Meal planning saves you time, money, and stress. But what if you don’t have time to meal plan? Learn how to eat healthy when life gets busy!
That’s what I call seasons like I’m in right now, when my family finds ourselves racing from one activity to the next.
It might be summertime baseball, the start of school, or the holiday season with parties, travel, and grandparents visiting. Whatever it is, we all find ourselves in “survival mode.”
The next time you’re in one of these seasons, use these tips to eat healthy when life gets busier than usual.
Healthy Eating When Busy Tip #1: Make a Realistic Meal Plan
I strongly encourage you to make a meal plan even when you’re busy.
In fact, it’s probably more important to make a meal plan when your schedule is crazy! You don’t want to be going to the grocery store multiple times a week. If you end up eating out because you haven’t planned, you’re likely to go over your budget.
Follow this easy 3-step meal planning process to make a plan that works with your busy schedule. I walk you step-by-step using this Meal Planning Template to handle all your activities to make a plan that will work for YOU. This works much better instead of trying to fit your life around a healthy eating plan.
When you make your meal plan, be honest about how much time you have and don’t overschedule yourself. Schedule in times to go out to eat during the week so you can give yourself a break, too! No need to feel guilty about take-out, just make sure to include it in the plan.
Healthy Eating When Busy Tip #2: Use “Back-Up” Meal Plans
A “back-up meal plan” is a super-easy meal option that you always have ingredients on hand for.
This could be an easy, all-in-one 30-minute meal, like Lemon Pesto Penne with Broccoli and Bursted Cherry Tomatoes.
Your back-up meal plan could be an old standard that you’ve made sure is nutritionally balanced. For example, I love to serve brats (protein), mac & cheese (carbs), and green beans (veggies). (Read more about how to include mac & cheese in a healthy meal.)
Examples of a Mix & Match Meal might be:
- Snack for Lunch: 3/4 cup cottage cheese + 1 cup pineapple + Small Cookie
- PB & J Sandwich: 2 Tbsps Peanut Butter + 1 Tbsp Jelly + 2 Slices Bread + 1 orange + Baby Carrots
- Nachos: 20-30 tortilla chips + ½ cup shredded cheese + ½ cup black beans + ½ cup salsa
- Charcuterie: 2 ozs cheese + ¼ cup nuts + 2 ozs crackers + 1 cup berries + 1 cup fresh snap peas + 1 cup bell pepper slices
Healthy Eating When Busy Tip #3: Be Flexible with Your Meal Plan
When your schedule is packed with activities, something is bound to change at the last minute. I know from personal experience just how stressful this can be!
When this happens, it’s tempting to scrap your meal plan and just go out to eat. Unfortunately, this can lead to overspending your budget and keep you trapped in a less-than-healthy eating pattern.
Instead, think outside the box and be flexible with the meal plan you made:
- Can you swap recipes and make something easier if you have less time than you thought?
- If you planned to have take-out on another night, can you swap this and cook tonight’s dinner later in the week?
- Do you need to use a “back-up meal plan” tonight? (That’s what they’re for!)
If you end up with too many ingredients at the end of the week because you didn’t have time to cook all the meals, that’s okay! Now you’ll have a better idea how often is realistic for you to cook during busy times and you can factor this in when you make your meal plan for the following week.
You CAN Eat Healthy Even When Life is Busy!
During busy seasons, make sure to give yourself lots of grace. It’s not going to go perfectly, and that’s okay!
Patterns are more important than perfection.
Instead of worrying about whether you’re eating at home every evening, practice cooking as often as is realistic for you.
If this means you’re committed to cooking and eating together only on Sunday evenings, that’s okay! Start with that pattern and it will be easier to build on it than it is to start from scratch.
Grab this life of Mix & Match Meal Ideas for easy, no-cook meal options to keep you on track. Focus on taking one small step and don’t sweat the rest.
Happy busy season,
Dietitian Ann from Peas and Hoppiness
Make Family Mealtime Easier
“I love the balanced meals and variety of food choices the guides provide. The meals are filling, taste good, and are nutritious.”
-Rhonda, member of the Peas & Hoppy Meal Guides