Now that fall’s here, work, school and life have returned to their dizzying pace. Even our best intentions to eat healthy are in jeopardy—simply because we lack time for meal planning and prep! We all deal with calendar overload, and we know that maintaining a healthy diet when the days get long really helps to keep us feeling focused and well, not to mention looking our best. Here are our top strategies for eating healthy when there’s little time to cook. These healthy eating tips work for us, and we hope you’ll try them too!

Tip 1: Less is more

Save the saffron, capers and remoulade for a lazy weekend dinner party. Instead, build a repertoire of recipes made with a few simple, no-fuss ingredients that you can whip up in no time on your busiest days. To find low-commitment recipes that you can make quickly, pare down current favorites (you can make that chili with 5 ingredients, instead of 12), and practice spicing up basics that you always have in stock—like quinoa, brown rice and lentils—with whatever veggies and sauces you have on hand. Try packing a baked sweet potato with good-for-you toppings, making a simple stir-fry, or whipping up a classic avocado toast when time’s short. It’ll always be more satisfying than hitting the drive-thru.

Tip 2: Plan ahead with soups & sauces

After a long day at work, late night at lacrosse practice, or busy day being the superhuman you are, cooking a full homecooked meal from scratch may seem like a daunting task. Wouldn’t it be easier to have something homecooked already made that just needs a little extra touch to make it complete? Soups and sauces are perfect meal planning companions for busy life because they can be made in large quantities ahead of time, portioned off, and either frozen or stored in the refrigerator for use on days when you just don’t have the time or energy to cook from scratch. It’s also easy to pack vegetables into your soups and sauces to boost your intake of skin-healthy vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids. Pair a hearty soup with a quick salad, or enjoy a comforting sauce over whole grain pasta, polenta, whole grains, or even on meat with a quick veggie side dish. You can also pack your soups or sauce dishes in insulated hot food containers for a nutritious and delicious meal on the go, whether you’re packing for yourself or for your kids.

quick-meal-planningTip 3: Keep staples in the pantry & fridge

One of the easiest ways to consistently eat healthy is to keep the pantry and refrigerator stocked with nutritious staples that create a foundation for any meal. Consider the types of food that make you feel good, give you energy, and store well.. Protein and fiber sources offer a good base to build upon. For example, greens are typically pretty fragile, but baby spinach is rather hearty and a powerhouse of nutrition. High in fiber, protein, Vitamin A, C, and E, spinach can be sauteed, scrambled in eggs, added to sandwiches, made as a salad, or blended in a smoothie. Pastured eggs are versatile, high in protein, and can be eaten for any meal–hard boiled, scrambled, fried, or over-easy–baked in a quiche, or whipped into an egg salad; it’s always a good idea to buy two dozen at a time and hard boil a whole dozen for an easy grab-n-go snack. Having a variety of your favorite dry goods is always useful too–think beans and grains– since they can be whipped into a hearty meal topped with roasted veggies.

Tip 4: Have a contingency plan

Nothing derails your best healthy eating plans faster than ravenous hunger in a drive-thru or at a vending machine. Stay on track with a contingency plan for those ‘food emergency’ situations. Two proven effective plans are the car stash kit & the supermarket carry out. Have some fun putting together a great food ‘go bag’ to keep in the car or the desk drawer at the office. Fruit (nature’s fast food), high quality nuts and seeds, raw or real food bars, and nitrate free jerky all keep and travel well. A can of white beans, wild caught salmon, or sardines pack a protein punch and can be easily spruced up with a little spice or simple salt and pepper. Kale chips, artichokes in a small jar, or pickled veggies make for great ready to eat veggie options. Be sure to include little jars of spice, a can opener and a couple bottles of water in your kit too. And when even a great car stash can’t pull you through,have a supermarket superhero (or two) on standby. A whole roasted chicken and some green beans is sure to please. A container of lentil pilaf from the prepared section and a bag of prewashed spinach can put a whole food(ish) meal on the table in minutes.

CommentWe want to hear from you!

What are your go-to healthy, skin-friendly meals when time is short? Please share your tips and favorite recipes with the NAA community.

Image 2 credit: Ginnerobot via Flickr Creative Commons