MAKE AND TAKE: EATING WELL WHEN YOU’RE BUSY
We have all been there before: hunger strikes and life quickly turns from a happy sitcom to the Hunger Games in about 2.5 seconds. One minute you’re laughing with your friends, the next you’re desperately searching through the depths of whatever neighborhood you happen to be in trying to find a single morsel.
I’ve personally been in that situation many times and healthy options are often limited. We all know it’s difficult to make sure you are eating healthy with a busy lifestyle. I usually have my nutrition game dialed in quite tight, however there are moments when I am unprepared and do not have a proper snack within easy reach.
My friends know me very well and can see the hunger pan across my face as the sparkle disappears from my eyes and I start avoiding conversations. I am the type of person who becomes very quiet when I am hungry, and then all of a sudden, I become HANGRY.
Note to self, carry emergency snacks. Note to friends: shove a bliss ball at me when my sparkle fades…I am thanking you in advance.
Think of your nutrition game and energy stores like a tank of gas: you would never allow your car’s gas tank to run completely empty because then you truly would be stuck. It is very important to make sure that your body does not become completely void of energy and nutrition either. With the busy life that you no doubt are leading, be prepared! Adequate nutrition literally sets your brain up for optimal success so that your brain and body are firing on all pistons.
A balanced, healthy nutrition game plan
I caught up with 2014 CrossFit Games athlete and certified sports nutritionist at FYT Nutrtition, Delaina Snider, to get the inside scoop on sticking to whatever nutrition plan when you’re eating healthy with a busy lifestyle.
“The most common thing I hear from clients is that they’re not prepared. They’re out, and then all of the sudden, they’re hungry. So they go to a coffee shop or the grocery store, they grab a snack that seems like it should be healthy and they eat it without actually knowing what’s in it.” When you’re out it’s easy to find foods that seem healthy, like muffins or protein bars. In fact, more and more convenience stores, gas stations, and corner stores are stocking more brands of protein bars every day.
“A muffin is basically a cupcake without the icing.” Says Snider. “And if you look at protein bars, a lot of them are complete garbage.” (Read: Full of sugar, high in not-so-healthy fat, and made with crummy sources of protein.) So how can you make sure you’re eating healthy with a busy lifestyle, and while out but unprepared with snacks? Waiting until you can get something healthy may seem like the most responsible option, but does it work?
“If you’re starving yourself now because [food that’s available] is not the right thing to eat, or you think it’s garbage, you’re more likely to binge later.” Says Snider, who suggests that something like a protein bar isn’t the end of the world if you’re truly busy. When in doubt, aim for a protein bar the is low in added sugar, low to moderate in fat and high in fiber and protein. Depleting your body of nutrition and fuel only puts you behind the proverbial 8 ball later as your body goes into starvation mode.
Your body is actually smarter than you are. There, I said it, and it’s true. Your body will go into a protective starvation mode and start using your precious muscles for fuel if it has burned through all your nutrition stores. Then, when you do finally eat, it will hold onto every single calorie and store it because it thinks you are going to repeat the starvation pattern.
It’s important to find a snack when you are out and about if you don’t have any food at hand.
Finding food when you’re out can be tricky, but there are options. “I have my go-tos when I’m out without food. Coffee shops always have fruit cups, grocery stores have turkey pepperoni.” Says Snider. “But it all comes back to being prepared.”
What does a balanced, healthy nutrition game plan look like? Well that can take some time to figure out and it is well worth investing the time to do so. Everyone has different energy needs and reacts differently to macronutrients. Some people’s bodies process and burn fat incredibly efficiently while others need carbs as their predominant fuel source. Using a nutrition calculator such as the TDEE Calculator can give you a great starting point. Once you have figured out your personal nutrition needs, you can work backwards and start planning your meals and snacks! This is diet plan intended to help you plan healthy and delicious meals to ensure you’re eating healthy with a busy lifestyle.
In a perfect world, we’d all have a deliciously healthy meal prepared and available at all times. But, when is life ever perfect? I don’t know about you, but my day starts at the crack of dawn (literally… 5am wakeup call) and I fit in a training session, work, time with friends and down time all before turning out my light at night. It takes planning and there are days where I leave my house at 6am only to return at 6 or 7pm. I need to maximize my time off and use it wisely.
When talking with Snider about meal prep game plans, she says “I have clients who spend 3 hours cooking on Sundays, and they have lunch and snacks for the week all prepared and packaged.” If meal prepping works for you, book your Sunday afternoon off to chop and simmer away. Personally, I turn up my music, prep all my ingredients, and give myself 2-3 hours each Sunday to wash, chop, cook and divide all my week’s tasty, nourishing treats. Sometimes I invite over a friend, and we divide and conquer. If meal prep is not your thing, I recommend trying to at least plan out your food for the day in the morning, or even the night before.
Think about the Ws and Hs to your life:
- What do you do on a daily basis?
- Where do you go?
- How much time do you have to spare?
- When do you have time to sit and when do you have to eat on the go?
When you’re busy and trying to keep fueled, it can help to have a few snacks prepared that will stave off hunger, at least for long enough to get to a healthy meal. Why spend all your time hustling after your career and fitness game without giving yourself proper nutrition to actually knock life out of the park?
Feeling vibrant starts on the inside. Your performance and perspective on life will increase exponentially when you start putting beautiful, nutritious food in your body.
Invest the time in planning great snacks and meals that will carry you through your day. When you are planning out your grab-and-go snacks for eating healthy with a busy lifestyle, try to incorporate a healthy source of muscle building protein, crave-busting fat and mood-boosting carbs. All three macronutrients are important for cell and hormone function. Whether you are gluten-free, vegan, or paleo, a balanced snack is always an option. If you’re at a loss for ideas though, don’t worry. What do you think we’re here for?
Read on for some badass, easy and fast recipe ideas to keep your bod and brain happy.
These are quite possibly the easiest way to get a bit of protein, fat, and carbs all at once. Whether you need a quick breakfast on the go, or are craving a savory snack, these cups pack a punch. Eggs + veggies are combined to create a muscle building snack or meal. Eggs are the perfect food for eating healthy with a busy lifestyle. The protein come packed in its own shell and inside there is an amazing 7g grams of protein and 5 grams of fat. The yolk contains almost half the protein, all the cholesterol lowering fat, vitamin D and other key nutrients. The egg white contains 4 grams of protein and only 17 calories. Veggies provide your carbs and micronutrients that support muscle growth and development along with the protein from the eggs. How do you make these little cups? Simply chop up a mix of your favorite vegetables—I usually use a mix of things like zucchini, onions, peppers, tomatoes, kale, or spinach—and fill the cups of a non-stick muffin tin half-way. Crack an egg on top of the vegetable mix and bake for 10-12 minutes at 375°F. For an almost-fat-free alternative, use egg whites. Let them cool and store in the fridge. Toss in your backpack before you head out if you think hunger might strike.
GREEK YOGURT OR SKYR PARFAITS
What is it about yogurt that turns us all into fiends scraping the bottom and sides of the container? Put 5 of these in the fridge on Monday and you’ll have one each day for the whole work week. Greek yogurt and skyr are great sources of protein and they come in full fat and nonfat options.
In a cup-shaped meal prep container, pour one tablespoon of honey or organic maple syrup. Add a layer of your favorite plain greek yogurt or skyr. Then add a layer of berries such as strawberries, blueberries, or raspberries, and another layer of yogurt. Add a layer of whey protein to increase the protein content if you wish, then continue with the fruit and yogurt for another layer. When hunger creeps up, give it a good shake or stir and try not to inhale the spoon.
For a vegan alternative, take your same cup-shaped container and add in ½ C unsweetened dairy free yogurt. If you can, opt for a coconut or almond milk-based variety as these are generally better options that the soy-based alternatives. Then, add in ½ to a full scoop of your favorite vegan protein powder. Stir to combine and eliminate lumps. Top your mixture off with some sliced fruit and some seeds and you have a tasty, nutrient dense snack. The healthy fats, micronutrients and fiber will leave you glowing all day long.
If you have the same strange penchant for bacon that I do, you might want to sit down for this one and promise yourself to make it asap.
Grab some fresh asparagus and your favorite bacon—for a lower fat option use turkey bacon. Prep the asparagus by washing and chopping the woody ends off, then wrap each spear in a slice of bacon. Bake at 400°F 10-15 minutes or until bacon is at your desired level of crispiness. Let cool and store in the fridge. These are the perfect snack when eating with a busy lifestyle. Grab a couple on your way out the door if you think you might get hungry along the way.
NUTTY NANA WRAP
I have a tricky relationship with nut butters. On the side of love, it is delicious, creamy, protein packed and loaded with healthy fats that are essential for hormone function. All of our bodies rely on fats to ensure that our hormones stay balanced and functioning optimally. The tricky part of nut butters for me is portion control: somehow 1 Tbs turns into 2, which then turns into ¼ of the jar over the course of a Friday night movie. I am not endorsing this, but just keeping it real with you, as that is the name of my game. So, in effort to avoid the ¼ jar sessions, I like to pair my peanut or almond butter with a wrap and a banana to create a perfect on the go snack. I take a brown rice wrap (or any wrap of choice, I am just allergic to gluten) and spread 2 of nut butter down the center of the wrap. I then slice 1 banana and lay the slices on the nut butter and sprinkle a pinch of pink salt and cinnamon over it all. Wrap it up and you are set! A great balance of protein, carbs and fats to keep you going strong.
For a quick protein hit, I love making turkey roll-ups. I buy extra lean deli sliced turkey breast and lay 4 slices on my cutting board. I then lay a sliced-up vegetable – think a cooked and cooled asparagus spears, a sliced pickle, cucumber, red pepper, or avocado – and roll the turkey slice around the veggie! High in protein, low in fat and carbs, this is a great thing to pair with some crackers or an apple; or keep it to just the turkey rolls if you follow more of a keto/paleo diet. Another great option for eating with a busy lifestyle.
Chia seeds are the little warriors of the seed family and date back to the Aztec and Mayan times where they were a staple in the warrior’s diets. Chia is the edible seed that comes from the Salvia Hispanica plant which is a member of the mint family. Known for its unique jelling capabilities, chia is also an absolute nutrition powerhouse. They are a good source of omega 3s which are essential fatty acids that your body cannot produce on its own, so we need to get them from our diets. Omega 3s reduce inflammation and may help lower the risk of chronic diseases. Chia seeds are also rich in protein, antioxidants, fiber, magnesium and potassium. Not bad for something that looks like a tiny pebble! So, I have sold you on the nutrition aspects, but what about ease and convenience? Lucky you: chia seeds rapidly absorb liquid and turn into a pudding type consistency in mere moments. There is a magic ratio that if you remember, you can create all kinds of chia pudding, depending on your cravings and what is in season! The ratio is 3 Tbs of chia seeds for 1 cup of milk. I like to sweeten mine slightly and layer in some fruit to boost not only the flavor but the micronutrient density of this powerhouse snack.
In a mason jar combine: 3 tbs chia seeds, 1 cup of unsweetened almond milk, 1 tsp maple syrup, and a pinch of salt. Once combined, add in some blueberries, sliced banana, peach, apricot…whatever fruit you would like to add. Leave to set in the fridge (ideally overnight) and then bring in your bag to have whenever you want a sweet, healthy treat!
This is a snack where I would pack the ingredients separately and eat while sitting down. It is great to have mid-morning or mid-afternoon, so you avoid the biscuits and refined carbohydrates that will only spike your blood sugar and leave you with a big crash.
In the morning, toss an avocado and a small container of hummus in your bag. When you are ready for your snack, slice open your avocado and spoon a dollop of hummus into the hole. If you are feeling spicy, you can sprinkle on some cracked black pepper or hot sauce. Grab a spoon and dig in! Avocados are nature’s gift to your body. They are loaded with vitamins C, E, K, B-6, Riboflavin, Folate, Magnesium, Potassium, Lutein, Beta-carotene, protein and omega-3 fatty acids. That is a lot of nutrition for a bumpy, ugly-on-the-outside fruit!
Just goes to show you that life’s lesson of “never judge a book by its cover” is very much true, in all aspects of life. The hummus adds another layer of protein and a few carbs and is generally an all-around flavor bomb. A spoonful of salsa is also awesome if you sway towards the tomato-condiment camp.
When you are on the go, few snacks are easier to grab than bliss balls. The sky is the limit with these bad boys. All you need is the dried fruit of your choice, nuts and or seeds, and any other super foods that you want to add in! With a food processor, these balls come together in minutes. The dried fruit gives you energy and micro nutrients while the nuts and seed provide healthy fats and protein. They are a sweet treat that is portable and adaptable.
Feeling fancy? Add in bee pollen and ginger. Spicy? A pinch of cayenne and cinnamon can elevate any number of combinations. Love chocolate? Cacao powder and nibs will satisfy even the biggest cravings.
BLISS BALL RECIPE
In a food processor, combine:
- 1 C desiccated coconut
- 2/3 C almonds
- 1 C pitted dates
- ¼ C cacao powder
- 1 Tbs maple syrup or honey plus a pinch of salt
Process until the mixture can easily be combined into a compact ball.
Sparkle Bliss Ball Recipe
In a food processor, combine:
- ½ C brazil nuts
- ¼ C desiccated coconut
- 1 C pitted dates
- 4 dried figs
- 1 tsp bee pollen
- 1 Tbs coconut oil
- ½ tsp lemon zest
- 2 Tbs vegan protein powder
- 1 tsp maca powder
Process until the mixture can easily be combined into a compact ball.
I scream, you scream, we all scream for NICE cream! Nothing is more crave worthy than cold ice cream on a hot summer day. If you are at home and are equipped with a high-powered blender or food processor, you are moments away from a nutrient dense frozen treat.
The base of all nice creams are frozen bananas. Go to your local fruit and vegetable market and ask for their over ripe bananas. You want yellow bananas with a lot of brown spots as these will produce the most sweet and creamy treat you could imagine. I like to peel 6-8 bananas at a time and break them into pieces, toss them in a freezer friendly bag, and stash away in my icebox.
When the craving hits, I take a few chunks of banana and whirl it up with either frozen blueberries or a few tablespoons of cacao powder and drizzle of honey. It may take a few moments, but after 1-2 minutes your frozen fruit will have turned into a smooth and creamy consistency. This is the fun part: scoop your nice cream into a bowl and go crazy (health-nut crazy) with your toppings! Add a big drizzle of nut butter (oops, I did it again), a handful of toasted nuts or seeds, some dried fruit or sliced fruit, or a drizzle of yogurt (dairy or non-dairy based… your choice). If you are trying to bulk up your protein for the day you can easily add in a scoop of your favorite protein powder. This may alter the consistency slightly, so play around by adding more frozen fruit to make it thicker or a splash of liquid to thin it out if needed.
Your time is valuable and limited. Make sure you are eating healthy with a busy lifestyle, you want to maximize your training and nutrition game. For the greatest impact and to set yourself up for success, follow these key points.
Buy a journal and notebook and plan out your week. Figure out what, where, when, and how you will spend your time. Take note of where you anticipate you will need extra fuel. Make sure that you always have an emergency snack at hand for those longer-than-usual commutes, meetings that run over time, or training sessions where add in those extra reps.
If you can, spend a few hours on the Sunday before your week starts and meal prep. Make a few different balanced snacks and healthier meal options, so you are set up for a successful week. Buy yourself some great containers and organize your fridge so that you can grab your prepared food and run out the door!
Eat when you are hungry. Avoid skipping meals and snacks because you do not have a healthy option available. If you are truly hungry, find the best alternative and enjoy the fuel that you have at hand. Do not stress over a less-than-perfect snack. Instead, fuel your body to the best of your ability and plan ahead next time. Any food is better than no food.
Find a lifestyle diet plan that allows you to feel your best. When you eat the right balance of foods for your body you will literally glow… you will sparkle from the inside, out. All of our bodies are unique and deserve the best that we can put in it. Take care of your body by developing an awesome and sustainable nutrition game and you will thrive in life. Your brain will have enough fuel to be a rockstar in your career and your bod will have the best energy, so you can be a badass in the gym, at the box, or on the mat. Listen to your body’s needs and give it what it is asking for before it starts yelling.
Keep track of the recipes that you create and enjoy! Once you have a formula like the chia pudding, you can start experimenting by adding in different spices or superfoods and changing up the ingredients. The fun part about meal prepping is that you can create the foods you love. This is also a great tool to track how the food you eat makes you feel to make sure you are putting the right foods into your body. When in doubt, the great wide web has many blogs that are brimming with healthy, quick and tasty recipes.