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Mary Gulino

Mary Gulino is an LA-based writer who loves books, comedy, and yoga. Mary is also a pescitarian, and loves how the NOVA approach accounts for every type of lifestyle. You can find out what she's up to at https://www.maryegulino.com/

7 Tips for Healthy Eating When Life Gets Busy

busy nutrition

When it comes to making healthy changes and sticking to them, the number one barrier many of my clients experience is not having enough time. As a general rule of thumb, I like to remind people that planning ahead and doing the prep work up front can actually save you greatly (both in terms of time and money) in the long run. While this may seem like a daunting task, I have worked with incredibly busy clients who have successfully developed sustainable habits: people whose jobs require them to travel every week, busy collegiate student-athletes, high-powered diplomats and attorneys, and more. So it can be done! Below is a list of the top 7 tips that have helped my clients maintain healthy eating habits when life gets busy:

 

  1. Have a list of quick and convenient healthy snacks on hand

    If you have high-quality protein bars, nuts, fruit, or dried chick peas on hand, you don’t have to worry about being hungry and defaulting to a nutrient-poor option, like candy or chips, in a pinch. Foods that are high in protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals will help to sustain energy for longer and may even boost mood and productivity

  2. Follow general guidelines for food groups at meals

    If you often must eat away from home due to travel, it’s not going to be possible to plan out every meal for the week. Instead, work ahead with your dietitian to determine the appropriate portion sizes and combinations of food groups you should aim for at each meal. If you know that you want a plate that is half vegetables, plus a protein the size of a deck of cards, and one starch the size of your fist, these guidelines will do a lot of the work for you when it comes to healthy eating, no matter the eating environment.

  3. Eat on a consistent schedule

    One of the biggest mistakes I see people make is going without food for 6 hours or more. If you do that, you may find yourself craving foods high in fat, carbohydrates, or sugar. Eating every 3-4 hours helps to stabilize blood sugar levels and makes it easier to focus on work and make healthier food choices throughout the day. Even if you can’t eat at the exact same times every day, the time between all meals and snacks should ideally be no longer than 3-4 hours.

  4. Prepare meals at home that can be frozen

    If you can’t afford to budget cooking time for every meal window, it’s a great strategy to cook meals that can be made in large batches and then frozen. This could be soups, crock pot meals, casseroles, breakfast sandwiches, protein waffles and pancakes, smoothies, homemade meatballs, etc. You can also keep frozen vegetables, fruit, meat, poultry, and fish. Plus, if you opt for individually-sized portions, you can also help reduce food waste.

  5. Use a meal prep delivery service

    If you really don’t enjoy cooking or need to minimize meal prep time as much as possible, a meal prep delivery service may be the answer for you. Some services will ship you all the ingredients you need for a particular recipe, and others will even prepare the meals for you and deliver them, ready-made, to your door. In terms of cost, this option may add up to an equivalent amount as eating at a restaurant, and can allow for healthy eating with minimal time and effort.

  6. Scope out restaurants you frequent often

    For restaurants that you go to often, begin creating a list of at least 1-2 menu options that you know fit well within your personal food guidelines. This will make the ordering process easier and will allow you to have some back-up options ready to go when you find yourself out at a business lunch or stuck at the office without any food prepared.

  7. Look at nutrition facts ahead of time for new restaurants if possible

    Before you try a new restaurant, scan the nutrition facts (or at least the menu) ahead of time by looking it up online. This will allow you to make a more informed decisions about which menu items will suit your needs best, and preparing ahead of time takes the pressure out of trying to make a decision on the fly.

If you have a busy schedule or frequently have to eat away from home, try these tips in whichever order feels most realistic or helpful. Remember, in order for a food plan to be sustainable, it has to fit into your life. If you feel that you would benefit from working with a professional to seek advice on your specific situation or to create a customized meal plan, please feel free to message me to set up a consult!

 

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6 No-Cook Meals You Can Make in Your Dorm

dorm, no-cook meals, college

If you’re on a college campus this year, it may be a good idea to stock up on groceries so you can prepare meals in the privacy of your own dorm. Since many school dining halls are transitioning to take-out only models anyway, you won’t miss much in terms of the communal eating experience if you make your own meals. Plus, this way, you can control the quality of food you eat and make sure it works with your health needs. Browse this list for some ways to mix up your basic routine. Each option is a no-cook meal (which is helpful if your access to appliances is limited), and everything is totally customizable to suit your palate!

 

No-cook Meal 1: Sandwich Pinwheels

Tired: a boring sandwich. Wired: wrapping all your favorite proteins and toppings into a tortilla and slicing into bite-size pinwheel pieces. If you’re feeling extra fancy, secure it together with a toothpick and skewer a pickle or pickled onion on top. Tortillas take up less room than bread in your mini fridge, and eating your meal this way will definitely feel like a step up from your usual routine. If you eat meat, turkey is a great base for your pinwheels. For a veggie option, go for hummus instead. Then go wild with your favorite sandwich toppings.

Hot tip: If you’re adding veggies to your pinwheels (like cucumbers or carrots), cut them into strips rather than slices so that they roll up easier.

 

No-cook Meal 2: Loaded avocado toast

Top your favorite toasted bread with smashed avocado, then add a drizzle of olive oil, and layer on some sliced tomato. Garnish with red pepper flakes and a dash of salt and pepper. Many dorms come with common area kitchenettes that have basic appliances, like a microwave and toaster oven. But if you don’t have access to a toaster, this meal can still work with no appliances if you use a fresh bakery loaf that has a hearty crust.

Hot tip: To cut your avocado, use a sharp kitchen knife and cut vertically all the way around. Twist the halves to rip the avocado in two. Once the pit is exposed on one side, gently whack it with your knife so that the blade lands in the pit. Wiggle your knife back and forth to remove the pit cleanly. Store the unused half in the fridge. Take the half you are going to eat, and score it with your knife before scooping out the meat. Confused on technique? Here’s a video.

 

No-cook Meal 3: Salad in a jar

Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like I’m way more likely to enjoy my meal when the presentation is on point. A big mason jar can go a long way. This recipe is quite flexible, and it allows you to prep multiple lunches at the same time, then grab-and-go when you need to eat between activities. Prep your favorite chopped vegetables, proteins, cheeses, and herbs into a jar. My go-to combination of ingredients is an antipasto-themed salad that includes lettuce, olives, bell pepper, banana peppers, provolone, basil, and sundried tomatoes. But I mean, it’s salad—you do you. To keep your meal fresh and crispy, hold off on adding your favorite dressing until the day you’re ready to eat. When you do add your dressing, shake the jar like crazy to get an even mix.

Hot tip: Canned black beans or chickpeas can go a long way toward elevating your salad. No cooking required, they just need a little rinse and you’re ready to eat!

 

No-cook Meal 4: Tuna salad pita pockets

Prepare some tuna salad by combining canned tuna with mayo and onion. Or, for a lighter option, opt for olive oil, lemon juice, onion, and capers. Store what you don’t use. For your pita pocket, cut off one side of the pita, leaving an opening to put your filling in. Line the pita pocket with your favorite greens, like green leaf lettuce or baby spinach, then add your tuna salad.

Hot tip: In your tuna salad, you can also add chopped celery and/or canned water chestnuts for extra crunch.

 

No-cook Meal 5: Veggie banh mi

Because this sandwich is jam-packed with exciting, spicy flavors, you can make it with raw tofu pieces and still feel like your sandwich is restaurant-quality. To prep your tofu, cut into flat slices, then wrap them in a paper towel to drain out any excess moisture. Start with a piece of fresh baguette, then pile on your tofu slices, thin carrot strips, cucumber, jalapeno slices, and cilantro. Smear on some light mayo or vegan mayo, and top with sriracha.

Hot tip: If you stumble upon access to a fuller kitchen, you can graduate to this recipe that involves marinating and searing your tofu.

 

No-cook Meal 6: Protein Bento Box

This is a fun meal idea if you are nearing the end of your groceries and want to use up a little bit of everything. Instead of eating “just leftovers,” you’ll feel like you’re indulging in a store-bought treat. Grab a reusable bento box container and fill it with items like grapes, nuts, raw veggies, hummus, pretzels, granola, yogurt, or whatever you have in your fridge, like extra pinwheels or tuna salad from meals you made earlier this week.

Hot tip: In addition to being more eco-friendly than individual plastic baggies, a reusable bento box is also a cute, discrete way to transport your meal for easy snacking. So if you find yourself across campus with no downtime between activities, you can quietly open your box and enjoy some mid-meeting nutrition without drawing too much attention.

 

 

Bonus hot tip: Pickling your own onions is super easy and requires no cooking. Give it a try, and you’ll have a garnish that can be added to any meal idea on this list!

 

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