Written by John Immel,
IntroductionHealthy eating feels like a luxury when you're on the go. The drive-thru can be a tempting option when you are running around town with a hungry belly. Fortunately, there are satisfying and healthy ways to nourish yourself when life gets busy. The following tips will help you enjoy vibrant meals with pop, flare, and minimal time investment. These convenient options will restore health & flavor to your workday.
Easy Breakfast OptionsMornings are often the most hectic time of the day and you may find yourself regularly running out the door with little to no food in your belly. Whether you snoozed your alarm too many times or the kids are having trouble getting organized, you won't always have time to sit down to a cooked meal. However, you do want to make sure you eat a small but nourishing breakfast each morning. Ayurveda promotes eating a light morning meal around the same time each day, preferably between 7am and 8am. By doing so, you set yourself up for the day and reduce the desire to binge by lunchtime. You don't need to make something fancy - simplicity will suffice in the mornings.
Make the Most of ToastWhole grain toast is a blank slate offering diverse, quick & easy breakfast options. Team with any number of nut butters, such as almond butter and serve alongside a cup of herbal tea in your thermos. Alternatively, mash some avocado on top of a piece of toast and add a little lime juice and black pepper. Warm up your body on a cool fall morning by spreading ghee on your toast and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Serve this with some steaming chai tea for a satisfying way to start your day.
If you do find yourself with a little extra time, fry up a quick egg for protein alongside your toast. Protein creates more satisfaction, and is essential in the morning for stamina.
Simple SmoothiesSmoothies can be a real time saver at any point during your day, but particularly in the mornings if you only have five minutes to get yourself out the door. All you need to do is add your ingredients into a blender and whizz...it's that easy! Blending ingredients makes them more digestible, which is necessary when you're stressed and on the go, as stress weakens your digestion. Unsure of what makes up a good smoothie? Take a look at some of these smoothie recipes to get you started. For most of these options, you'll want to add a scoop of protein powder or nut butters to ensure balanced nutrition. Best of all? Most only take five minutes or less!
Top Breakfast PicksFor more inspiration, here are some of the top breakfast recipes to eat on the run:
Easy Lunch & Dinner OptionsMost dinner recipes can be enjoyed for lunch and vice versa. To save yourself valuable time, get into the habit of preparing double the amount of food you need and have the same dish for both lunch and dinner. It keeps cooking stress free and straightforward. For busy people, I recommend cooking breakfast and lunch/dinner at the same time in the morning. Get lunch/dinner started as soon as you wake up. Then, as lunch/dinner is cooking, prepare breakfast. You'll have all your meals done for the day before you leave the house in the morning, and you'll only have to cook and clean the kitchen once.
Rotisserie Chicken and SaladIf you're short on time, you don't have to prepare everything from scratch. Buy a cooked chicken at your local supermarket and a bag of fresh salad greens. This takes all the prep and cook time out of a meal but still gives you a hearty yet fresh dinner option. Add a sprinkle of nuts or seeds and a little olive oil to a salad - you'll have a dinner on the table in minutes. Depending on how many people are eating, a cooked chicken is often too much for one sitting. Shred the leftovers and have on whole grain bread with a few salad leaves for a chicken salad sandwich at lunch the next day. Toss a few pieces into some rice and frozen vegetables or add to a pot of soup to make any meal delicious.
What Foods Can Be Pre-Cooked?Leftovers aren't optimal. But if you know you have a busy week ahead, you may want to prepare some of these options in advance:
A quick and easy option is to wrap two or three sweet or white potatoes in tin foil and bake in the oven. Eat immediately or let cool and store in the fridge until needed. You can grab one of these potatoes anytime you need. Starting with a simple sweet potato, make a no effort dinner or lunch by adding some salad greens, a can of chickpeas and a little rock salt and pepper.
You can also boil a few eggs and store them in the fridge. Have them on hand to add to a meal, like the baked sweet potato, or make an egg salad sandwich with avocado. Make some extra salad sandwiches for school lunch boxes too.
Fresh vs FrozenIf preparing fresh vegetables is too time consuming for you, opt for a good quality frozen variety. Frozen vegetables (especially if you choose organic) often have higher nutrient levels than fresh produce. This is particularly true if the fresh vegetables have been shipped long distances, sat on a grocery shelf for awhile, and are now sitting in your fridge all week. In contrast, frozen vegetables are often frozen at the farm, locking in nutrients at peak freshness. Cook up some rice and add frozen vegetable in the last few minutes - just enough time for them to soften. Serve with an egg on top, a little dash soy sauce or some miso for a simple Asian-style dinner.
Soups, Stews & Crock Pot MealsYou can also start the habit of cooking soups and stews first thing in the morning. Well cooked soups and stews are very easy to digest and particularly helpful for a busy lifestyle. Although they can sit all day on the stove, soups take very little prep time.
A crockpot can save you valuable time. A crockpot can help you prepare delicious soups and stews with minimal effort. You can get your crock pot going in the morning and return home to a hot cooked meal in the evening. Or, turn it on before bed and wake up to your meal ready and waiting for you. Make sure to check appliance manuals for cooking times. Made in a crockpot, soups will be ready when you are.
To make a basic crock pot meal, simply add some liquid (water, coconut milk, stock), a root vegetable for heartiness, a selection of vegetables (fresh or frozen), your protein of choice (meat or canned beans) and herbs and spices for flavor. Garnish with nuts or seeds before serving with dollop of fresh yogurt and handful of cilantro leaves. red lentil dal,simple kitchari and coconut rice can all be made in a slower cooker.
Add Flavor With Dressings & SaucesA simple garden salad can be transformed by adding a homemade dressing, and a plain dinner can be spruced up by adding a sauce. Try the following to add more flavor to your meals without taxing your time:
Eating OutIf you're so short on time that you find yourself eating out most days, there are still a few things you can be aware of to improve your food choices and eat Ayurvedically at restaurants. Research the restaurants in your area to find healthy options. Look up your favorite restaurants online, find the menu, and check to see what's healthy. Make a list of all your meal options so you'll know where to go when food cravings hit. Even most fast-food and drive-thru restaurants have healthy food options you can research online, but do be aware most will still contain additives, preservatives, and other unhealthy ingredients like hydrogenated oils that are better to avoid. .
Top Lunch/Dinner PicksLooking for some inspiration for your lunches and dinners? Here are some of the best recipes when you're on the run:
Easy Snack & Dessert OptionsSnacks can be a huge pitfall in your daily diet, particularly if you have access to a vending machine. Without sufficient nutrition, you may find yourself constantly grazing throughout the day. Ayurveda recommends avoiding this type of consistent snacking as it confuses the digestive system and leads to unstable blood sugar levels.
It's a good idea to have a stash of healthy snacks ready to reduce the temptation of a sweet treat. Nuts are not a good option because they are too difficult to digest, and will ruin your appetite for dinner. Instead, healthy snacks include those that are light for digestion, and don't have too many calories. These include fruits, carrots, and celery. Check out what fruits are currently in season and buy a small amount a few times a week to make sure they are nice and fresh. Fruit is nature's convenience food. It's ready to eat straight away (make sure to wash fruit if you intend to eat the skin) and can be carried with you. Apples, oranges, kiwis and pears travel well so can be thrown if your handbag or backpack. Keep your bananas and berries until you get home as they are easily bruised and squashed.
Top Snack Picks
If you have some free time on your hands, here are some quick and tasty snacks you can make at home and take with you to the office:
Top Dessert PicksIf sugar cravings hit during an afternoon lull, avoid using candy bars, chocolate, & pastries for a pick-me-up, as these will leave your feeling tired when your sugar levels crash. If the snack options above fail to satisfy, try some nuts, seeds or a protein bar instead of a candy bar. While these bars, particularly the granola variety, contain high levels of sugar, they will likely have a greater nutritional profile than most chocolate bars. Here are some homemade treat to satisfy your sweet tooth. Here are some of our favorites:
Other TipsKeeping well hydrated throughout the day is absolutely essential. It's very easy to forget to take in enough liquid when you're busy, but without enough water, you'll feel tired, depleted, and hungry. Swapping sodas and caffeine to a healthier liquid choice each day takes no extra time - always go for water instead of sodas. Buy a sustainable water bottle that you can fill each morning and bring with you. Sipping room temperature to warm water throughout the day allows you to absorb the water more efficiently, as opposed to guzzling it all down in one go. Whenever you feel hungry, have a few sips of water first in case you're just thirsty. You can also try replacing your creamy coffee with a herbal tea. Almond Chai is particularly satisfying and a non-caffeinated option for making the transition away from coffee.
ConclusionAyurveda is amazingly flexible, adapting to any lifestyle. Ayurveda uses many tricks to help you stay healthy no matter how adverse the circumstances. Ayurveda uses whatever tools are at hand to quickly & easily maintain your health.
Eating quick, easy and healthy meals on the go is very doable. All it takes is a few changes. Most of these changes shouldn't add any more than 5-10 minutes to your meal time. In many cases, you can simply swap current choices for a slightly better ones at no extra time. In this way, you don't have the pressure of being perfect - you're simply making easy changes one step at a time.
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About the AuthorJohn Immel, the founder of Joyful Belly, teaches people how to have a healthy diet and lifestyle with Ayurveda. His approach to Ayurveda exudes a certain ease, which many find enjoyable and insightful. His online course Balance Your Ayurvedic Diet in a Week provides tools for gracefully healing with Ayurveda to thousands. John also directs Joyful Belly's School of Ayurveda , which specializes in digestive tract pathology & Ayurvedic nutrition. John and his wife Natalie recently published Explore Your Hunger: A Guide to Hunger, Appetite & Food.
John's interest in Ayurveda and digestive tract pathology was inspired by a complex digestive disorder acquired from years of international travel, including his public service work in South Asia. John's commitment to the detailed study of digestive disorders reflects his zeal to get down to the roots of the problem. His hope and belief in the capacity of each & every client to improve their quality of life is nothing short of a personal passion. John's creativity in the kitchen and delight in cooking for others comes from his family oriented upbringing. In addition to his certification in Ayurveda, John holds a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Harvard University.
John enjoys sharing Ayurveda within the context of his Catholic roots, and finds Ayurveda gives him an opportunity to participate in the healing mission of the Church. Jesus expressed God's love by feeding and healing the sick. That kindness is the fundamental ministry of Ayurveda as well.
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