Eat well on even your busiest days with these simple plan-ahead tips.Do your intentions to eat well seem to fly out the window when you have a packed schedule? Stay grounded with these simple tips, no matter how long your to-do list is:
- Make an effort to eat as a family at least once a day. A pleasant meal that isn't rushed promotes family bonding and improves the likelihood of eating a well-balanced meal. Be flexible with timing: You may need to eat dinner early or make a plan to always sit down together just for breakfast to accommodate everyone's hectic schedule.
- Cook ahead. When you have time to cook, make a double batch and freeze leftovers for quick meals on busy days. For instance, simmer enough pasta for two days. Serve it hot one night with meat sauce, then chilled in a salad with tuna and low-fat salad dressing the next.
- Stock your pantry with foods for simple meals. Good examples are whole-wheat pasta, fresh and frozen vegetables, fresh and canned fruits, 100 percent whole-wheat bread, lean deli meats, salsa, canned dried beans, and low-fat or fat-free yogurt and cheese.
- Go for health and convenience. Some convenience foods are designed to be healthy and lower in calories. A healthy frozen entree or side dish is an option on busy days. Read labels for calories, fat and sodium. Stock healthy versions of quick foods like instant brown rice.
- Look for shortcuts. Simplify your meal prep and save time by buying pre-cut fruits and vegetables, precooked meats, shredded low-fat cheeses, packaged salads, and frozen or canned vegetables. There's nothing quicker than fresh fruit, but fruit canned in its own juice (not sugary syrup) is also OK. Rinse canned vegetables with water to remove excess sodium.
- Keep a list of simple menu ideas. Recipes that include common staples and take 20 minutes or less come in handy on days when you're rushed.
It always helps if you plan meals ahead, but if your house is stocked with healthy choices you can wing it and still eat well. Remember that healthy eating doesn't have to be complicated or involve hard-to-find ingredients.
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