We all want to eat nutritious meals. The challenge is often finding the time to prepare them. Here is a time-saving approach to cooking nutritious meals when you’re super-busy.
The key point that diet culture (and, all too often, the medical establishment) misses is that we all want to eat nutritious food. The desire to eat well is rarely the challenge.
Much more often, the stumbling block is time. Or know-how. Or some combination of the two.
When we talk about nutrition, people often find themselves thinking ‘Yes! I want to eat more nutritious food…but I’m struggling with the time it takes. And the cleanup and the dishes afterward feel neverending!’
Well, gentle reader, we’ve got you covered.
A time-saving approach to cooking nutritious meals when you’re super busy!
First Things First: Start With Why.
Long-time readers of this blog probably already know that we go on about this a lot, but the underlying why—your truly compelling reason for wanting to eat nutritious meals—is more important than you might think. Establishing a clear why for eating nutritious food is what will take this from an intellectual exercise based on the notion that it’s something you should do and turn it into something you want to do. Maybe even something you feel driven to do.
So here’s how to figure out your why:
Ask yourself ‘why?’ Why do I want to eat healthier?
You might say, ‘because I want to be healthy’.
Then, ask yourself ‘why?’ again. But why do I want to be healthier?
You might say something like ‘because I want to have more energy’.
Then, ask yourself ‘why?’ again. Why do I want to have more energy?
You might say something like, ‘because when I have more energy, I can get things done faster’
Then, ask yourself ‘why?’ again. But why do I want to get things done faster?
And you might say something like, ‘because then I can spend more quality time with the people who matter to me.’
I think you see where this is going. Keep asking yourself ‘why’ until you arrive at your core, compelling reason for wanting to make eating nutritious food a priority.
Perspective Check: Perfection Is Not The Goal
Before we continue further, it’s important for us to take a moment to acknowledge that, where fitness and nutrition are concerned, perfection is not the goal.
One missed workout or one indulgence food or meal is not going to ruin you and your health. What matters is the overall pattern of consistency. And the truth is, you don’t have to be as consistent as you might think to make an impact on your health and/or fitness.
[Brief aside/disclaimer: the link to the PN article about consistency is written from the perspective of body composition change. The main takeaway, in my view, is that you can take the pressure off and know that you don’t have to be perfect in order for nutritious eating habits to make an impact on your health. I just wanted to make sure we’re clear that, even though they are talking about body composition change, the goal doesn’t always have to be to have a smaller body.]
Now then, without further ado, let us dive into ways to make preparing nutritious meals easier!
Schedule Weekly Meal Prep Time
One way to make eating nutritious meals easier is to make them ahead of time.
So, schedule the time.
I mean literally put it in your calendar.
This routine has to be in your calendar/schedule for it to become real. By making it into an event on your weekly calendar, it becomes part of a system. This is super helpful for those days when your motivation wanes because even though you might not want to do it, in the moment, the fact that it’s the routine makes it easier to just do it anyway.
Future you will be so glad you did.
Large Batch Cooking
Unlike the trendy small-batch stuff that the kids are so into these days, making large batches of delicious food is the option that tends to save you the most time overall involves cooking large batches of recipes that tend to be a bit more time intensive.
Examples include stews, casseroles and chilis.
The ‘best bang for your buck’ approach here would be to make a large portion of something delicious, say a slow-cooker chili or something like that. Cut up all your ingredients, pop them into your slow cooker or the oven and then when it’s done, portion it out into containers. From there, you’ve got a bunch of meals pre-made for the rest of your week.
Imagine the glorious dinner-time experience where a nutritious meal is already made and all you have to do is take it out of the fridge and heat it up!
How amazing will that be? We’re living in the future, y’all!
Partial Portion Prep
If your schedule or life doesn’t currently have room in it for fully preparing a week’s worth of meals, perhaps you can still make time for some partial prep?
You could pre-chop your veggies and pre-cook some rice, meat or beans. You could also prepare a bunch of hard-boiled eggs all at once, for example. That way, when mealtimes arrive, most if not all of the prep work is done and all you need to do is put it all together and voila, you’ve got yourself a nutritious meal that’s quick and easy to make come mealtime.
Bonus option: Meal Delivery Service
Another option, if you have the resources, is to sign up for a meal delivery service. There are a wide variety of services out there. Some deliver ‘meal kits’, which are basically all of the ingredients you need for a particular dish that you cook yourself. Other services deliver ready-made meals that also make your life easier. These are obviously not for everyone, but if you can swing it, having someone else prep your meals would save you a bunch of time.
So there you have it. Short of the meal delivery options, there isn’t really a way to take the prep work out of the equation, but what you can do is make your system more efficient. At first, it can seem like a lot of work to do some pre-meal preparation work, but when those mealtimes arrive and it takes less time and effort, future you will probably love it. (Sorry this doesn’t totally eliminate the dishes and clean-up part. That one’s trickier.)