“You tell me to eat well but where in my day am I supposed to find the time to actually make this happen?”
This may be the question I most frequently hear from patients. Given that our lives are so busy yet eating well is essential to optimal health, here are a few tips to successfully integrate these two seemingly disparate realities:
- Build your library reserves of food. Prepare additional servings specifically to put in the freezer. Take any leftovers and put them in the freezer as well. This tip in particular has revolutionized my eating. Anytime I come home and am tired but without food to eat, instead of having to prepare a meal or get take out, I simply remove food from the freezer, defrost it and voila – a nutritious home cooked meal! Returning from a vacation, weekend away or conference? No problem. Open your freezer and you have a wealth of healthy options available to you.
- Choose 1-4 recipes at a time. Shop and cook specifically for these. This helps to reduce food waste and ensures that after only a few hours in the kitchen, you have multiple days worth of food in your refrigerator. I started doing this when I was in medical school as a way to ensure that I could eat well during my 14+ hour days. The practice has persevered and I now look forward to my Sunday evenings in the kitchen.
- Any time you cook, consciously make 1-3 extra servings that you set aside for leftovers. These make great breakfast options!
- Start a bookmark folder on your computer specifically for recipes. Anytime you see something interesting online, on Facebook or hear about it in the news, bookmark it in your recipes folder so you easily access it when needed.
- Purchase a slow cooker such as a crock-pot. These are often available inexpensively at second hand stores. You can also keep an eye out for the 20% off coupons that often arrive in the mail for the big chain stores and use that to purchase one new. The Internet is replete with simple, easy, no-fuss slow cooker recipes. Get ready to add ingredients, turn on, walk away and return 6-8 hours later to a hot meal.
- Start a food group. Do you have neighbors and friends who eat similarly to you? Arrange a group where each of you prepares 1-2 dishes for the number of people in your group. Determine the frequency of your meeting (once a week, twice a month) and get together to exchange food. In the time it took you to make 1 dish you end up with 3-5 to last through the week. I’ve seen food groups as simple as meeting for 5 minutes to drop off and exchange food to weekly community dinners where everyone gets together to eat, discuss what they’ve made and swap food.