My favorite thing to do on a weekend afternoon is to wander through the farmer's market. On a lazy Saturday afternoon, I could spend hours looking for the perfect recipe to cook up all of my farmers market finds. Plus, I actually find cooking extremely relaxing, when I can just plug in some tunes and go to town in the kitchen. For me, eating healthy is not hard...when I have time.

Over the past two months, I was totally swamped at work (which is why my last post was in January) and eating healthy was SUCH a struggle. Because I was always stressed and tired, I found myself buying more processed/packaged foods, eating leftover pizza/cookies from lunch meetings, craving chocolate and bread all the fucking time, and cooking was like the last thing on my mind.

About a month in, I was like okay, this is not working. I feel gross, and I just want to eat healthy again. So here are four hacks that I used to stay healthy:

1) Keep it simple: When you are busy, don't try to make magic in the kitchen. Instead, think about the following when you are deciding on what to make: 
  • Can I bake this instead? Baking is the best because you can leave it in the oven and then do whatever you need to do while your dinner is literally cooked for you.
  • How much prep time does this need? If you have to cut like a pound and a half of veggies before you can cook, forget about it. Opt for the easy ones where you just have to sauté some kale and grill (or bake) up some chicken and be done. You don't need to impress anyone. At this point, it's literally just about getting some sustenance into your body, so you can get back to whatever it is you have to do.
  • Can I cook this in bulk and have leftovers for the week? When you don't have time, leftovers are like the food of the gods. I know fresh food tastes better than leftover crap, but when you skipped lunch because of back to back meetings all day, there is no better feeling than microwaving your dinner. So basically, don't make seafood when you know you want leftovers; no one likes eating day old fish.
Today, I knew that I wanted to write a blog post and finish up some work before I went to sleep, so I made a one pan quinoa and veggie stir fry. Was it the most amazing meal that I have ever had? No. But it was half decent, took fifteen minutes, and I only had to wash one pan, a bowl, and a spoon when I was done.

2) Plan your snacks: Okay, so this is clutch. A lot of days, I just needed to grab and go, and the easiest things to grab and go are pre-packaged foods. If you plan your snacks well, you won't have the urge to stick your head into the candy bowl around 2pm. I made sure to bring my snacks for the week with me to work on Monday. The weeks that I didn't have healthy snacks, I really struggled. What do I mean by planning your snacks well? Bring snacks to work that you will actually eat. Don't bring carrots and hummus, if you know you are not going to want to eat carrots and hummus. Here's what I brought to work to keep me from binging on cookies:
  • Clementines
  • Bananas
  • Walnuts/Almonds/Macadamia Nuts
  • Dark Chocolate and dried fruit (sparingly)
  • Grass-fed Yogurt and honey
  • Almond Milk
  • Plantain chips

3) Get enough sleep: What does sleep have to do with eating healthy? I noticed that following the nights that I was sleeping five hours or less, all I wanted to do the next day was eat sugar. There is a bunch of literature about this on the internet, so I won't pretend to be a nutritional expert and go into the science behind it (you should do your own research). But my n=1 experiment proved to me that sleep deprivation gives me intense sugar cravings - that I am apparently totally powerless against. 

4) Do small things: I realized that I needed to give myself motivation to want to cook after a long day at work, so I did something really small that made a huge difference. I got my knife sharpened. I know you are like what does that have to do with anything. Well 1) my knife was so dull that it took me forever to cut anything (plus it was also dangerous) and 2) it made cutting veggies kind of fun (i am a self-proclaimed dork, i know). What are small things you can do make cooking fun?
  • Get your knife sharpened: It sounds dumb, but trust me it makes such a big difference.
  • Invest in a new spice blend: Really like cajun food? Get a cajun spice blend that you can easily put on some meat and bake.
  • Get your groceries delivered: I get my produce delivered from Boston Organics, which is on a recurring schedule, so there is nothing that I have to do in the process. There are so many delivery services/food prep startups; you should do a quick google search to find ones in your area. If you are in NYC or SF, here are two really cool startups for busy people who want to eat healthy: Plated and Munchery.

In the coming weeks, I'll be posting the super easy recipes that I made over the last two months. Stay tuned!



03/19/2013 7:55am

Kind of piggy-backing on the leftovers point -- use your FREEZER!

When you do have time to cook, make a big batch of the meal and freeze it -- you then have homemade frozen dinners for those super busy weeks when you don't have time to cook anything.

Obviously this doesn't work with all meals, but chili, casseroles (like that butternut squash and turkey bake you made), baked pastas and stuff like that are very freezer-friendly and can be as healthy or unhealthy as you want them to be!

Mili Shah
03/19/2013 10:51pm

@Ishita So true about the freezing! I really liked your post a while ago where you listed a few healthy hacks too: http://www.bitesoutoflife.com/2012/08/30/smashed-chickpea-and-avocado-salad/

03/21/2013 7:28pm

Precise and straight to the point! One can co-relate to the life in a suitcase talk of George Clooney in the movie "Up in the Air" to food habits, here.

on top of it,
1. Some of the crazy morning rush to office, does not gives us a chance to even sip a drop of water, when we needed the most. Forget the thought of "I can/will carry a sipper with me all the time! The motivation to carry it is dead when you use it for a week or two and haven't got a chance to clean. Get a 24 pack of bottled water - Poland springs, have it under the coat hanger near the door, easy to grab on the go. It gives a fresh life to the already, busy, rush morning. (remember to buy it when you take a cab, while getting home, avoids the heavy weight hassle)
2. Breakfast determines most of my/our days. I invest in throw away to-go coffee cups with lids. They are amazingly multi-purpose. Fill them with an oat meal/cereals/juice or the regular coffee. Have it on the go like “the two min elevator ride is all we require to finish it” or “the wait for the train replaces nail biting with food”. If necessary, opt for a cab to work just to have some peaceful breakfast. Trust me, it is worth it!(unless you've a second alarm, which screams you to "literally throw the sheets away"). If you drive, have some additional plastic bags in it, which allows you to carry your coffee mug/cereal/oat meal bowl and eat it while driving, when done, the plastic bag takes care of it.


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