Eating healthy with a busy lifestyle

You’re a busy professional, with commitments from work, friends, family, volunteer work, sports activities, pets…phew, we’re tired already even thinking about it. Somewhere on that list comes proper nutrition through healthy eating – right? But how do you combine eating healthy meals with such a busy lifestyle?

If you want to stay well and have the energy for your busy life, then nutrition needs to be a priority – it’s that simple. And it can be – with a little planning, and a little knowledge. If you want to stay well and have the energy for your busy life, then nutrition needs to be a priority

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I’m the director of a Queensland dietician practice with multiple offices, and I’m constantly on the go myself [my car is often my office!]. Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about planning ahead so that I don’t skimp on healthy meals, regardless of how many hours I work. In fact, these tips have served me well for years, starting from when I was growing the business and busy raising two young girls, who are now young women.

I learned a small amount of preparation could reap big benefits at the end of a hectic day. It’s all about keeping the ingredients for three healthy meals ready at all times.

The key is stocking the pantry and the freezer with a good system of basics in the cupboard and key meal ingredients in the freezer. You can whip up one of three healthy dinners in no time even if you’ve just rushed through the door, kicked off your heels, and dashed right into the kitchen.

Investing just a small amount of time on a Sunday night can make your week ahead run like a well-oiled machine. Here are some of my tips:

Stock up on the basics.

1. Check your pantry and fridge, and keep your basics stocked. Remember, the better the quality of your ingredients, the better your dish will taste – so visit your local market, gourmet deli or local providore to source top quality products.

These should include:

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  • Canned tuna, salmon
  • Pasta – wholegrain or if you prefer brown rice
  • Rice
  • Couscous – no boiling, so really fast to prepare
  • A good quality red pasta sauce
  • Stock – vegetable, chicken or beef
  • Canned tomatoes
  • Herbs and spices
  • Rubs for meats and poultry
  • Good quality Parmesan cheese
  • Tasty dressings – I love caramelised balsamic
  • Relishes and pickles
  • Dips – beetroot and hummus
  • Sauces like sweet chilli and homemade tomato

Pick up a few fresh grocery items to last you through several meals, including:

  • Beef strips
  • Chicken fillets
  • Frozen vegetables
  • Frozen berries
  • Fresh herbs like dill and coriander – or better still, grow your own!

Pop the beef, chicken and vegetables in the freezer. Then cook up some of that rice and pasta and freeze it, as well [think: quick pasta dish or rice on the side of a casserole].

Congrats! Your Sunday work is done.

Cooking a healthy meal

So now it’s a weeknight, and you’re just home from work. How do you make a tasty and healthy meal quickly?

First – breathe. Relax. Take time to enjoy the meal preparation process – think of it as your moment of Zen. Light a scented candle if you wish.

Now, between your stocked pantry/fridge and frozen items, you have the ingredients for three meals nearly ready that are fast, healthy and delicious:

  • Risotto with veggies – sprinkle with parmesan and basil
  • Pasta with tuna and red sauce
  • Stir-fry beef or chicken with veggies – with rice on the side

Use your herbs for flavouring – you can never have enough herbs on hand to choose from.

There are so many more combinations, but that’s just for starters. Why resort to take-away meals? With a bit of planning, it’s entirely possible to cook at home, regardless of how busy you are, for optimal nutrition.

Top image: chotda


Sally-Anne is an Accredited Practising Dietician and director of Sunshine Coast Dietetics. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science (Nutrition) and a Post Graduate Diploma of Dietetics from Deakin University in Victoria. After gaining extensive clinical experience at the Alfred Hospital, Sally-Anne travelled to Sunshine Coast and established Sunshine Coast Dietetics.

She specialises in the management of weight control and breaking the yo-yo cycle of constant dieting. Sally-Anne also specialises in the management of eating disorders and bowel disease, coeliac disease and irritable bowel syndrome.
Married with two teenagers, she is well versed in childhood and teenage nutrition and the challenges faced trying to establish and maintain healthy eating habits with a busy lifestyle.

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