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How to eat well when you’re time poor?

ANIKA ROUF

Have you ever told yourself that you’d follow a healthier diet if you had more time? Well accredited practicing dietitian, Anika Rouf, has all the expert tips to make healthy choices a breeze (even when you're time poor).

We are all so busy these days, studying, working, looking after family/ kids, and everything in between; it can be difficult to make time to focus on your health. Many of us seem to be using the excuse to convince ourselves that we are ‘too busy’ to make health a priority at this point in time. We are often stuck in a vicious cycle where we hope that there will come a time when the situation will improve.

But, the truth is that things are not going to change on its own unless you initiate them. Your tomorrow needs to start today, and right now. So, here are five simple ways to kick start your healthy habits.

1. Meal planning

Perhaps, the most important factor in healthy eating is meal planning because it simply gives you more control of what goes in your mouth. By planning your meals, you won’t have to purchase take-away meals from the corner shop. If you find it overwhelming to plan for the entire week, start by planning one or two days at a time (i.e. plan what you are going to eat tomorrow and so forth). Make sure to account for meals and snacks at work too.

2. Write it down

By writing a shopping list, you will be equipped with all the right ingredients which will assist with your meal planning. At the beginning, you may find it easier to write down the meals you intend to cook, as well as the ingredients required to prepare this meal. If you are old fashioned and prefer to write it down, there are plenty of templates available online to stick on your fridge which look similar to this. If you are tech savvy and prefer to record it on your smartphone, there are lots of great apps to help you do this. You could also consider shopping online and opting for home delivery or pick-up at the store which may potentially save you some time, depending on your location. All of the major food retailers nowadays offer this service. If you are not into online shopping and prefer to buy your foods in person, that’s perfectly okay. Writing yourself a list and planning ahead will speed up the time you spend in the store.

3. Meal prep

There are a few different ways you can do this. Some may prefer to cook in bulk over the weekend or assemble the ingredients (i.e. chopping) so it is easier to throw something together on a weeknight (i.e. one pot meals). While some may argue that meal prep results in a loss of nutrients if it is reheated throughout the week, it is still beneficial to meal prep as most nutrients are unaffected except for vitamin C, folate and thiamine. It is important to remember that a nutrient value of a food will always change to some extend once it is cooked. Adding less water and cooking over lower temperatures can help retain nutrients, as well as careful storage of food.

4. Make the freezer your best friend

Freezing your meals is not only convenient on a busy day, but also helps to reduce food wastage and staving off the monotony that you might otherwise have with eating the same meals for the whole week. Moreover, your freezer can also accommodate for frozen vegetables that can be used for convenience.

5. Finally, keep it simple!

Recognise that learning a new habit will always be hard at the beginning, so start with what you already know. As you build up your skills, you can slowly start experimenting with new recipes. Also, remember that you don’t have to prepare everything from scratch. There are plenty of ways you can save time. Frozen fruit and vegetables, as well as canned vegetables/lentils are very similar in nutrients to fresh varieties and can be cheaper too.

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