Jena DeMoss: Dietitian tips for fitting nutrition into your busy schedule
Published on Tuesday, May 2, 2023 at 18:35
In today’s fast-paced world, busy schedules are often one of the biggest barriers to choosing foods that fit our nutritional goals. Whether you’re a busy professional, shift worker, seasonal worker with long hours, a student, or a parent, it’s easy to fall into the trap of grabbing fast food on the go or skipping meals all together.
Plus, it’s hard to make good food decisions when you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed by the demands of the day. The brain can only sort out so many things at once, which is why we’re more likely to give in to cravings for fast food, something sweet, or caffeine when pressure and stress build. At the time, it might seem like a caffeinated beverage and something sweet will give us quick energy, but it’s not the kind of lasting energy that will get us through a long day on the road, in the field, at the office, or in the classroom. This type of fuel can provide an immediate buzz, but often results in an energy crash soon after. Instead, follow these diet tips to fit lasting energy and nutrition into your busy schedule!
Make sure you get lasting energy from your meals and snacks by incorporating fiber, protein, healthy fats, carbohydrates, and plenty of hydration. This combination will prevent energy crash. Follow these tips to feel constant energy throughout the day!
1. Start your day with a breakfast that is high in protein rather than sweet.
Research shows there’s a huge benefit to starting the day with adequate protein rather than something high in sugar. A protein-rich breakfast sets the tone for the rest of the day to come in terms of energy levels. For when you’re on the go, try a breakfast sandwich, Greek yogurt with nuts, a protein shake, or pre-portioned leftovers containing meat or beans and veggies for a solid breakfast to fuel your day without an energy dip.
2. Invest in a good quality insulated lunch bag and ice packs for proper food safety.
Investing in a good quality insulated lunch bag and ice packs is essential for keeping your food cool and fresh throughout the day. It’s also an eco-friendly option that can save you money in the long run. Choose a lunch box large enough to hold the meals and snacks you need to tackle even the longest shifts. Work will fly by as you look forward to enjoying the food you have prepared.
3. Fill your lunch bag with nutrient-dense foods that provide fiber, protein, fat, and carbohydrates.
When packing your lunch box, try to include a variety of nutrient-dense foods that provide this winning combination of fiber, protein, fat, and carbohydrates. This combination ensures that your body is getting the nutrients it needs to function at its best and will keep you feeling full and satisfied throughout the day. When you’re on the go, it’s essential to have healthy items on hand to keep you fueled. Pack portable snacks like raw veggies, single-serving packs of nuts, balanced bars like Good Measure bars, and whole fruit chunks. Here are some ideas for each nutrient category to create balanced meals and snacks.
Fiber: Choose greens, fruits, nuts and seeds, beans and lentils, whole grains.
Protein: Choose meat, fish, eggs, plant-based protein alternatives, nuts and seeds, beans and lentils, cheese, Greek yogurt, and protein bars or shakes.
Fats: Choose nuts and seeds, cheese and other dairy products made from whole milk, avocados, mayonnaise, and foods cooked in oil or an oil-and-vinegar salad dressing.
Carbohydrates: Choose fruits, whole grains, vegetables, milk and yogurt.
Examples of ideas for balanced meals:
• Salad with Beans, Sunflower Seeds, Walnuts, Grated Cheese, Cherry Tomatoes, Pepper Strips, Salmon, and Chosen Food Oil and Vinegar Salad Dressing with Avocado Oil, Yogurt, Berries
• Pepper strips with salsa, high fiber wrap with turkey, cheese, spinach and mayonnaise and an orange
• Carrots with hummus, bowl of chicken and brown rice with guacamole, apple
Examples of ideas for a balanced snack:
• Good gauge
• A handful of almonds and strawberries
• Celery and peanut butter
• Boiled egg and whole grain crackers with cheese
4. Get active for a few minutes after meals and spend some time outdoors if possible.
When you can, exercise for a few minutes after meals. This allows your muscles to use some of the blood sugar from your meal, which helps prevent post-meal energy crashes. Try getting up to stretch, take a short walk outdoors to get some fresh air, or engage in a more active work after eating. This advice can be especially helpful for workers who need to be seated for long periods such as truck drivers taking a long trip, farmers working in the fields, or office workers and students who need to spend long hours sitting at a desk. A short break to stretch the body can refresh both physically and mentally on those extra long days.
5. Drink plenty of water throughout the day.
It can be tempting to reach out for sugary or caffeinated beverages, especially when you’re on the go. However, these don’t take the place of water. Staying properly hydrated is essential for optimal performance and feeling your best. Carry a refillable water bottle with you wherever you go and make sure you drink plenty of water throughout the day to avoid dehydration. This is increasingly vital as we head into the warmer months for warm workers.
Incorporating a balanced diet into your busy schedule is possible with a little planning and preparation. By following these tips, you can ensure you’re fueling your body with the nutrients it needs to function at its best. Don’t let a busy schedule get in the way of your health goals and desired energy level. Take a step in the right direction by connecting with a Hy-Vee Dietitian for a variety of nutritional services, including our virtual freezer meal prep seminars by visiting www.hy-vee.com/health/hy-vee-dietitians.