include a wide variety of different types of fruits and vegetables of different colors, such as blue and red berries, orange citrus fruits, leafy green vegetables and other types of produce. Different colors represent different nutrients, so it’s important to eat a mix. Aim to have a serving of fruits or vegetables with every meal and snack.

Healthy diets also contain lean sources of protein, including plenty of plant-protein sources like beans, legumes, nuts and seeds. Research finds eating a more plant-forward diet can add healthy minutes to your life, and it’s also good for the environment.

Most fats in a healthy diet are monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats—the types of fat you get from olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds. These fats are generally better for your health compared with saturated fats (though we need a little saturated fat, too). We want to completely avoid trans fats, which isn’t that hard now that they are banned from the food supply.

Most carbohydrates in a healthy diet come from either fruits, vegetables or whole grains like brown and wild rice, quinoa, farro and barley. Whole grains contain all parts of the grain (the bran, the germ and the endosperm) and nutrients like fiber, B vitamins, vitamin E, magnesium, iron and antioxidants. They are a more healthful choice than refined grains, such as white flour.

Healthy diets include mostly unprocessed or minimally processed foods, like fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, and don’t include ultra-processed foods—that is, foods that are so processed, you don’t even recognize them. A healthy diet also limits added sugar (a little sweet is fine, but keep it to under 50 grams of added sugar a day!) and keep sodium in check—the daily value for sodium is 2,300mg.

So what does a day of healthy eating look like? Though everyone has different nutrition needs and preferences, here’s an example of what a simple healthy diet may look like:

  • Breakfast: Oatmeal topped with berries and chopped walnuts
  • Snack: Carrots and hummus
  • Lunch: Daily Harvest Flatbread with a side salad
  • Snack: Apple and peanut butter
  • Dinner: Black bean tacos topped with guacamole and salsa with a side of peppers

How to Eat Healthy With A Busy Schedule 

Even if you have a busy schedule and feel like you don’t have time to cook, you can eat healthy by following these simple tips.

Stock your pantry

Keep your pantry stocked with staple nutritious foods so you always have them on hand. This includes dried whole grains like brown rice and quinoa, canned or vacuum-sealed beans, whole grain pastas, nuts and nut butters, seeds and olive oil. These are all minimally processed shelf-stable foods that can stay in your pantry for a while.

Stock your freezer

Next, load up your freezer with essentials. Buy frozen fruits like berries, mango and pineapple and frozen vegetables like broccoli, spinach and cauliflower. Frozen fruits and vegetables are just as nutritious as (and sometimes more nutritious than) their fresh counterparts because they are frozen at peak ripeness when nutrient content is highest. Also stock your freezer with minimally processed ready-to-eat foods like Daily Harvest, so you always have quick and nutritious options in the house.

Create a meal plan

You don’t need to plan out every last bite of food, but having a general idea of your meals and snacks for the week makes shopping, preparing and eating healthy even easier. On your day off, create a rough meal plan for the week, so you are ready for when your busy schedule hits. Research has even shown that meal planning is beneficial for eating healthy and that meal planners eat a more varied diet.

Write a shopping list

Once you have your meal plan, write a shopping list. Making a list will make shopping easier and faster and ensure you don’t forget any crucial items. There’s even research to back up the need for a list—in a study, shopping with a list was linked with a healthier diet.

Schedule a weekly shopping trip

While it’s important to keep your pantry and freezer stocked, we can’t forget about the fresh food in your fridge. If you have a busy schedule, pencil in one big shopping trip per week to stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins and other foods with a shorter shelf life. Go with your shopping list so you remember everything you need, and aim to get enough to last you through the week. With practice, you’ll learn how much to buy to tide you over until the next shopping trip.

Make time for meal prep

Once your pantry, freezer and fridge are stocked, get even further ahead of the game by making time for weekly meal prep. Even if you feel like you don’t have time to cook, you can use a day off to cook large batches of whole grains, peel and cut whole fruit, chop vegetables to snack on, roast vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower, and prepare any proteins you eat. You can keep these prepared ingredients on hand in the fridge for quick meal assembly later in the week, or you can even prepare grab-and-go meals like burritos to keep in the freezer and munch on throughout the week.

Keep healthy snacks where you need them

Everyone knows the feeling of being stuck at work or on-the-go and not having a nutritious snack. To prevent a trip to the vending machine that may result in a less-than-healthy choice, keep a supply of snacks where you know you need them most. Keep nuts in a desk drawer or in your car and Daily Harvest Bites in a breakroom freezer. If you know you always need a snack during the day, toss an apple or banana in your bag before you head out the door. Being prepared can make it easier to make a healthy choice when you need it most.

Invest in storage containers

Though packing lunch may seem time consuming, with a little prep work ahead of time, bringing your own meal can be even easier than buying lunch out. Invest in glass storage containers so you can make salads or leftovers—glass is a much better option than plastic to pop in the microwave. You can also use small containers to pack snacks like trail mix—it’s more eco-friendly and cost effective than buying single-serve bags or using baggies from home.

Buy a water bottle

It’s common to confuse thirst for hunger and to end up eating an unhealthy snack when you really just need some water. Bring a water bottle whenever you’re at work or on-the-go so you always have hydration on hand. Choose a glass or metal bottle instead of plastic as your best bet. Water is the best way to stay hydrated and having a bottle can help you steer clear of sugary drinks like soda or punch.

Know your quick food options

Some days there just isn’t time to pack a lunch, and that’s okay. When your mind is clear and you have time to think, take a look at what your options are so you’re prepared to make a nutritious choice when the time comes. If you’re getting lunch from a deli or cafeteria, soup and salad is often a healthy choice. Even convenience stores typically stock more healthful options like veggies and hummus. Have an idea of the options around your place of work.  

Have a plan for eating out

Eating out is a necessary—and fun—part of life, though dining out at restaurants and attending social events doesn’t have to derail your healthy eating habits. At restaurants, aim to pair a serving of lean protein with vegetables, and don’t be afraid to get creative. Try ordering a protein-rich appetizer with a side of vegetables as an entree to ensure you’re getting a balanced plate. At parties, be mindful of your choices—it’s easy to grab food as it’s passed and completely forget you ate it. Check in with your hunger cues throughout the event to help your body understand how much it’s had to eat.

Say “no” to ultra-processed foods

Ultra-processed foods have no place in a healthy diet. These are packaged foods, typically with very long ingredients lists that are so processed, you don’t even recognize the ingredients. Keeping your pantry, fridge and freezer stocked with wholesome options makes it easier to avoid these unhealthy foods. When choosing a packaged food, ensure you can read the ingredients list and understand everything that’s on it. In general, a short list is a good list, but there are plenty of healthy options that have lots of wholesome ingredients—just be sure you know what they are.

Stock your freezer with deliciously nourishing food from Daily Harvest so you always have healthy options on hand. Use code JAANUU to get up to $40 off your first box!

Daily Harvest believes in a world well-fed. One where delicious food that’s built on organic fruits and vegetables is also incredibly convenient. The company works directly with farmers to grow the best produce, harvest it at the right time and freeze it all at the source to lock in flavor and nutrients. Daily Harvest creates its food with the people who eat it, resulting in a deep understanding of its customers’ taste preferences. By making the food customers actually want to eat, and ensuring it’s also quick to make and always on hand, Daily Harvest makes it easier for customers to eat more fruit and vegetables every day. In addition, the company pours heart, soul and, most importantly, resources into reducing food waste, prioritizing organic farming practices and going the extra mile for sustainable packaging. We take care of food, so food can take care of you. For more information, visit dailyharvest.com.

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