Short Order: Healthy Meals on the Go
The new school year is coming up fast, which means packed days and hurried evenings. As the days grow literally shorter with fall and winter approaching, it’s easy to let go of the healthy habits built up over summer: the fresh fruits and veggies, the outdoor activities, and the extra time just hanging out with each other.
While less sunny days may dampen outdoor activities and school and extracurricular activities take away from leisure time, you don’t have to give up healthy meals just because you are on the go. Here are five tips for eating nourishing meals while investing minimum time in the kitchen.
- Have “easy win” meals. You probably already have a few quick meals that are easy to do in a pinch. They require very little effort but tend to be crowd-pleasers which you can make without too much planning. Bowl meals tend to fit well in this category; think black beans and rice topped with avocado or sausage with precut veggies and pasta. A tapas-like meal with a variety of healthy snacks such as hummus with vegetables, sliced cheeses and meats, and fruit can also be a winner. Make sure your grocery list always restocks ingredients for these types of meals.
- Plan a fast-food run. Before you start getting excited about supersizing and French fries, remember to plan what you’ll order. Most fast-food chains publicize their nutritional and calorie information online, so figure out the best choices before you get in the drive-thru. Stay away from fried foods, big sizes, sugary drinks, and side sauces; many offer salads (just go light on the dressing). The best fast food tends to be where you can control your order, like a sandwich shop where you can request whole wheat bread or refuse mayonnaise.
- Prep and freeze. Hopefully, you’ll have at least one night each week when you don’t feel rushed. Make use of this time to set up the other nights. For example, when chopping vegetables, take time to chop for what you’ll need later in the week as well. Make a double batch of homemade soup or lasagna, freezing the extra half so you can reach for it when you are really crunched for time.
- Invest in meal kit deliveries. Prep time takes the most time. Meal kits provide all ingredients, ready-made, for quick cooking. There are over 100 different companies offering this service with options for specialty diets like low-calorie, vegetarian, and gluten free. Most offer different levels, so you can select the number of meals you want to receive per week (usually from two to five). You pay for convenience, but you don’t have to worry about planning or shopping.
- Organize your time and space. One of the best actions to support healthy meals on the go doesn’t involve food; instead, it centers on your schedule and your kitchen. Knowing what days will present challenges – like the late business meeting or extra soccer practice – will help understand when you might need to eat an “easy win” meal or visit a fast-food joint. An organized kitchen will ensure that when you do cook, whether on short-order or as a planned celebration, that the process will be smooth and frustration-free. Kari Pitts, a Registered Dietitian and Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist, explains, “An organized kitchen can make finding your ingredients and tools easier, so you can move more quickly when preparing healthy meals.”
You can be busy and eat nutritious meals; it just requires a little bit of forethought. Of course, life happens and there will be times when it’s not possible to eat well. In that case, make sure to enjoy every bite before getting back on track.