If only there were a magic pill that would instantly stock my fridge and pantry with healthy foods and make delicious meals appear on my kitchen table. If only.
So many of us strive to incorporate healthy dietary habits into our daily lives. Busy schedules, low energy levels, and poor choices can easily derail us from achieving this well-intentioned health goal. Another crazy day at work? Suddenly you’re picking up a pizza… again. Don’t have the energy to cook tonight? Macaroni and cheese it is! It’s an easy trap to fall into, especially when you’re exhausted.
Here’s the brutal truth — incorporating healthy dietary habits into your life will require a commitment, and it may even mean that you have to give up something along the way. It’s all about choices — you could settle into a Netflix marathon, or you could finally learn to use that new blender you bought for making smoothies on Amazon Prime Day.
Changing your diet requires planning, preparation, and commitment. If there were a quick fix, we would have all embraced it by now. The good news is that once you get on board and pledge to make this lifestyle change, there are time-saving tips to help you– and the healthful benefits gained are priceless.
Start by breaking everything down into smaller steps. The helpful suggestions that follow can help you tackle this lifestyle change and be on your way to a better life, without having to make too many sacrifices.
1. Listen to your hunger habits.
Do you graze? Skip breakfast? Eat meals around cravings? Assess your habits and really listen to what they are trying to tell you. Remember that when you crave something, your body is often asking for something else entirely. For example, if you’re craving chocolate, you might actually be lacking magnesium. Instead of grabbing a bag of chocolate chips, try a cacao and fruit smoothie with spinach to quell your magnesium craving. This article can expand on that theory. By listening to your body and responding with nutrients, rather than tempting fillers, you’ll be hungry less often and have more natural, food-based energy coursing through your system.
2. Find healthy replacements for your favorite comfort foods.
Rest assured that the internet is bursting with recipe swaps that can make your food transition much easier. Avoiding gluten? Try this cauliflower pizza recipe. Is your soda craving almost painful? Try a fruit-infused seltzer, instead. The possibilities are endless when it comes to taking advantage of healthy food swaps. With practice, you can learn to make these recipes just as fast as your current favorites.
3. Give your pantry a makeover.
Your pantry is quite possibly the one place that can make or break your diet change. If you’re still stashing cookies (you know, in that secret corner behind the flour), then temptation might get the best of you. The easiest way to deal with this is to get rid of that temptation. Stock your pantry with healthful items and leave the sweets out for a while. If you eliminate foods that weigh you down with refined and processed carbs, you’ll start to regain more balance and energy as time moves forward.
4. Create a menu for the entire week. Not just dinner.
The whole shebang, including snacks. As you dive into menu creation, look for recipes that use in-season foods and that share common ingredients, making shopping more economical. And don’t forget to plan for leftovers and the occasional scheduling curveball that might hit. Try to envision how the week will play out. Will you have more time to cook on Tuesdays, but only about 15 minutes to stop to eat on Mondays and Wednesdays? If you invest time in meal planning keeping your crazy schedule in mind, you can avoid grocery waste and stressful meal prep as your menu comes to life.
5. Adopt new tools and tactics in the kitchen.
Crock pots are amazing — you can throw in your ingredients the night before (or during your morning hustle) and reap the rewards later. Instant pots can also save the day when you need to shrink the amount of time it takes to execute a recipe. You can also pre-cook your meals and freeze them for use during the week when you’ve got the time (just remember to add a calendar reminder to thaw out your meal!). These time-saving methods help people on the go and those who need some extra rest throughout the day.
6. Break up with your grocery store.
Or at least tell your store that you need some space. Weekly menu planning will cultivate extra time as you consolidate shopping trips. You’ll be amazed at the amount of time you suddenly have during the week when you aren’t making emergency trips to the store for eggs. If it isn’t easy to get to the grocery, many local chains now offer delivery or curbside pickup, so you can order online and go about your day. You can also get into a meal delivery box (like Blue Apron) to save a ton of extra time. Read more about the best subscription boxes on the market at Thrillist.
7. Include your family.
Incorporating loved ones into your new routine will not only help keep you on track, but will also expose those around you to healthy food habits. Introduce swapped ingredients gently, allowing time for adjustment. If kids resist, try using a reward system (try five bites of this, you get 30 extra minutes of a favorite activity), and fuel their minds by explaining why the healthy alternative is a smart choice. By incorporating the family, preparation and cleanup aren’t all on you. This will help you keep your energy reserves up for other activities.
Incorporating new healthy eating habits into our busy and stressful lives can be tough, and doesn’t happen overnight. Adopting this lifestyle goes against the modern grain of food that is fast and convenient.
However, with patience, persistence, and a few time and energy saving tips, you can change your life for the better. Just take those first steps and re-energize yourself with delicious, healthful foods. It’s the best magic pill there is.