When we’re on the go, whether it’s just our daily commute or some slightly more titillating travel, we’re often at the mercy of eating whatever is available and within reach. This can often lead to arriving at our destination hungry and willing to grab whatever is nearest, which is all but a guarantee that we’ll end up downing something quick, filling, and … less than nutritious, like a fast food burger or fries. Eating healthy on the go takes some commitment, but your best weapons, of course, are planning and preparation.
Bake Your Breakfast
Breakfast time tends to be the most rushed part of the day, which is why so many people pass up what’s also the most important meal of the day. Try baking your own granola bars, healthy muffins, egg bakes, or oat bars. These items can be prepared in full ahead of time and last for several days, if not weeks in some cases. They’re a great way to get a healthy dose of protein and fiber to start your morning, says Rene Ficek, Registered Dietitian and Lead Nutrition Expert at Seattle Sutton’s Healthy Eating. Making simple grab-and-go breakfasts will ensure you’ll never have to skip breakfast for the sake of saving time again.
Menu planning is probably the most important factor in eating healthy in the go. Not only does it boil meal preparation down to an easy-to-follow science, but it also reduces ingredient waste. By looking up recipes and planning out meals and snacks in advance, you can ensure that every ingredient you shop for ends up getting used. Focus on a couple of seasonal ingredients per week, or whatever produce is on special at your local grocer, and prepare dishes that highlight these star players in different ways, says Ficek. You should consider using versatile ingredients that can be used in both lunch and dinner preparations. Subscribing to healthy cooking magazines or Pinterest boards can act as weekly inspiration. Most importantly, make lists and have a plan! It may feel time-consuming at first, but once you get the hang of it, this type of strategizing will save you lots of time and money, and keep you and the family healthy.
When cooking your dinner, plan for several more servings than you would normally eat, then store the leftover food in an airtight container and enjoy a fuss-free meal later, says Ficek. Leftovers often translate well into delicious sides or lunches to pack. For example, warm pasta makes for a great pasta salad served cold the next day. Leftovers can also be used an ingredient for another meal if you’re willing to get creative. Optimizing your use of leftovers can really help to stretch your budget and meal plans, and save time in the long run.
One of the foundational concepts of eating healthy is to eat often to not allow yourself to get too hungry—when we’re too hungry is often when we make unhealthy food choices, says Ficek. To avoid this, snack smart—keep ready-to-eat, pre-portioned healthy snacks handy at all times. Stock up on foods like raw almonds, dried fruit, trail mix, whole grain crackers, string cheese, and granola bars. These items travel well and offer healthy doses of protein and fiber to keep you full. Many people find that buying in bulk and pre-portioning when they get home is a great way to stretch the budget, too. Plenty of convenient stores offer these healthy options for purchase as well—just be mindful of portion sizes.
Read more: How to Eat Healthy on a Budget