This is a guest post from my wife, Ashleigh Zyrowski. Ashleigh is the co-author of the Heal Yourself Cookbook. On top of being a wife, mother, and business owner, she always makes sure that our family has home-cooked, healthy meals. In this blog post, she shares her secrets on how to eat healthy with a busy schedule.
It’s easy to talk about “eating healthy”. It’s another thing to actually do it.
Sure, there are some individuals that work average hours, so they have the spare time to focus on their lifestyle, including proper nutrition, exercise, and the like. However, if you’re reading this, chances are you are strapped for time. Maybe you’re putting in 45+ hours a week at the office, maybe you’re busy running the kids to and from school/activities, maybe you’re committed to clubs/activities, maybe you have a spouse who you need to spend quality time with…The list goes on and on…
The point is, although we all have good intentions to eat right, acting on it becomes extremely difficult while attempting to juggle all of our other time commitments. As a result, many are grabbing a Starbucks on the way to work, eating out of the vending machine or nearest fast-food restaurant, and throwing together the fastest thing we can find for dinner. In the rat race of life, we think it impossible to actually eat balanced, nutritious meals.
It’s not impossible. In fact, I’ll tell you how.
But first, I want to let you know that I understand how difficult it is. I have two young children at home. My husband puts in 50+ hours of work every week. I put in an average of 30-40 hours a week, over 70% of which I do at home, without a sitter. Some days, it seems like we are running at 100% capacity. But I always make it a priority to eat healthy.
Why make eating healthy a priority?
With so much riding on our shoulders, Dr. Zyrowski and I have to be ready to perform every day. We need to execute with efficiency, if you will; however, even if I wasn’t a business owner, mom, and wife, I’d still want to avoid being sick! I wouldn’t want my husband to show up to work unable to focus, or my children to be catching every “bug” that’s going around.
You see, consuming the right foods isn’t just about looking good. Proper nutrition allows your body to detox properly and balance hormones. Eating right can help you avoid things like weight gain, digestive problems, hair loss, and acne and skin problems. What’s more, a balanced, healthful diet that’s full of good fats, clean protein, and low glycemic fruits and vegetables can help you sleep better, have better focus and more energy, reverse disease, and avoid illnesses. As the father of medicine stated, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
What does healthy eating mean?
There are countless blog posts and magazine articles out there that will try telling readers what it means to eat healthy. I’ve heard it all: eat whole grains (Standard American Diet), go gluten-free, be vegetarian/vegan, fat-free, ketogenic, paleo…
I’m going to give it to you in layman’s terms, ok? Here’s what you need to do, follow the Heal Yourself Guidelines.
1. Remove Sugars
2. Remove Grains
3. Eat Good Fats
4. Eat Good Meats
(I go over the nitty-gritty details and simply break it down in my cookbook, plus a handy dandy shopping list is included.)
But this article isn’t about what foods to eat, but how to eat right when you’re crazy busy.
How in the world can anyone find the time to consume healthy food every day of the week?
Let me show you how…
Step 1: Have a Plan
If you find yourself “flying by the seat of your pants” then I can guarantee you that you aren’t eating very healthy. How do I know that? When you don’t have a plan and you have limited time, you’re far more likely to fall prey to the easy meals (boxed food) or restaurant food. Both of these options are loaded with sodium, hydrogenated oils, gluten, sugars, and GMOs, and are nearly void of actual nutrients.
What I do to avoid these common pitfalls is meal plan. I didn’t invent meal planning, but I’ve done an amazing job mastering it. I’ll share exactly what I do…
I keep a dry-erase board calendar on my refrigerator. Each Sunday I take my dry-erase board down, grab a pad of paper and pen, and head to the kitchen table. I then decide what we’re going to eat that week. For inspiration, I look on my Pinterest page, reference my cookbook, or look at my recipe binder (where I put the recipes I love or recipes I’m working on). I decide on dinners first, keeping in mind which nights will be most busy. Then, I can plan out what I’ll take for lunches (normally I take leftovers, but more on that in a second). And lastly, I do breakfast options.
Step 2: Don’t overcomplicate it.
If you’re lost, take a deep breath.
Breathe in………….now breathe out……………Feel better now?
Ok, so don’t let this stuff get to your head. You’ll want to keep it simple. Remember that simple can still be nutrient-dense and delicious.
For breakfast, stick to a few different options, such as smoothies, eggs, or parfaits. You can get really fancy here, adding in lots of variety, or you can keep it simple. Or if you’re like me, just do intermittent fasting and avoid breakfast all together.
For lunch, we love having leftovers. It’s quick and easy! However, if you’re not a leftover fan, make lettuce wraps with meat and veggies inside, salad, or soup. Hummus and guacamole also make great lunches when paired with sliced vegetables.
For dinner, try to come up with 10 recipes that follow the Heal Yourself Guidelines listed above. If you can come up with 10 recipes that your family likes that are made with clean protein, good fats, and low glycemic vegetables, then you’re solid. You can rotate them for the first month or so, and then you can slowly start branching out to find new recipes.
Step 3: Shop and save
So after you decide what you’re going to eat, it’s time to make the shopping list. I quickly take stock of what I have on hand, scanning my refrigerator and my pantry. Then I look at my meal plan, and make my shopping list accordingly. Be sure to have your recipes handy during this process so you can make sure you have everything you’ll need to make them.
When your list is complete, it’s time to hit the grocery store. Your shopping list should be 80-90% fresh ingredients, with a sprinkling of canned goods (like diced tomatoes) and toiletries.
Now here’s the fun part – the savings.
You’ll just be making one trip to get groceries this week. If you don’t have good meat choices at your local grocer, then you may need to go to a second store. But do your best to get all of the shopping done in the same day. By making just one trip, you’ll be saving yourself time driving around to get groceries. Also, by making a list of exactly what you’ll be using, you’ll be having less food waste in your house, saving you money.
Money & Time Savings = Win-Win
Step 4: Be Flexible
Things come up. That’s how life goes. So don’t be so rigid that you lose focus on what matters, eating healthy. Just because you had spaghetti squash listed on Sunday doesn’t mean you can’t make it on Wednesday. Adjust your meals to fit your schedule. Also, if you notice that your avocados won’t make it to fajita night then switch your schedule and eat fajitas earlier in the week.
Step 5: Traveling
I won’t elaborate too much on eating healthy while traveling because Dr. Zyrowski has done podcasts and written articles about the topic, but what I will tell you is that you can eat healthy while traveling. All it takes is the proper mindset. Nowadays, there are healthy choices, no matter where you are. You simply need to look for them.
Sample Meal Plan
For some of you, it’s easier to having things laid out. That’s why I included a page from my cookbook below to help you get started on how to properly meal plan.
Planning and preparing is the best way to make sure that you have healthful foods available for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I’m a business owner, mother, and wife. I know all about having time constraints, but by properly fueling my body I’m able to be more productive, healthier, and overall happier.
If you have questions, please post them below. Remember, no question is a dumb question. Chances are someone else out there is thinking the same thing you are.