7 Healthy Eating Tips For Super Busy People
Think you’re too busy to eat healthy? Think again. Fit Factory Fitness nutritionist Maya Eid shares her tips for maintaining a healthy diet in spite of a packed schedule.
How to eat healthy: Start with a simple grocery list
Eating out can seem like the only option when you're strapped for time, but cooking at home (and knowing exactly what you're putting in your mouth) is one of the best ways to lose weight and stay healthy. Nutritionist Maya Eid of Toronto's Fit Factory Fitness gives her clients tons of tips for making cooking at home as easy as possible. One of them is keeping your grocery list super simple: "I suggest choosing your four favourite vegetables, four grains or starches and two proteins" and rotating through them. That way your trip to the grocery store is quick and you might not even need a list! To add variety, simply change up your sauces and spices.
Eid has a few favourite items that she always purchases: berries (especially frozen for making smoothies), Greek yogurt, two grains or starches for the week (like quinoa, brown rice, chickpeas or sweet potatoes) and chicken or salmon.
She also avoids packaged products like granola bars and protein cereals that seem healthy but are full of sugar. "Just have a piece of fruit with nut butter instead," she says.
Try one-pan dinners
Forget using half a dozen pots, pans and bowls to prep your meals. Instead, cook all of your meal components on one baking sheet. "You take a pan and put your chicken on one side, your roasted asparagus and broccoli in the middle and your sweet potato on the end," says Eid. "And you throw it in the oven, turn it on 350 degrees and you’ve literally got two meals — or however much you can fit on the pan." The trick is knowing when to take each item out of the oven (or when to put it in), since cooking times differ. "You'll have to take the asparagus and broccoli out first," she says. "Depending on the thickness of your protein, that comes out second. And lastly is your sweet potato, although cutting it up will make it cook faster. It requires a bit of technique but you can totally figure it out."
When it comes to seasoning her one-pan meal, she usually adds a bit of olive oil on the protein and sprinkles dried spice blends from the health-food store on the entire tray. "I also love jerk spice," she says. "It brings so much flavour to anything."
Batch cook on weekends
Or whichever day works for you! If your schedule is a sh*t show, take a few hours one day a week and make big batches of salad (sans dressing), veggies, grains/starches and proteins. Since Eid loves flavour, she separates each item into sealed containers (like large plastic bowls with lids) and only divvies up the ingredients into meal portions the night before (when it comes to lunches) or right before she eats them for dinner. She also tends to have one catch-up day mid-week where she cooks fresh protein, since chicken and salmon don't taste as great after a few days in the fridge.
Stash healthy homemade dressings and sauces in the fridge
Since the bulk of your meal is so basic, keep dried spice blends on hand, as well as a few homemade sauces. "I make Mason jar dressings in two different flavours," says Eid. "Then Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday will be one dressing and the rest of the week will be another dressing." Then you can use the dressings for salads, veggies or even drizzle them on your protein or starches, because they'll give flavour to anything that's bland.
Here are two of Eid's favourite dressings, which she shakes up in Mason jars and stores for up to one week.
Classic French Vinaigrette (6 servings)
- 2 garlic cloves, minced or grated
- juice of 1 lemon
- 2 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 3 tbsps balsamic vinegar
- 2/3 cup olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
Toasted Sesame Ginger Dressing (4-6 servings)
- 1/4 cup almond or sunflower butter
- 3 tbsp hot water (or more to desired consistency)
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp tamari sauce
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- 1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
- juice of 1/2 lime
- 1/2 tsp of hot sauce
- 1 tsp fresh ginger, minced or grated
- 1 large garlic clove, minced or grated
Prep your breakfast the night before
If you're pressed for time in the mornings, mix up a healthy meal the night before. Eid loves chia puddings, since they're easy to prep and you can also take them to go.
Here's her recipe:
Coconut Chia Pudding (2 servings)
- 1/4 cup chia seeds
- 2 cups unsweetened boxed coconut milk
- 2 tsps raw honey or maple syrup (optional)
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 1 cup fresh fruit of choice
In a large Mason jar, add all ingredients and mix until very well combined. Return to the jar every minute or two to give it a good shake and make sure the chia seeds are evenly mixed. Place in the refrigerator and allow to rest for at least two hours. Divide into separate Mason jars to take on the go.
Keep healthy snacks easily available
"I love boiled eggs," says Eid. "I know it sounds boring but it’s a perfect food. It’s got fat and protein. It’s brain food and it keeps you going," so boil up a few eggs to store in the fridge when you're doing meal prep. Eid also loves organic Greek yogurt (full fat because it will keep you full longer) with berries and flax or chia seeds to add fibre.
Fall for stir-fries
Another go-to meal that Eid loves to batch cook is stir-fries — and she always makes at least enough for lunch the next day. She also says it's a great option for date night instead of going to a restaurant because your man can "clean and chop the vegetables while you sautee and add the spices and sauces." Eid loves a stir-fry with cubed chicken, bok choy, red peppers, coconut milk and Thai paste.
You'll love this Veggie and Shrimp Stir-Fry that takes only 30 minutes to prep and cook.