by Ashley Giddens, RD/LD
Q: I seem to be on the go quite a bit and don't make the best choices when I eat. What are some fast and easy, but also healthy ideas?
A: Allow me to introduce the concept of “pre-prepping.” Essentially, what this means is, setting aside some time – be it a few hours, a morning, afternoon, or evening – to wash, chop, cook, arrange, organize or assemble snacks and meals for your upcoming week. This will save you the time of preparing a few meals later in the week when you are too busy or tired from your action-packed days and will also guarantee healthful options for you to take with you out the door.
First, pick a day or time that works best for you. Dedicate this day or time for pre-prepping. Then, commit to making a grocery list. Keep in mind some healthy snacks and meals that you can envision yourself having. Examples can be as simple as string cheese or yogurt with fruit, vegetables with a dip like hummus, or a home-made trail mix. Salads can stretch among many days and can be very versatile if you invest in a variety of ingredients, such as fresh or dried fruits, nuts, seeds, and fresh vegetables. Think of how you can use the same ingredients for multiple dishes as well to save time and money.
Once you have made your grocery list, have shopped, and have brought your food home, start washing, chopping, and portioning out your items. Having plastic bags or a few containers on hand is helpful. You can now begin to prepare snacks and meals ready to grab and go, or just have your ingredients ready to throw together for dinner.
If you are still struggling to find time to do most of the pre-prep, many grocery stores will have prewashed and chopped produce ready for you, either refrigerated or frozen. These are fast and easy ways to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your diet. Try cooking in batches as well so that you may use leftovers for a future meal or snack. A crock pot can be useful for this, too. Utilize your freezer to store cooked meats as well. Keep in mind that fruit and vegetable textures are altered once they are frozen then thawed; however, frozen fruits and vegetables are ideal for making smoothies and soups or casseroles.
A busy life can often resort one to choose “grab and go” foods. While many restaurants are jumping on board to offer more healthful menu items, you have to hold yourself accountable to choose these options more often and to think ahead of what you can choose when you find yourself in situations where fast food may seem to be the only option. Fries can be substituted by fresh fruit, steamed vegetables, chili or salad with dressing on the side. Aim to order baked or grilled items instead of fried. Also, make an effort to have water bottles on hand or you can just order water – remember that soft drinks, sweet teas, and milkshakes are liquid calories and sugar. You may not eat perfectly one hundred percent of the time, but even with a busy life, you can aim to choose more healthful options more often.
For nutritional counseling, Norman Regional Health System offers the guidance of registered dietitians. Those interested can schedule an appointment for an assessment with a referral from their family physician.