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How do you implement a healthy diet in a busy lifestyle?

A common theme to our blogs is the importance of a nutritious diet to maintain your general health and optimum appearance of your skin, hair and nails. But how do you implement a healthy diet in a busy lifestyle? In this blog we will attempt to provide some tips to point you in the right direction.

The first place to start implementing a healthy diet in a busy lifestyle is at breakfast. Do not skip it or substitute with a cup of coffee. Your body will need fuel to get through the day, and eating a proper breakfast goes a long way in providing that. Try to ensure your breakfast includes protein and fats like eggs and avocados. These nutrients will keep you satisfied until lunch. 

So now you have arrived at work and your body is fuelled up and ready for a productive day. You unpack your water bottle from which you will regularly drink from throughout the day to keep yourself hydrated. You log in to your computer and look at the schedule of meetings you have dutifully entered into your calendar and wonder where and when you will be able to work in lunch. Unfortunately, this puts the cart before the horse a little bit. Your body and its metabolism prefer a regular schedule, so a better plan would be to block off the same time every day for your lunch around which your meetings and appointments can be planned. Furthermore, your “lunch” appointment should be treated as such, so give your meal highest priority just as you would give the subject of any other meeting your full attention. So don’t eat lunch at your desk, don’t catch up on work related emails on your phone while eating, but rather taste and savour your food. You will aid your digestive system by chewing your food a bit more rather than eating it as fast as possible, and it will give your mind and body a moment to relax and de-stress.

But none of us are perfect and try as we might, there may be some days where we did not have the time to make our lunch before we left the house in the morning. So we need to go somewhere and the first option we would probably think of, as bad as it might sound, is fast food. But just because it is a fast food place doesn’t mean the default has to be a burger and fries. Try going to places where you have control over what goes into your meal. If you absolutely must go to a mainstream fast food place, avoid fried foods at all cost, consider roast chicken or beef and order the smallest sizes of everything (don’t bite on their efforts to get you to “supersize”) and order water or unsweetened tea rather than a sugar-filled soda.

But what if your job often takes you to restaurants for lunch and dinner with clients? You still need to remain vigilant. The first issue is portion sizes, which more often than not are too big, so if you can get a half portion, this would be a much better approach. Or only eat half and ask to have the remainder boxed up for you so you can take it home and eat it for dinner or the following day. Also, starters can be a way you can fill yourself up with nutritional choices such as broth-based soups or salads. Then, that pang of hunger you have left can be easily filled with a grilled or baked fish, a piece of skinless chicken or a vegetable-based entrée. Just avoid those that come with a creamy sauce of some kind, and if necessary, substitute fattening sides such as fries, coleslaw or mashed potatoes slathered in seed oils with a simple salad or a vegetable side. And for dessert? Fresh fruit would be the best bet.

OK, you’ve managed a healthy lunch and your two-hour meeting is nearing its scheduled close at 3 PM. You are beginning to feel a little hungry again and thinking of going to the snack machine for a chocolate bar or bag of chips to power you through the rest of the day. Most of the choices in the machine will just add more sugar into your body which does not help your general health or the appearance of your skin, hair and nails. A better option would be to have some pre-portioned sized healthy snacks on hand such as fruit or nuts. By pre-portioning these, you will avoid the temptation of “eating the whole bag”. Correct portion sizes will not only rejuvenate your energy level for the remainder of your day but will also help regulate your blood sugar level which is particularly important if you happen to be diabetic.

It is now the end of the working day and it is time to pack up and head home to dinner, but you need to swing by the grocery store first. It is far better to have a list on-hand that was carefully thought out to ensure you are making healthy choices. If you just aimlessly wander up and down the aisles, throwing items in your cart you think you need or you know you like, you will probably wind up with more unhealthy choices, it will take more of your time, and probably result in more food spoilage. Alternatively, another option that is gaining in popularity are subscriptions to home cooked meal kits that are delivered right to your door. They take out the time required to plan healthy meals in advance as well as the shopping required to acquire the necessary ingredients. And because everything is measured out for you, there is little preparation time and much less spoilage and wastage of the leftovers that otherwise often wind up long forgotten in the back of the refrigerator. Most of these subscription companies can provide a wide variety of options such as low carb or gluten free and others. Some may even be partnered with local farmers, so not only are you receiving healthy food, but fresh as well and you would be supporting your local farming community.

Being efficient in the grocery store with a pre-planned list or subscribing to a home cooked meal kit can help get your dinner on the table more quickly. In general, you should aim to have your dinner at least a couple of hours before you go to bed. Soup is a great option. It's light and nutritious.  

Although the scenarios described above may reflect a typical day for someone in the workforce, it does not for university students. They often have classes scheduled at all different times, extending through the dinner hour into the evening. They are also transitioning from a period of stability in the family home to leaving the nest for the first time. And this is an important distinction as the eating habits formed while studying away from home tend to follow students past their time at university and into their career. Although the advice given above remains valid, students may need other forms of help and encouragement to eating a healthy diet which can be provided by peer support, either through social media or more traditional mentoring based approaches.


Take away message

So how do you implement a healthy diet in a busy lifestyle? We’ve discussed this question in this blog and have provided many different suggestions, but the underlying themes are essentially “planning” and “make smart choices”. The situation may be a bit more complicated for younger university students who are away from home for the first time. Support mechanisms for management of a healthy diet can help them form good habits that will follow into their working careers.


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