Most of us start off the day with the best intentions for eating healthy. Unfortunately, a missed alarm, getting stuck in traffic or working through lunch can botch the best plans for eating right. With today's hectic schedules and an abundance of convenience foods, it's easy to get off track even when you want to stay on course.
Whether you're trying to lose weight or just eat right, the smartest thing to do is create a healthy eating plan. With these simple steps you'll be able to fit in nutritious meals and snacks, even when you're squeezed for time.
Eating Smart in the Morning
Just like with most things, mom was right about breakfast - it is the most important meal of the day. Trouble is, it's probably the easiest meal to skip since we're the most rushed. Even if you don't have time to sit down and eat a bowl of multi-grain cereal with fresh fruit, don't fret - there are plenty of grab-and-go ways to start your day. A low-fat yogurt is a great choice, but don't forget to pair it with a handful of unsalted nuts (for extra protein and a dose of "good" fat) or granola. Take a banana or other easy-to-grab fruit and add an energy bar that has no more than 200 calories.
- Your best bet: Keep a box of instant oatmeal at work. All you need is a microwave and you're all set for an energized morning.
Eating Smart at Midday
It's easy to get off track at lunch, especially if you've skipped breakfast. Your stomach is growling; your boss is on your nerves; you can't focus; and you're likely to grab the closest comfort food you can find. If you haven't thought about lunch until you're starving, you're more apt to grab a greasy cheeseburger and fries than a grilled chicken salad.
- Your best bet: Bringing your lunch - whether it's leftover soup or pasta from the night before, or a turkey sandwich on whole wheat - is nearly always a better choice than trying to navigate your local deli for a healthy meal. Still, it is possible to find good food that's fast.
Eating Smart at Dinner
Another crunch time for working people, especially if you have a family. It's easy to dial the number for pizza or Chinese takeout, but try to keep it to a minimum. Keep salad fixings, frozen vegetables, chicken breasts and, yes, frozen pizza dough on hand. You'll always be able to whip up a quick stir-fry or make a veggie pizza.
- Your best bet: Try to eat dinner at a reasonable time - like before 9 p.m. The earlier you eat dinner, the more likely you'll be to burn it off. Try to cook or "assemble" at least four nights a week. If you haven't gotten in your five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables for the day, make an extra effort to include them now.
The best way to eat smart throughout the day is to plan, plan, plan. Even if you're not a super-organized person, just taking 10 minutes to make a weekly shopping list full of healthy foods is guaranteed to keep you on the healthy eating track.
Frances Largeman, R.D., earned her undergraduate degree from Cornell University and completed her dietetic internship at Columbia University in New York. Frances has appeared on local and national TV and has been quoted in Cooking Light magazine, as well as food and health sections of local newspapers across the country.