How can I start eating healthy with a busy lifestyle?
What are the best ways to eat better every day?
Nowadays, most of us have an overwhelming amount of commitments and obligations.
These go far beyond full-time work and education – we have side hustles, social and family lives, errands to run, and more.
We look at our to-do lists wishing there could be more hours in the day.
One very unfortunate consequence of this is that physical well-being stops being a priority for many people because exercise and eating healthy with a busy lifestyle just doesn’t seem like an option.
When you’re rushing around, it’s easier to grab a heavily processed lunch from the supermarket or go to the drive-through than prepare a healthy and micronutrient-dense meal from scratch.
Likewise, standing in the kitchen might be the last thing you want to do after a long day at work.
Lots of students and busy professionals alike rely on takeout, fast food, and microwave meals. Some snack mindlessly throughout the day.
Others forget to eat completely or skip meals in order to save time.
Why Is Eating Healthy with a Busy Lifestyle Important?
Of course, we see the impact of this on a daily basis – both in our own lives, and society as a whole. As well as an obesity epidemic, our society struggles with diseases and premature deaths that could have been prevented by dietary change.
The poor choices we make may not seem significant at the moment, but threaten our well-being and happiness in the long run.
Plus, cornerstone habits like exercise and healthy eating have a ‘ripple effect’.
Have you noticed that when you eat something nourishing, you have more energy to get things done?
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On the other hand, highly processed foods with lots of chemicals and added sugar make us feel sluggish, leading to the infamous 3 o’clock slump.
Or if we skip meals altogether, we won’t have the fuel in our system to function at our best.
In other words, you might think you’re saving time by not eating healthy with a busy lifestyle. At the moment, maybe you do save a few minutes. But in the long run, making poor dietary choices proves counterproductive.
Health is Wealth
Of course, lifestyle changes aren’t easy. Healthy eating, especially at the beginning, does require extra thought, planning, and effort. Cooking for yourself will take slightly longer than grabbing a sandwich from the supermarket. You’ll have to develop willpower and think about what you’re putting into your body.
But try seeing those extra couple hours each week as an investment in your overall success, wellbeing, and happiness. The long-term results (both physical and mental) will be worth the effort it takes to change your habits and prioritize your wellness.
Before we jump into the tips below, I have an important reminder: healthy eating isn’t a diet. It’s not about eating less, obsessively counting calories or spending money on weird ‘detox’ supplements. Instead, it’s about making smarter choices and nourishing your body with real food that tastes good and keeps you energized throughout the day.
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Eating healthy with a busy lifestyle will be a challenge, so the last thing you want to do is view it as restriction or deprivation because abundance is what it should create.
Healthy Eating Tips for Busy Professionals and Students
#1. Meal Prep
Meal prep is a key habit to develop for eating healthy with a busy lifestyle. Setting aside a few hours to make your meals in advance will prevent that last minute panic of not knowing what to eat. Plus, you’ll save money on store-bought options that are not only less healthy, but also more expensive than homemade food.
At first, meal prep seems overwhelming. But remember that it can be as simple as chopping your vegetables in advance, or stocking your freezer with fruit and berries for smoothies. It’s also important to switch up what you make because making your food exciting will help you stay on track.
Here are some interesting meal prep ideas for eating healthy with a busy lifestyle:
- Easy Vegan Blueberry Overnight Oats from Namely Marly
- Flourless Bite-sized Breakfast Muffins from Oh She Glows
- Superfood Smoothie Cubes from From My Bowl
- Edamame And Kimchi Falafel Wrap from Earth Of Maria
- Fried Rice Meal Prep from Nora Cooks
- Jackfruit Enchilada Bowls from Karissa’s Vegan Kitchen
- Mediterranean Lentils And Rice from My Darling Vegan
- Spicy Bean Burger from Monkey And Me Kitchen Adventures
- Tofu Spaghetti In A Tomato Sauce from Nadia’s Healthy Kitchen
#2. Wake Up Earlier
There are numerous ways waking up earlier can help you eat healthily.
First and foremost, you’ll have plenty of time for breakfast. You might think that you’re not a breakfast person, but eating even something simple (such as porridge or a smoothie) before you leave the house is always a good idea.
It will energize your morning and help you make healthier choices later in the day. After all, no one likes behind ‘hangry’ by the time its lunch!
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Moreover, an earlier start will give you an opportunity to fit in some exercise, which is another healthy habit we should learn to prioritize.
#3. Always have Healthy Snacks on Hand
Remember – healthy eating is about making better choices, not eating less. If you feel hungry between meals, listen to your body.
Always carry a selection of snacks with you to keep in your bag or on your desk, so that you can easily refuel with something that will make you feel great afterward.
Be wary of store-bought options that mask themselves as ‘healthy’, but are in fact heavily processed and artificial. Look for ones with minimal ingredients, or even better – prepare your own! Some easy options for eating healthy with a busy lifestyle include fresh fruits and vegetables with hummus, trail mix, and homemade energy bars/balls.
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#4. Collect Quick and Easy Recipes
Having plenty of backup options is a big part of eating healthy on a busy schedule. Compile a list of simple go-to recipes that take little time and effort to prepare.
In doing this, you’ll save yourself the last minute panic of not knowing what to eat after a long day at work or school. Browse Instagram and Pinterest for inspiration. Find blogs that share healthy and delicious meals. For example, Minimalist Baker and The Vegan 8 have plenty of options that require minimal time and simple ingredients (coupled with gorgeous photography to inspire you).
#5. Stock Your Kitchen with Healthy Ingredients
Ensure you have plenty of healthy staple ingredients on hand at all times. These include items such as fresh produce, beans, and pulses, grains, spices, etc. If they’re readily available, you’ll be much more likely to use them.
Compile a grocery list with basic products and stock up on a weekly basis, bulk-buying whenever possible. However, be mindful of how long individual products will last to prevent food waste – for instance, it’s better to buy leafy greens 2-3 times a week because they go off quite quickly. As you’ll know what’s available in your kitchen, this will also help you plan your meals in advance.
#6. Get Better at Prioritizing and Managing Your Time
Sometimes, we think there aren’t enough hours in a day, when in fact we consciously or subconsciously prioritize wasteful activities. You have to be very intentional when making more room for healthy eating with a busy lifestyle, instead of wishing and hoping you will ‘one day’ have the time.
For example, time spent watching TV in the evening may be better-spent meal prepping or cooking a nourishing dinner. Or, you might have an overarching procrastination habit and take much longer to complete tasks than necessary. If that’s the case, you have to address the underlying issue and learn to work more efficiently.
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Start by doing a ‘time audit’ to identify where your hours are going, and where there’s room for improvement. By reducing distractions, you’ll be able to focus on what’s important for you and your wellbeing.
#7. Take it One Step at a Time
Many people fail at forming new habits because they overwhelm themselves with information, or do too much too soon. With so much advice and conflicting opinion out there, it’s no wonder we struggle to make dietary changes.
Remember that there isn’t a one size fits all approach to eating a healthier diet, and you might take a while figuring out how to make it work with your unique circumstances. Recognizing this is much better than jumping in, thinking it’s too hard, and giving up.
Don’t try to replace all your meals and snacks overnight. Depending on how far you are into your wellness journey, move forward in small, but consistent steps. Start by preparing healthier lunches or making sure you get 5 servings of fruits and veggies a day.
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Then, stock up on snacks and make-ahead breakfast ideas. After that, try out ‘Meatless Mondays’. These are just examples, but the main point is the same: over time, gradual changes add up to big results.
#8. Eat More Fruits and Vegetables
As I discussed in tip number 7, one of the first things you can do is eating more fruits and vegetables! This calls for no extra time and will give you the momentum you need to start eating healthy with a busy lifestyle. Packed full of micronutrients, fiber, and water, they’re the most nourishing foods you can eat. Besides, if you prepare them correctly, they don’t have to taste bland or boring.
I’ve been following a vegan lifestyle for over three years, which means I don’t consume any animal products, and this has changed my life for the better in so many ways. Naturally, my diet is very high in fruits and vegetables (despite the fact that they are far from the only thing I eat). As a busy student, I have so much energy and enthusiasm for everything from my studies to my workouts at the gym, and much of that is thanks to eating food that comes straight from the earth.
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Of course, it’s not possible for everyone to transition to this way of eating straight away. It’s also unwise to go from eating zero servings of fruits and veggies to suddenly packing in bagfuls of kale. Once again, start small. For instance: replace processed snacks with fresh fruit, or eat a side salad with your dinner. Eating more of these foods will automatically make your diet far healthier!
#9. Don’t Do It Alone
Starting a healthier lifestyle can, at first, feel isolating and strange. If you have friends or colleagues who have a similar goal of eating healthy on a busy schedule but don’t know how to make it work, start the journey together.
You can hold each other accountable and share recipe ideas/time-saving tips. Besides, you’ll have someone to talk to that will understand the struggles you encounter.
Chances are, you’ll be able to find people in your life who will cheer you on. But if you can’t, try joining online communities and support groups. Social media, despite its drawbacks, helps you meet like-minded people from all over the world.
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For example, Instagram is a great platform to share your journey and get inspiration from others. There are Facebook groups centered around different ways of eating, with plenty of people sharing actionable tips to help others stay on track. Be sure to follow people and sources of information that make you feel confident and motivated. Who knows, eating healthy with a busy lifestyle might help you make new friends along the way!
#10. Remember Why Healthy Eating is Important to You
Avoid looking at healthy eating as a diet or a quick way to shed x amount of pounds in y amount of weeks. Sure, it’s easy to get pulled in by fads that are not sustainable and detrimental. It’s easy to see healthy eating as just another trend you have to keep up with, and therefore have little incentive to keep going when things get difficult. To actually succeed in making long-term change, you have to get very clear about your ‘why’.
Of course, this ‘why’ is going to vary from person to person. Maybe you want to live a long, happy life and avoid preventable disease. Maybe you’ve always wanted to be more athletic, or lose/gain weight in a gradual and sustainable manner. Perhaps you want to transition to a plant-based diet to reduce your environmental impact! Your end goal definitely doesn’t have to be physical.
Whatever your motivation, ensure it’s meaningful to you as an individual and don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Write it down and come back to it whenever you’re struggling. Eating healthy with a busy lifestyle won’t feel easy is a big lifestyle change for many people and won’t feel easy.
But focusing on a long-term goal you’re passionate about will carry you through those inevitable challenges and help you set clear priorities.
Get Your Habit Tracker
Ready to start eating healthy? To make healthier choices every day, no matter how busy you feel? Get your FREE Printable Habit Trackers, with pages for 30 and 31 days.
Stop believing that you’re too busy to be healthy, start making healthier choices today.
You can eat healthy even if you’re a busy professional or student.
Make the time, use these ten actionable tips to help you get started.
How do you start eating healthy with a busy lifestyle?
More About Guest Contributor
Maria is a student from England who’s passionate about living a healthy, balanced lifestyle. She started her blog, Earth Of Maria, to share her easy and nourishing vegan recipes with other people and help them find abundance in everyday life.