How To Eat Healthy When You Think You Don't Have Time To Cook

When it comes to eating healthy, one of the biggest blocks people face is not having enough time to cook. This leads to grabbing a "quick bite" to eat which usually means fast or processed foods which we know aren't healthy at all. 

But many times it also means not eating anything at all.

Why You Don't Want To Skip Meals

Most people skip meals because they think they are "too busy" to get something healthy to eat. In reality, it's not because they were "too busy", it's because they failed to prepare. 

There's another common thought that when you skip a meal, you are also "saving" calories. Trust me, I've been there. There have been days where I'd starve myself all day because I knew I was having a big dinner and planned to indulge in dessert.

But that line of thinking often backfires. Around 3 pm you're starving and end up binging on the closest thing you can find. Then you feel like a failure for not having any willpower.

Your body needs fuel to function. So when it's deprived, it SCREAMS out for what it needs - food! Skipping meals set you up for failure and feeling guilty.  

When you eat regularly,  you'll notice that you are able to get through the day with more energy.

And when you plan out your meals in advance, you make healthier choices. It's much easier to make unhealthy choices when you need something NOW then you grab the closest thing you can find.

The key is to plan ahead. Designate time on your calendar to plan and prepare your meals. 

How To Plan Your Meals

Meal planning doesn't have to be an elaborate event. Keep it simple. 

Step 1:

Look at your calendar for the next week. What does it look like? Do you have any work functions, or meeting friends for dinner? 

Then open up a document. This could be in Evernote, a Google Doc or even just a simple sheet of paper.

Write out all of the meals that you're preparing for. Be sure to include breakfast and lunch - hose are usually the meals that we skip or where we make the poorest choices.

An example of this would be:

- 6 days of breakfast
- 5 days of lunch
- 5 days of dinner (because you have plans to dine out on Friday and Saturday evenings)

Step 2:

Now go through each day and fill out what you'd like to eat for each meal. You want to include a protein, some carbs, lots of veggies and maybe some fruit in every meal. Remember, quality over quantity.

For recipe ideas go through your collection of favorites, read blogs, magazines - wherever you get like to get ideas from. You might also want to think seasonally - soups and warm meals for Fall and Winter, salads and cold meals for Spring and Summer.

Step 3:

Open a new document, or get a new sheet of paper and write down all of the foods you will need to prepare your meals that you don't already have in your kitchen. This will be your grocery list.

If you need to, go through your kitchen and take inventory on what you think you might already have. I can't tell you how many times I "thought" I had something (usually spices), then when it's time to cook I find out that I don't. Grrr!

Tip: If you know your grocery store well enough, write out your grocery list according to the layout of the store. Grocery shopping is not my favorite thing so it makes the experience quick and efficient for me. It also prevents me from making unnecessary purchases.

Step 4:

When you get home and put away your groceries, you might want to consider the following:

- Chop, slice, peel any fruits or veggies that you might use as snacks or even juice. I can't tell you how many times I didn't do this, forgot about the produce and it ended up going bad in my fridge. What a waste!

- Portion out your meats. If you got two lbs of ground beef but plan to only cook a pound at a time, portion it out BEFORE you put it in the freezer.

Tip: Add a task on your To-Do app of when you will need to defrost something. I can't tell you how many times I was ready to cook dinner only to realize I forgot to defrost the meat for it! (I do not like to defrost meat in the microwave - personal preference just seems gross to me).

Step 5:

If you feel like you never have "time" to actually cook - schedule it on your calendar just like you would do an appointment, meeting or even your workouts. 

Step 6:

Cook your food in batches. For example, a typical breakfast for me is some ground beef sauteed with green veggies. So I cook enough of the ground beef for about three days. This saves me lots of time in the mornings when all I need to do is heat it up!

Step 7:

If you are using leftovers for lunch the next day (which I highly recommend, box it in transportable containers when you're cleaning up dinner. 

This way, as you're rushing out the door the next morning, your lunch is already packed and ready to go! Just remember to take it with you! 

When lunch time rolls around, you just need to head to the break room to heat it up! No more lunches from the vending machine anymore!

Tip: Use BPA-free containers and water bottles, and pack soups in a thermos.

Make It Simple With Evernote

I personally use Evernote for this. If you're not familiar with Evernote, it's a note-taking app that syncs across all devices. I can plan my meals while I'm working on my laptop. 

Then, when I'm at the grocery store, I just open it on my phone and wham - my grocery list is there! With little checkboxes too so I can make things off as I shop!

The same goes for my meal schedule. When I'm in my kitchen, I just open Evernote on my phone or tablet (it syncs there too) and get cooking!

Tip: You can also use the Evernote clipper to save recipes and/or include a link to the recipe you're using right on your meal plan!

{Also, I am NOT affiliated with Evernote in any way. I was an early adopter, have participated in focus groups at their headquarters but am not an affiliate or compensated in anyway.}

And there you have it! This may seem like an overwhelming, or even tedious exercise, but I promise you it isn't! 

Once you get into the habit of doing this, it becomes a breeze!

A little structure goes a long way to making life more flexible and convenient!

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Naomi Nakamura is a certified Holistic Health Coach who takes a holistic approach through functional nutrition. Through her weekly show, The Live FAB Live Podcast, coaching programs, and safer skincare solutions, she helps people with acne and other chronic skin issues clear up their skin by teaching them where food meets physiology and how food, gut health, stress, and toxins are intricately connected to the health and appearance of our skin. Naomi resides in the San Francisco Bay Area and can often be found romping around the city with her puppy girl, Coco Pop! Connect with Naomi at: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest.