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Seven ways to eat healthy no matter how busy you are
This article is part of our Complete Guide to Health for Entrepreneurs, which covers topics like mental health, taking vacation, work life balance and avoiding burn out.
Maintaining a healthy diet is hard enough; trying to do it while running a business can feel almost impossible. We’ve become accustomed to working through lunches, eating meals from vending machines, and stashing bags of chips in our desks so we can get through our work uninterrupted. But productivity requires health, and you won’t stay healthy for long with eating habits like those. Here are seven ways you can make better food choices no matter how busy you are.
Keep healthy snacks at your desk
When you’re chained to your desk, it’s likely you’re going to reach for the first snack you can get your hands on, no matter how close the nearest Whole Foods is. A packed schedule will almost always result in convenience trumping nutrition, so make it easier on yourself with a little preparation and make healthy choices convenient, too.
Stock up on things like nuts, dried fruit, pre-cut veggies and hummus, and even dark chocolate (for those afternoon cravings). If you get bored easily, sign up for a paid snack subscription like RawBox or UrthBox. Having a wide range of healthy treats will not only give you a reason to avoid the vending machine, but it will also make it a lot easier to say no to the sugary sweets that usually get shared around the office.
Get a fresh perspective on delivery
Delivery gets a bad rap. When you pick up your phone to order in, greasy (albeit delicious) options like pizza, Chinese food, or cheesesteaks are usually top of mind. But much like snack services, companies like Freshly or Sakara can deliver healthy meals right to your home or office door for the same cost as your unhealthy, impulsively ordered meals. You get a variety of healthy options, usually from a rotating menu, ranging from salads to sandwiches to vegetarian dishes and everything in between.
Beyond the health benefits, a subscription meal service will also save you the time of grocery shopping, meal-planning, and meal-prepping, so you can use it to work when needed. Sounds like win-win-win to us.
Cook in batches (and make friends with your freezer)
If you’re like me, you wake up every morning with plans to come home from work and cook a delicious, healthy dinner with enough leftovers to bring as lunch the next day. But, if you’re really like me, you get home from a busy day at work and the last thing you actually want to do is cook.
“I’ll order UberEats tonight, but tomorrow I will cook. For real.”
The reality is you will probably always come home from work and prefer the option of relaxing over anything else. Skip the inevitable self-lectures and post-UberEats guilt, and instead plan ahead and cook nutritious meals for the week in batches on Sunday (or whatever day you have off from work).
Make sure to pick easy recipes for dishes that freeze well, and then pack them in single-portion containers so you can grab them on your way to work every morning, and for dinner when you get home. Making large batches will provide you with healthy lunches and dinners for the week (or more if you freeze them). If you’re the type that can’t eat the same thing multiple days in a row, either increase your cooking days from one to a few, or prepare a few options on your cooking day so you can switch it up throughout the week.
Fast track your slow cooking
If you’re looking for alternatives to batch-cooking but still want to save time and opt for healthy meals, make sure you’ve got a slow-cooker in your kitchen. Would you love to come home from work to a homemade dinner ready and waiting for you, without taking on the costs of hiring a personal chef? Well, you may have to prepare and plate the meals yourself, but a slow-cooker can do all the cooking for you while you’re busy at work. (Kind of like a fancy personal chef. Sort of.)
Stews, chilis, soups, pulled pork—the possibilities are endless. Just round up the ingredients, toss them into the pot, set the timer and go to work. You’ll return from the office eight hours later (on a good day) to a deliciously-scented home, a hot meal ready to eat, and enough left over to enjoy it all again tomorrow.
Avoid eating meals at your desk (regardless of what you’re eating)
Whether you’re eating a healthy meal or not, avoid eating it at your desk: Studies have proven that multitasking can be dangerous to your waistline. When you’re focused on responding to email and typing reports, you’re not paying attention to how much you’re eating and you’re more likely to overdo it. Set your work aside for a least 30 minutes a day so you can focus on eating the healthy meals that you’ve spent time preparing (or had delivered)! If you have the chance, do yourself one better and get some fresh air by enjoying your lunch outside.
And if preserving your waistline isn’t enough reason to get your food away from your desk, maybe this is: In terms of bacteria, desks are 400 times dirtier than your toilet.
Park lunch, anyone?
Choose healthy options at restaurants
Let’s face it, when you’re dealing with clients, you’re probably having more than a few meetings at restaurants, cafes, or bars. As much as you may want to eat your homemade ravioli for lunch, you may not be able to avoid that client dinner or lunch this week. Restaurant food is usually loaded with extra sugar and salt and is unlikely to be as healthy as what you packed this morning, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have options. Look for fresh, healthy salads when you can, choose grilled over fried, and get sides like fruit or soup instead of fries or onion rings.
Whenever possible, try to check out the menu in advance so you can have your options ready when it’s time to order. This way, you’ll remove the stress of trying to decipher items without listed ingredients and you’ll reduce the chances of making an impulsive choice because you’re hungry or in a rush and unprepared.
Water. The answer is always water.
Do we need to elaborate?
(In case you said yes, drinking water will keep you more full and less tempted to reach for those snacks and empty calories.)
Making healthy choices is like any other habit—the more you do it, the more natural it will become. There are days when accepting a slice of birthday cake or having a beer with your client will be unavoidable, but sticking to these tips will make it easier to enjoy those moments when you’re “forced” to have cake and beer, without feeling so guilty.