Let’s face it – eating healthy isn’t easy. Factor in a busy workday and long commute while juggling home and family responsibilities and it’s no wonder 40% of Canadians report having more to do than time available to do it.1
As a dietitian in private practice, I hear about the major nutritional challenges my clients face (and experience them frequently myself) such as busy mornings resulting in skipping breakfast or going through a drive-thru, dependence on dining out for lunch due to lack of time or ideas on what to prepare, and the end of day time-crunch leading again to reliance on fast food or quick-to-prepare packaged or frozen meals.2
Rather than aimlessly wishing for an in-home chef to show up at your door, start with small simple changes that take little to no time. The time you do invest will return dividends with gains in energy and productivity throughout the week.
1. Have a healthy snack stash
One 10-minute trip to the grocery store and you’ll save yourself countless minutes scavenging for healthy snacks at your workplace and turning to the vending machine when hunger hits. My go-to recommendations include portion-controlled packs of raw nuts, trail mix, dried fruit such as apricot and raisins, high-fibre whole food based granola bars such as Larabars, to name a few ideas. If you have a fridge at your workplace, you can really have loads of fun topping up your healthy snack stash with individually portioned cheese and Greek yogurt or cottage cheese containers. Just be sure to write your name on foods stored in communal places (I’d have a love-hate reaction to hearing my advice resulted in you having a Ross (flashback to Friends) moment at your workplace..lol!).
2. Batch-cook healthy meals for lunch
Often when I suggest this idea to clients, I get an exasperated look of “As if I can squeeze that in on my busy weekends!” The conversation that follows starts with me asking them about the time they spend on other things throughout the week (think Facebook and watching Netflix). Not to mention, the time spent berating yourself for making less than healthy choices and lack of productivity that follows from the post junk food energy slump. If you’re not convinced, take a moment to add up the time you spend each week on the following: thinking about what to eat for lunch, walking or driving to purchase food, and waiting in line for your order. By making even one batch-cook meal every week or second week and portioning them out into meal-sized portions you store in the freezer, you’ll have easy grab-and-go lunches allowing you to save time and money during the week. Not sure what to make? Check out some of my go-to batch-cook recipes such as white chicken chili.
3. Plan for one (or two!) healthy takeout dinner meals each week
Another favourite tip of mine that is sometimes met with disgruntled belief centers around choosing high quality ready-made foods from local vendors such as bakeries, delis, and grocery stores. While most of my clients relish in the idea of having healthy options that don’t require them to be the cook, others are under the misguided impression that prepared food of any kind cannot possibly be a healthy choice. If this resonates with you, consider if a friend or family member was offering to make you a delicious homemade casserole or other favourite dish. Would you refuse or feel like you’ve hit the time-saving jackpot? Granted, not all cooks (whether in the home or a business) prioritize nutrition the same way you might, so make careful selections while prioritizing a balanced meal. It’s not necessary to obsess over the fact that, maybe, not every ingredient used is the gold standard of perfect nutrition. For instance, one of my favourite go-to take out meals is a Spinach & Red Pepper Frittata from a bakery in my community (yes, it does include a pastry crust made with white flour and lard) but when paired with a quick salad or steamed freezer veggies (think half plate veggies to ensure you fill up on the most nutritious elements of your meal), you get a balanced meal that offers the combination of protein, carbohydrates, and fat your body needs while also tasting good (yes, enjoying what you eat is important too!). Other ideas include deli BBQ chicken, Cabbage rolls, Shepherd’s Pie, whole grain buns, and ready-made garden salad.
What’s the Bottom Line?
Aim for simple time-saving food prep steps you can stick with to experience long term results. For more personalized nutrition advice, book an appointment with a dietitian. Some workplaces now offer on-site nutrition counseling with a registered dietitian (how convenient would that be?). Ask your employer about having a registered dietitian come into the office. Oh, and show them this infographic showing the benefits of seeing a dietitian for healthy eating advice and support.
Also, feel free to contact us to set up a complementary 10-minute consultation. We’re always happy to chat with you and see if we’re a good fit to help you reach your health goals.
1. Druxbury, L., PhD & Higgins, C, PhD (2012). Key Findings Revisiting Work-Life Issues in Canada: The 2012 National Study on Balancing Work and Caregiving in Canada. Retrieved from: http://newsroom.carleton.ca/wp-content/files/2012-National-Work-Key-Findings.pdf
2. Wojcik, J., RD (2015) Manitoba Public Insurance (Human Resources and Staff Development), personal communications.