Good Food on the Go: Eating Healthy When Busy

September 1, 2014 by Cat


The older I get, the more I realize that being organized really helps all facets of my life.  Organization kind of oozes into areas I wouldn’t have expected it to matter.  Obviously it comes in handy when looking for something in your house or your office.  It definitely helps when you need something specific from the abyss you call your purse.  Would you guess that being organized can help you eat better, though?  I’m telling you, organization is a way of life!

Let me paint a picture to demonstrate.  You set PM on your alarm clock by accident and woke up really late.  In a mad dash out the door, you inhale some juice and a Little Debbie just because it was there for the taking.  Your stomach starts rumbling at 10 a.m. because breakfast wasn’t substantial enough, and you visit the vending machine for a snack.  At lunch you grab a burrito while you’re out running errands.  Rush hour traffic put you home late, and you’re still coming down from the anxiety of nothing going quite right today.  The easiest thing to do now is just eat a bag of microwave popcorn and have a glass of wine because you still haven’t made it to the grocery store this week.

Plan Ahead

As much as I wish being organized meant that I was never late in the mornings (HA!), what I was getting at was that organization can help you avoid eating crap all day.  I know fast food and prepackaged convenience items are always tempting when I’m busy, stressed, and lacking energy, but I know it’s important to not slip into that rut.  Plus, I physically feel better when I’m in the habit of eating higher quality foods than when I’ve binged on processed junk.

What helps me the most is planning ahead.  I set aside time, usually on the weekend, to get prepared for my week.  I look at my calendar to see what days are busiest or what days I’ll get home later.  I plan less involved, quicker meals for those days.  I try new recipes and plan more fun meals with multiple components for the days I get home earlier.  The key, though, is the planning.  Forethought before you’re stressed and hungry makes 5 p.m. Thursday much easier to deal with.  I have a dry erase menu board on my refrigerator, and it displays the week’s meals that I’ve planned.  By the way, this usually helps with the constant, “what’s for dinner?” question.  Not only does my menu board hold me accountable to what I already decided to make, but it keeps me from having to dig through the cupboards to see how I can creatively combine black eyed peas and bananas when my stomach really wanted to eat ten minutes ago.  If I’ve planned for a specific meal to be made, I know I’ll be potentially letting food spoil if I choose to stop for fast food on the way home when all the ingredients for my original meal are waiting.  I hate to waste money on food I didn’t use fast enough, and that can be a great motivator to stick to the plan.

Cook In Bulk

Another way I tend to prepare for a busy week is by making a big dish of something that I can package and take to work each day for lunch.  I usually do this on Sunday afternoon and put together my individual containers so that I can just grab one and go when I’m packing my lunch in the morning.  If I already have food set aside for lunch, I won’t waste valuable morning time throwing together a pb&j or be forced to buy something less healthy.  I love cold grain or bean salads for lunches or even leftover pasta.  A crockpot is a great way to make a large meal that can stretch throughout the week.  Some of my favorite lunch recipes are on our Pinterest boards.  I love adding extra veggies, making substitutions, or swapping out the protein in them for variety.

On-the-go foods are an important part of being a busy bee.  Healthy snacks are great for tiding you over until meal time and keeping your mental juices flowing in the afternoon.  Like I do with lunches, I make snacks and individually package them to throw into my lunch box each morning.  I may not eat a snack every day, but having it there will keep me from hitting up the vending machine when hunger strikes.  My go-to snacks are homemade energy bars and trail mix.  You can also find the peanut-free energy bar recipe on our Pinterest page, and as a bonus, they’re great frozen to stretch their shelf life.  I buy nuts and seeds in bulk for my trail mix.  My favorite combo is lightly salted pistachios, natural almonds, pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries, and Grenada Chocolate Company dark chocolate chunks.

For me, it all boils down to planning ahead so I don’t impulse eat whatever is quickest or cheapest.  If you try this out, let us know how it goes!  What other tips do you have for eating healthy when you’re super busy?

Photo courtesy of Alex.

12 thoughts on “Good Food on the Go: Eating Healthy When Busy”

  1. Kassandra @ More Than Just Money

    Even though I work from home, I can still let too much time slip by between meals. Most days I make my life simple by eating the same meals for breakfast and lunch to save on time and prep. I keep fruits, pre-cut veggies and nuts nearby and we limit the junk food that enters the house.

    1. Yes- it’s never good to realize it’s 2 p.m. and you have yet to eat for the day! I’m sometimes guilty of that, too. Finger foods like nuts and pre-cut veggies are a fantastic idea. If you feel like sharing your fave breakfast and lunch go-to meals, I’d love to hear them!

  2. I try to keep ingredients on hand for 3 meals that take less than 15 minutes. I also cook in bulk, so I’m not having to cook for every single meal. And in a pinch, I’ll have a clif bar or a Vega protein shake to tide me over until I have more time for better options.

    1. My husband really likes the Clif Bars, and we recently discovered that we like Larabars. What a great idea to always keep the ingredients for a few fall back meals! I’ve always got grains and frozen veggies on hand that I can embellish with whatever is in the fridge, but I think I’ll try your method of stashing the complete ingredient list.

  3. Erin @ Journey to Saving

    I am definitely guilty of letting too many hours pass before I eat. I’d like to get into making crockpot meals for fall. I also work from home, so there’s no excuse not to throw a few things in there and let it simmer all day!

    1. Definitely! Sometimes the challenge with finding crockpot meals is finding ones that are a complete meal with enough veggies for my liking. I may do the bulk of the meal in the slow cooker and still do a side dish or two on the stove top, which sometimes defeats the purpose. But that’s what Pinterest is for, right? There are so many recipes!

  4. Planning in advance is definitely the key for staying healthy on any given day. I am currently in the process of getting myself back together after a summer of letting loose and I spend most of Sundays separating fruits and veggies to make my own snack packs. You save so much money when you just make it yourself rather than the pre-made stuff.

  5. Planning ahead is the best way to eat healthy when you are busy. I find it easy for busy people – like myself – to set aside time to plan what I’ll eat for the next “x” number of days. Then I don’t have to think about it again for (usually) a week or two.

    1. I love doing breakfast burritos in a decent sized batch and freezing them. They probably aren’t the best meal, but we really enjoy them every once in a while.

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