The holiday season is a busy time for many of us. So on top of dealing with the end-of-the year mad dash that consists of holiday shopping, travel planning, finals studying (or procrastinating via hulu, if that’s your sitch), airport hopping, and family gathering, how does one find time to eat well?
Fortunately, we are getting an early holiday present. Wendy Lopez, MS, R.D. and Jessica Jones, MS, R.D. are the fine ladies of the healthy food blog Food Heaven Made Easy, and they are here to help.
Both are registered dietitians with master's degrees in nutrition science. They’re not just good in theory, though: The dishes they conjure up look so mouthwatering you’ll wish you could bathe in them. But it’s food, so that’d be kind of hard.
Wendy and Jess have three tips and a sample menu for how to eat heathy when you're crazed, and I've shared some examples of how I've applied these tips in my life.
1. Eat More Plants
I know, I know, we hear about eating green and eating clean, and a plethora of other directives that are so confusing, we end up just heading straight for the Cheetos. But I can say from personal experience that increasing my veggie intake has had advantages on my health.
The best method, according to Wendy and Jess, is to plan all your meals around veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, beans, and grains.
Among their many benefits, plant-based meals are often quick to prepare and clean up. No marinating and roasting for hours or breaking into a sweat trying to work around chicken grease.
If you need to ease your way into veggie land, try to modestly increase your intake, even if it’s just one serving a day. Or dedicate one or two days a week to eating vegetarian dinners. I’ve cheated by making a concoction called "vespacho" (trademark my mom, who thought “vegspacho” didn’t quite roll off the tongue).
I don’t have the technique to make real gazpacho. Instead, I just throw in a generous amount spinach, tomatoes, onions, garlic, spices, and ice into a blender. Sometimes I add lime or switch up the veggies. One vespacho a day before dinner is better than avoiding veggies altogether. And it’s easier and faster to prepare and clean than salads.
2. Plan Your Meals Ahead Of Time
Wendy and Jess say they can’t stress how important meal planning is for maintaining a healthy diet. "A hectic schedule is no excuse for eating crappy. Plan your meals in advance for the week, and do some pre-prepping, chopping, and washing."
Over the summer, when I had a pretty regimented and compact schedule, meal planning was a saving grace. When I first started, I used a Website called EatingWell and went food shopping on the weekends. EatingWell is helpful because instead of randomly finding recipes and hoping I had what they required, I could input ingredients I already had, and the site would spit out corresponding recipes.
Another related tip is to plan your meals according to your actual time and needs. For example, I have obligations after work that often prevent me from having a full dinner at a decent hour. To avoid that, I often make a large enough lunch that I have leftovers.
I eat the remainder an hour or so before I get off of work. I then eat something light several hours later on days I get home after 9 pm. Basically, do what works for you, even if your eating patterns are a bit unconventional. Just try and be consistent.
3. Know Your Food Options
"If you’re not able to prepare meals for every single day of the week, which happens to most of us, make sure you know what your food options are when eating on the go," say Wendy and Jess. "Scout out places with healthy food options by your job or school, and make these your backup plans."
It seems so obvious, but with my job becoming more time consuming, I've had less energy to go grocery shopping, which makes this tip even more important.
When I eat out, I head to delis and local restaurants where I can customize my meals a bit more.
Wendy and Jess's One-Day Meal Plan
Breakfast : Energizing Breakfast Smoothie
- 1 cup spinach
- 1 cup berries
- 6 ounces plain Greek yogurt, nonfat
- ½ cup to 1 cup almond milk
- 1 tablespoon chia seeds
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- Blend all ingredients and enjoy!
Lunch: Pita Pocket Power
- Whole wheat pita
- Chopped cucumber, tomatoes, olives (and any other veggies you have in the house!)
- Slice whole wheat pita bread
- Fill insides with hummus
- Add fresh chopped veggies
Dinner: Green Tacos
- 2-3 tortillas (depending on how hungry you are)
- ½ cup of black beans
- Garlic powder, cumin, chili powder
- 1 teaspoon of olive oil
- Chopped tomatoes, green leafy lettuce, bell peppers for filling
- 1-2 tablespoons of chili Verde sauce (green enchilada sauce found in the Mexican isle of the supermarket)
- Optional (1 tablespoon of shredded cheese)
- Quickly heat 2-3 tortillas on stovetop for a few minutes OR bake for a few minutes
- Heat beans on stove-top for a few minutes. Season with cumin, garlic powder, chili powder (or whatever you have at home) + olive oil
- Place beans inside taco shells
- Top with fresh chopped tomatoes, green leafy lettuce, cheese and bell peppers
- Add 1-2 tablespoons of Verde sauce
- Add optional cheese
- What or where do you eat when you're running around living your life?