The Ultimate Busy-Persons Guide to Nutrition
You get up early, too early to make a nutritious breakfast, perhaps too early to even make any breakfast at home so you get something on the way or even skip the meal entirely. Sound like you? You work far enough from home to not make the commute back from the office, perhaps there’s no refrigerator so you can’t take it anything that might spoil, you either have to eat something that is high in preservatives and additives, eat out or again, miss a meal. Sound like you? You get tired in the mid-afternoon, the lethargy comes on strong and makes you sleepy, you interpret this as a need for high or quick sugar snacks or even a coffee, you grab the nearest sugar filled snack, or coffee, and devour it. Sound like you? You get back late, the commute was long and tiring, you haven’t had time to eat a decent meal and training is calling, you put in an attempt to get it done but deep down you know it’s not as good as you could do and you blame your busy schedule. Sound like you?
If you’ve said yes to any of these things, this guide will really help you out! Perhaps you’ve not said yes to any of these but have similar issues. Maybe you could even pick up a few tips from this guide that’ll help you save more time. Read on to find out!
If this guide teaches you one thing, it is that food prep is the answer to almost all of these problems. Worse case you find one hour during the weekend or day where you have very little going on and prep the entirety of your meals for the week. Breakfast can be overnight oats in a sealed jar, made up in no time and stored for the week with all your favourite ingredients, add non-dairy milk the night before and you’re done for the next day. Take it with you if you haven’t got time to eat it at home. Don’t like oats? Try substituting this for shelled hemp seeds. Still no good, how about just a shake or smoothie but add in extra nut or seed butter, an avocado perhaps. This are all highly nutritious and will add much needed energy to your body.
What if you forget one day? Ok it might happen, the thing to do here is, again, be prepared. Google healthy places to pick up food today and then acknowledge that they are your back-up if you do forget. Perhaps set an alarm or reminder on your phone once a week to get your preparation sorted. It is becoming far easier to eat healthily from convenience stores now, you’ve just got to be smart about what you eat and not give in to spur of the moment cravings or urges!
Again, prep here is key. Mass cook everything at the weekend (or your least busy day), if you can be repetitive then this might look like one simple meat each day with rice. Of course substitute for your preferred taste. Pack it all into containers and then just make a simple salad or extra veggies the night before to accompany it. If you have more time in the evenings and want to mix it up a bit, then make extra dinner and take leftovers the next day. No fridge at work? Bring a small cooler bag with an ice pack in it, this will keep cool until lunch time. It doesn’t need to be a big bag, small ones are easier to carry and keep cool. You can store your nutritious snack in here too.
Much like breakfast, find establishments nearer to you that serve healthy food that’ll supplement your training. If you struggle with time at lunch, then bring in a stash of healthy snacks that can stay at your work. Of course, nothing that will perish so this might be seeds and nuts, protein bars, protein shake mixes that you can make at the time. Just be sure to get something from each macronutrient, carbohydrate, protein and fat – make it healthy though!
Does your work provide you with lunch or are there times when someone brings food in? Here’s an excellent opportunity to prove your worth to your business. Talk to the person responsible for providing the food or in some cases you may want to speak to the bosses. Find some research or put something together that proves that a healthy office is more productive. Once they see that they could get more out of their employees they might go for providing healthier foods. Two things to mention here, eating healthy doesn’t have to be boring and if they provide boring healthy foods, it wasn’t your idea!
Ok so this might also be your opportunity to make lunch for the next day. Still struggling for time in the evenings? Have you got a slow cooker, can you get one if not? These are perfect for prepping foods, simply make a quick dish and put it in there in the morning, it will be ready for when you get home. Want cold foods or can’t get a slow cooker just yet? Then like lunch you might consider mass prepping for the week on your least busy day. Rice or quinoa will keep if stored correctly, as will meat. Salad and veggies can be prepped, cut and made ready for cooking so that on the evening all you have to do is cook them. If anything all you’ll need to make these three meals easier for you is a lot of extra food containers!
Quick wins will be crucial here. I have lots of recipes with Nutritionally Fit programme but just think about how long items take too cook. Busy day, only got half hour, is now the time to cook a roast dinner? Not really, but similarly ready meals or anything microwaved is far less nutritious. Find the balance between what is too long and too unhealthy to prepare.
If you’re paying attention you can probably guess what I’ll be saying here! Preparation is key, take perishable items in your cooler and plan ahead in case you need a snack on the go. The easiest way to prep snacks is to buy bulk and then proportion it out. For example, nuts and seeds, buy a big bag and then weigh that into smaller bags for one of your snacks. Fruit is easy and could likely be purchased on the way to work to ensure its freshness, or you could take left over veggies from the night before.
You might be eating more like 5-6 meals per day if you’re training a lot, so you need to think about what you can take it. Perhaps that is simply a large lunch which you eat in portions. Check out my programme Nutritionally Fit, aimed solely at endurance athletes. There are many recipes to make your own bars, snacks or even other meals. Again, making bars can be done while you prepare other foods on your least busy day.
For those of you who are travelling a lot, maybe that’s on the road or even harder via plane, my advice to you is not much different to the rest of the advice in this guide, be prepared! On the road situations can be solved by the cooler at which point the prep I mentioned in the previous chapters becomes applicable.
It is harder if you travel by plane, you can’t necessarily bring a cooler with you, security concerns, costs or practicality being very good reasons. First you can research places to buy your food. If that reveals that you’ll be unlikely to find something healthy then you could consider managing the timing of your meals a little differently. Maybe you need to eat breakfast earlier, have a meal before getting to the airport (or pack one and eat at the airport), then on the plane a bar you’ve made from home. If you really think about it, you can make this work!
When travelling abroad, to places where your diet will be harder to follow it might become more a case of damage limitation. What can you do to reduce the likelihood of you having to eat off plan? Maybe this is bringing a blender (travel sized ones are easy to commute), maybe you bring protein shake, maybe non-perishable foods like nuts & seeds (depending on where you’re going!). All this really depends on where you are going and for how long!
1. Preparation is key – mass cook, bulk buy and get as much ready on your least busy day
2. Eat leftovers – this resolves any issues about mass prepping anything that is perishable
3. Plan your meal timings – can you eat before leaving the house, will you need to prep food the night before, what can you do to get your fuel in
4. Research healthy places to eat on your commute or near your work – this will be useful if you forget your food
5. Research recipes that will make your life easier – checkout my programme Nutritionally Fit
6. Buy a cool-bag – this will mean carrying perishables is possible
7. Buy plastic containers & bags – you will need these to proportion your foods out
8. Set alarms or reminders on your phone – anything you need to do so you don’t forget to prep for the week ahead
9. Talk to the boss – if they understood what you do about a healthy body is a productive one they might help reduce office based sources of sugar
10. Damage limitation – when all else fails, do what you can and return to the plan as soon as you can