Eating healthy on the run
In today's fast-paced world, many people often grab the closest food and drink in order to get back to what they need to be doing without much regard for nutritional value. This causes many people to eat too many bad calories and not enough good calories without thinking about it, and they may not even enjoy the food they do eat because they don't sit down to actually smell it, taste it, and enjoy it. This leads to eating again in only an hour or two simply because you want to taste something good, even if your body has not told you it is hungry and NEEDS food. It is quite simple and manageable on a daily basis to eat healthy, enjoy your foods, and not spend a fortune on your meals with a few minutes of planning and remember the basics.
Water is not available everywhere soda is, though it has become increasingly more accessible. Water is essential to your body in order for it to operate at its peak ability. So, rather than spending $6+ dollars per day on bottled water at convenience stores, buy yourself a water bottle that you can refill from your home filtration or purification system (Brita, Pur, and Hinckley Springs are a few examples). This way, you won't find yourself having to buy a soda or sugary juice drink (with a very low amount of real fruit juice and a high amount of high fructose corn syrup) just to add some liquid to your system. Keep your water bottle with you just like your keys, cell phone, and wallet, and you'll be doing your body and your energy level a big favor.
If plain water bores you, try adding ready-made powders that not only add taste but can also add nutritional value. Ener-gen-C is popular among athletes, and at only about 30 cents per serving, delivers a lot of bang for your buck. Each packet contains1,000 mg of Vitamin C and a full day's supply of Vitamin B 6 and B 12. There are many different single-serving packets you can add such as Crystal Light lemonade or Lipton Tea to your water bottle. As long as it is decaf, it counts towards your water intake for the day!
Nutrition bars such as Luna Bars, Clif bars, and Power bars are now available at almost every drugstore, grocery store, and convenience store all over the US. They provide an easy way to add protein, quality carbohydrates, and essential fats to your diet. Most are also fortified with vitamins and minerals and many even come with low sugar and lots of flavor choices. They run from $1.25 to $3.00 and can keep your hunger at bay so that you do not reach for the ice cream the second you get home instead of reaching for a snack that takes longer to prepare but is more packed with nutrients. You can get a similar snack from grocery stores in bulk and spend even less and have more choices by buying granola bars or cereal bars in boxes of 6-12 servings. Buy 3 or 4 boxes and you can stock your briefcase or gym bag with a bar for every day of the month. Be sure to drink lots of water with them in order to aid in digestion.
If you are going to be traveling or if your energy bars may be exposed to heat, bars whose main ingredients are things like raisins, dates, or fig paste will stand up to heat better. Many Clif bar flavors fit this description, as well as Boulder Pars or Probar (try Nutty Banana Boom). Another bar you may want to look for is one that a friend of mine just told me about. It is an organic, probiotic bar by Living Foods called Garden of Life, with flavors such as Fruits of Life and Super Seed.
For a more hearty, beverage snack on the run, you'll want to find a mix that you can add to milk, soy milk, or juice since those are beverages you can often get at convenience stores or in single serving boxes that don't have to be refridgerated. You can try Carnation Instant Breakfast, Spiruteen, or MetRx as they come in bulk or single-serving packets
Fruits such as bananas, oranges, or grapefruit are good to keep on hand because their peel keeps the fruit clean. Raisins, dried plums (also known as prunes)* and other dried fruits come in bulk or single serving packets (or make your own single sserving bag by using a Ziploc baggie) and offer a lot of nutritional value while taking up little space in your bag. Just be aware of how much dried fruit you eat at once. Since the water has been taken out, they take us less room in your stomach than regular fruit, so it will take longer for your stomach to tell your brain that it has had enough. Drink plenty of water with your dried fruit to aid in digestion and feel full before you have consumed too much of this good (and natural) sugar.
Meals can be a bit more difficult to prepare quickly. Keeping vegetables on hand that will stay fresh is key, such as cucumbers, carrots, and green peppers. This way, even if you throw together a meal from the freezer, you still have the nutrients from fresh vegetables. Most vegetables will stay fresh longer if they are uncut. Also, try using Ever-Green bags--they come in small, medium, and large, and can lengthen the life of your fresh vegetables ten-fold. They can be found at Whole Foods and the Container Store.
Keeping on hand essential ingredients that you like will ensure that you can make a good dinner even when you don't have the time or energy to go grocery shopping that day. Cheese, as long as it is not exposed to air, will last for a while and can be paired with crackers for a healthy appetizer instead of reaching for cookies or soda. Carrots and celery sticks with hummus also make a great appetizer. Pasta, rice, and potatoes are a good source of carbohydrate that are versatile and can be added easily to any meal to compliment the protein of your choice. Remember to keep heavy cream and butters to a minimum. As far as protein goes, meat and fish can kept in the freezer until you are ready to use them. Ground beef can go into a lot of dishes, so keep some basic spices like Mrs. Dash, on hand. My favorite thing to do is separate a 2 servings portion into a freezer Ziploc bag, put some marinade on the chicken or fish, then put it in the freezer. This makes for easy thawing in the future.
Some other ingredients that can help you prepare a meal quickly are reduced-fat Bisquick, Heart Healthy condensed soups for casseroles, low-fat dressings and marinades, seasoning packets (for stir-fry or tacos), and bottled marinara or alfredo sauces.
If you do have time to stop by the grocery store...
Many grocery stores now offer ready-to-eat rotisserie chickens for about $7. Grab a bag of spinach and carrots, some bakery bread and olive oil, and strawberries for dessert and you'll be out of the store in minutes. Know where there is a grocery store near you that has healthy, ready-to-eat options in the deli so that if you have no energy to prepare food, you can still get a healthy meal together instead of surrendering to your closest drive thru.