Eating healthy on a regular basis can be a struggle when work, kids, school and household chores leave you exhausted by the end of the day, and all you want to do is slump onto a couch in front of the television and order some Chinese takeout.
On days like these, slaving away in the kitchen – no matter how much you love cooking– seems like an impossible feat, not to forget the mountain of dishes you have to clean up in the aftermath.
Exhaustion also increases our hunger hormone ghrelin so we’re more likely to head to the nearest pizzeria after a long, tiring day. Dietitian Katherine Brooking says that our brain loses control of its willpower when you’re hungry and out of energy, making it more difficult to resist cravings and stick to a healthy eating routine. But as hard as it may seem, you can keep your cravings in check by planning a little in advance. Here are a few tips to get you started.
Keep Snacks with You
Snacking smartly throughout the day keeps your hunger in check and helps you resist the temptation to pull into a McDonald’s drive-thru before heading home after work. Healthy snacks like nuts, roasted chickpeas, fruit and popcorn contain plenty of nutritional value and fiber to hold you over until the next meal without the added calories of unhealthy junk foods like chips, candy and sodas.
Moreover,most of these healthy snacks – except for fruit – are non-perishable which means that you can stash them in your car’s glove box, your office desk and even your bag so that you’re prepared whenever hunger strikes.
Prepare Ahead of Time
Meal prep is the easiest way to stick to a healthy diet on a busy schedule, but if eating refrigerated meals for an entire week isn’t your thing, then you may want to prepare food as you go by simply making more of what you cook on not-so-busy days and saving it for dinner the next day and even the day after.
Dietitian Alex Caspero recommends cooking versatile foods like roasted meats and vegetables, tuna or bean salad and brown rice so that you have more options to mix-and-match instead of repeating the same boring meals every day.
Swap Meals with Friends
If you’re struggling to get food on the dinner table every day due to a hectic schedule, chances are that your friends are in a similar predicament. Eating healthy can be made easier when you have some help along the way, and one of the ways you can stick to your goal is by organizing meal swaps with your friends.
Make one large meal on a weekend and divide it into different containers for the rest of the week, and voila! You’re done. Now simply exchange meals with the rest of your friends so that you don’t have to eat the same food every day.
Find Healthier Alternatives
When you come home exhausted and hungry, what is the one thing that you crave the most? For many, its comfort foods like pizzas, cakes and ice creams which are extremely high in calories and can cause damage to your waistline. Nutritionists recommend swapping these foods for healthier alternatives when cravings strike.
For example, instead of eating a large bowl of ice cream, opt for a cup of Greek yogurt topped with crunchy granola and fruits. The textures and sweetness of this creamy alternative will satisfy your cravings without making you feel guilty about cheating on your diet.
Choose Foods You Love
Everyone has a list of their top 10 recipes that they enjoy cooking and eating. Keep some of your favorite recipes on hand, that you know are quick and easy to make, and don’t require a lot of effort on days when you’re too exhausted to slave away in the kitchen for hours. The more you enjoy a certain recipe, the more motivated you’ll be to cook it without letting tiredness getting in the way.
Choose Restaurants Wisely
If nothing else works and you absolutely have to eat out, make sure to choose the restaurant carefully. Instead of stopping at the nearest fast food joint, do some research during your lunch break and find healthy restaurants that are on your route back home.
Bookmark the healthiest meals on the establishment’s menu so that you don’t have to spend more time choosing what you want once you reach the restaurant.