It’s crunch time and you’ve hardly got time to eat, let alone cook a meal! You regularly wonder, "How do people make it look so easy?". How can you, too, learn to cruise through the busy seasons of life without losing sight of your wellness goals? Whether you’re trying to shed a few pounds, gain strength or improve your overall health, these tips will help you streamline your meal plan when there isn’t a minute to spare.
1. Know Thy Schedule
When life is jam-packed, it’s essential that you get your act together. To stay organized and on top of your goals, take a few minutes each week to assess your schedule. When will you have time to cook? To grab a workout? To pick up groceries? To enjoy meals with the ones who matter most to you? When time is at a premium, you may have to schedule these important tasks as you would appointments that can’t be missed.
2. Meal Plan in Advance
Schedule in hand, it’s time to figure out your meals for the week! Look at the days ahead and make a detailed plan for every meal you’ll be eating—not just dinner. Think about which meals you’ll eat at home and which will be eaten on the fly. Be realistic about your choices given the amount of time you have and keep it simple. Remember that some of the most nutritious foods out there—like fresh fruit and veggies—are perfect as is, with no cooking required!
3. Cut Corners
You know what? It’s okay to cut corners as long as you’re smart about it! Pre-washed and ready-to-eat produce, cooked rotisserie chicken, healthy take-and-bake entrees, and frozen steam packs of veggies and whole grains are just a few convenience items that can help your meals come together in a snap. As always, take the time to read your nutrition labels and be wary of overly processed fare and instead opt for nutritious options that will support your goals and boost your health.
4. One-Pan Wonders
From creative sheet pan dinners and slow cooker concoctions to cozy casseroles and Instant Pot favorites, one-pan meals are a fantastic way to get balanced dinners on the table with less fuss and less clean up. Plus, cooking your protein and veggies together adds a wonderful richness and depth of flavor that is guaranteed to take your dinner plate to the next level. Great recipes are easy to find, so search online and give one a try!
5. Batch Cooking for the Win
To get the most out of every minute you spend in the kitchen, make a point to cook once and eat twice! That is, if you’re going to the trouble to cook, be sure to whip up enough for more than one meal. Doing so usually requires little to no extra work, but can save you hours of precious time later in the week. Even better? Make enough so you can stash a few future meals in the freezer!
6. Don’t Leave It ‘til Morning
When life has you burning the candle at both ends, don’t leave for tomorrow what can be done today. Little habits like prepping a jar of overnight oats or packing a healthy lunch before you go to bed can pay huge dividends when you’re rushing out the door come morning. With a solid plan and a little bit of forethought, you can stay ahead of the game and on track to reach your goals, no matter what life throws at you!
7. Have Healthy Fallbacks
Despite your best efforts, sometimes things just won’t go as planned. To avoid diving head first into a bucket of fries when plans shift and you find yourself out at an impromptu business dinner or grabbing carry out between carpool responsibilities, do a little recon and seek out the healthiest choices at your favorite deli and drive-thru. Many restaurants offer lighter options and even have nutrition information on hand. From grilled fish tacos with fresh pico de gallo to sub sandwiches piled high with lean meat and extra veggies, odds are that you’ll be able to find something that that tastes great and won’t blow your calorie budget. Just be sure to watch out for menu items that may seem healthy but are often loaded with hidden calories, such as salads, smoothies and anything relying on the heavy use of sauces.