One of the most common nutritional issues people have is finding a way to eat healthy while on the go. Eating on the go is challenging, because it means you are already short on time and the less time you have, the lower the chance you will find something healthy to eat.
To make matters worse, the quickest and easiest meals to eat on the go are also the ones you should probably avoid. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to improve your eating habits during a busy day.
The most beneficial thing you can do to improve your eating habits if you have a busy schedule is to prepare some meals or snacks or at least plan what you will be able to eat in advance. By the time you are rushing and trying to find something to eat, it is already too late, so the key is to make a plan before your day starts. For most people, the night before is a good choice, but any time when you aren’t too busy should work well.
You don’t have to plan every detail of your meals, but at least try to think about what food options you have at any point of time during the day. If you find that you don’t have many good options, then you need to prepare something the day before and plan to take it with you. If you wait until after you day has started, it becomes too easy to run out of time or forget, even if the food is quick and easy to prepare.
As for what to prepare, sandwiches (ideally with healthy bread and meat, other quality protein source, or even natural peanut butter) are good options, assuming you have the ingredients in advance. I used to make sandwiches and keep them in zip lock bags and they stayed fresh hours into the day.
These meals stay fresh even longer if you have access to a fridge or even take a small cooler with some ice packs. This takes just a little more effort and most likely a little getting used to, but once you get in the habit it should be easy to make this into a normal part of your routine.
If you do have access to a fridge or cooler then you have a lot of other options as well. Some of my favorite quick and easy meals include things like whole wheat pasta or brown rice mixed with some type of meat or fish, depending on what you like to eat.
My strategy is to cook a decent serving of carbohydrate (such as a whole package of pasta) in advance, usually on a day off, along with some protein (such as some chicken breasts). Then I simply take a portion of the pasta and a portion of the chicken and put it into an air tight container. That would then be a single meal.
You can of course add other ingredients for extra flavoring if you want, but I generally keep my meals rather simple. If you like tuna, canned tuna is also quick and easy, because you only have to open the can and drain the water.
My primary goal is really to have a decent carb source along with some protein in each of my main meals. Then you can also add some snacks for other times during the day if you want. Some good snack foods are fresh fruits, vegetables, or raw nuts (almonds and walnuts are great choices).
These suggestions should help with the majority of your day, but breakfast can be a little trickier. One issue with breakfast is many people don’t like to eat certain things in the morning (varies from person to person) and you may run out of time and end up skipping breakfast altogether.
If skipping breakfast becomes a habit, there is a decent chance you may not have the taste for anything in the morning any you may not even get hungry till later in the day. If this happens it is a very bad sign, because it means your metabolism is partially shut down and your body will not burn as many calories during the day.
Personally I like cereal for breakfast, because it is light on the stomach, doesn’t require cooking, and it can be prepared and eaten quickly. Of course, eating slower is better, but eating cereal quickly is much better than not eating anything.
I primarily eat whole/thick oats, but occasionally have things like unsweetened shredded wheat or cheerios for variety. Then I add some protein powder and flax seeds for protein and healthy fat to make it a complete meal.
If you want good nutrition and an almost complete meal from a packaged cereal, your best bet is probably Kashi Go-Lean (the high protein/high fiber version, not Go-Lean Crunch). This is one of the only cereals with a decent amount of protein, fiber, quality carbs, and just a little sugar for taste.
Many of my clients also use this cereal as a snack during any time of the day, because it can be eaten right of the box or some can be put in a plastic bag to take for later. It also has a satisfying crunch and is much healthier than most snack foods.
I realize cereal is not a grab n go breakfast, unless you count the Kashi Go-Lean, but considering it can be prepared and eaten in under 10 minutes, it can probably be worked into your morning routine. Otherwise, you can always wake up 10 minutes earlier to make the time for breakfast.
If you don’t like cereal, there is no rule that says you have to eat breakfast foods for breakfast. I know a number of people who eat lunch or dinner type foods for breakfast and it works well for them. You can even use leftovers from the night before, since no preparation is required.
These are my favorite strategies that I have used to maintain my healthy eating habits while following a busy schedule, but there are certainly other options. Successfully eating healthy while on the go is all about figuring out what works for you and easily fits into your schedule.
14 years of experience and education in health and fitness