Healthy Meals for Busy Lives

It can be a challenge to maintain healthy eating habits when it seems like you’re on the go all day. What makes a meal healthy? According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a typical plate should be about half vegetables and fruits, balanced with a variety of lean protein, whole grains and low-fat dairy. Limit saturated fat, sodium and added sugars.

The easiest way to ensure healthy eating is to make a plan. If this is new for you, be good to yourself and start small. Make a plan for a few days, not necessarily a few weeks. And for times when plans don’t happen, have a back-up plan. Here are a few tips for both plans and back-up plans.

Make a plan

Keep it simple – For example, cook or grill chicken or other protein and make more than you need. (Weekends are good for this.) Then, use the remaining protein for tacos, pasta, soup or salads throughout the week.

Cook extras – If possible, double your recipe and freeze it, or just enjoy the peace of mind that comes with having leftovers in the fridge that require no prep work. Or, cook a pound of ground turkey or beef to have ready in your freezer for saving time when you need it.

Stock up – Buy in bulk so that you always have options. Frozen or canned vegetables give you flexibility for sides, soups and pastas. To use frozen vegetables as a side, consider roasting in the oven with a little olive oil and garlic to add flavor.

Create a core list – Consider the healthy foods that you like and keep them on hand. For example, canned beans, low-fat grated cheese, frozen bell peppers, salsa, a little sour cream and tortillas can add up to a quick veggie chalupa, taco or burrito.

Find a soup recipe that’s easy – Many soup recipes come together quickly and easily with canned or frozen ingredients and spices. Keep ingredients on hand for pulling dinner together in less than a half hour.

Go for the back-up plan

Eat breakfast for dinner – Think scrambled eggs or an omelet and include veggies such as onions, bell peppers, mushrooms or tomatoes – whatever you have on hand. Add turkey bacon or sausage, a whole grain bread and call it good in less than 30 minutes. Add fruit on the side to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Apply appliances – Pressure cookers or slow cookers are time savers that that give you many options. With a pressure cooker, you can make chicken breasts in about 15 minutes if thawed and about 30 minutes if frozen.

Remember what’s in your freezer – It’s a great day when you realize that you have dinner mostly made because you planned ahead.

Getting in a new routine is a big part of healthy eating. It doesn’t mean that you can never splurge on a hot fudge sundae. It just means that you make healthy eating your priority and approach grocery shopping with commitment, a list and the willingness to read the labels. You can do this.


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