The other day, my friend Megan wrote on my Facebook wall, reminding me about a post that I have been meaning to do for a while now.
While I do enjoy cooking, it’s rare that I have enough time in one day to prepare three healthy meals. I think most college students and working adults struggle with this as well—sometimes nutritious meals are replaced with fast and convenient ones. However, I’ve learned that with a little preparation, it is possible to eat well-balanced meals seven days a week.
First and foremost, I make sure that I start the week with a fridge stocked full of options. Otherwise, I find myself scrounging together meals come Tuesday and end up eating condiments for lunch by Friday. I can assure you that mustard on a cinnamon raisin bagel thin is not appetizing, nor can it constitute a meal.
After I go grocery shopping, I’ll often wash and cut fruits and vegetables to save on time during the week. This method works particularly well with things like cucumbers and grapes—if it’s easily accessible, I’m less likely to reach for something unhealthy or let the produce go to waste. I also like to pre-wash carrots, celery, and raw broccoli then put it in a container filled with water; the water keeps the vegetables “crisp” and fresher for longer. As silly as it is, washing produce takes up a lot of time, so bananas, oranges, and apples are all good choices when I need something as I’m running out the door.
For vegetables like green beans and asparagus, I buy them in packages that can be steamed in the microwave. Once I steam the vegetables, I store them in a container in the fridge, making it easy to pair them with dinner at night. You can also find individual servings of vegetables in the freezer section, which are great to have on hand.
I’ve found that getting an adequate amount of protein in my diet is the most difficult to do with a busy schedule. I am a huge fan of Chobani Greek yogurt; a six-ounce serving has about 14 grams of protein, double the amount of regular yogurt. I prefer to add my own fresh fruit, such as blackberries, to the plain yogurt, but all of the flavors are great choices as well. Not only is a cup of yogurt convenient, but it is also extremely filling. String cheese is another fast and easy source of protein—it’s a great snack to eat in between meals along with a piece of fruit.
With the exception of pistachios and almonds, I do not like nuts, though they provide plenty of healthy fats and protein to keep me satiated throughout the day. To save a step when I’m in a rush, I ration portion sizes of nuts into small containers ahead of time. I like to carry a container of almonds in my purse to have as a snack whenever I feel hunger coming on. Peanut butter and banana sandwiches are my all-time favorite—they are extremely filling, which is a major plus.
About once a week, generally on Sunday, I cook several plain chicken breasts and lean ground beef/turkey. When I get home at 9pm, the last thing that I want to do is prepare meat and think of a meal to create. Instead, I’ll build a meal around the prepared protein—tacos, chicken Caesar salads, spaghetti with meat sauce, and Parmesan chicken are all easy choices. Or, if I’m packing my lunch or dinner, I’ll make a grilled chicken sandwich.
I also like to hard-boil half a dozen eggs at the beginning of the week for an on-the-go breakfast or snack. For a more filling option, I’ll make egg salad and put it on whole-wheat bread for lunch.
Though I don’t like to rely on granola bars for meal replacements, they are great when I need something that requires no thought. I like to choose granola bars with a short ingredient list, so I tend to stick with Lara bars (my favorite is the chocolate chip brownie flavor). After having adverse side effects, I can no longer eat Luna, Clif, or Odwalla bars, but they were always my favorite, taste-wise.
Do you find that it’s hard to make time during the week to eat balanced meals?
How do you eat healthily while saving time?
What are your go-to foods when you’re in a rush?