Eating healthy in a pinch

You’ve probably heard “failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” I’m a huge believer in this saying, and meal prep basically religiously. Keeping in mind I’m one of the busiest people you’ve ever met, I use “meal prep” loosely (some weeks it looks like perfectly portioned Tupperware containers, and some weeks it’s a bunch of cooked veggies and chicken in zip storage bags). I can’t wait to cover meal prep with you! But that’s coming soon.

What I wanted to touch on today is no matter how much you plan, life happens. Whether you left your lunch on the counter, are running late to an appointment and don’t have time to stop at home, or are just at your desk and way hungrier than you anticipated: there’s still ways to make smart choices. Here’s some of my favorites:

  • Stop at a gas station for nuts. Individually packed cashews or almonds are just the perfect amount of satiating fat to tide you over. (Tip: don’t grab the trail mix option, they’re loaded with extra sugar. Opt for the plain nut packs — salted or unsalted is fine).

  • Sprouts Market has a sandwich counter where you can build your own half or full sandwich made up of wholesome ingredients and unprocessed meat (or a ton of fresh veggies for my non-meat eaters). Most locations have the option to fill out a form to build your sandwich that you leave on the counter, so you can run and grab a water while they make it. Whole Foods offers this same service, though it’s about half the price at Sprouts.

  • Chick-fil-a serves grilled chicken nuggets, an awesome alternative to the breaded, fried version available most places. An 8-count serving packs 23g protein, 4g carbs and 3g fat. Score! (1)

  • For a last minute breakfast option, I love the reduced fat turkey bacon sandwich at Starbucks. It’ll cost you more than the McDonald’s breakfast sandwich, but comes warm on a whole-wheat english muffin with 13g protein, 28g carbs and 6g fat. (2)

  • Keep a shaker bottle and a scoop of protein powder in your car or desk.

  • Lastly, an apple or banana from a grocery store (or most Quiktrip locations as well) is a good snack to hold you over until you can get a real meal in.

A few other tips:

  • Keep water with you! It’s a ripoff to buy it anywhere, and so often we confuse dehydration with hunger. A hydro flask is a great investment (a reusable bottle that keeps water cold all day long), or buy water bottles in bulk (super cheap!), keep a few in the fridge at a time and grab a couple when you leave the house in the morning.

  • When you’re grabbing food to go in a hurry, don’t forget to look at the ingredients. Notice I didn’t include protein bars or smoothies on the list above, these are foods with “health halos” (which I’ll cover soon), which essentially means they’re assumed to be healthy but often actually contain far too much sugar to be considered healthy. I gave the example of trail mix earlier: give the ingredients list a quick read and only grab things that contain what the food item actually is.

More and more grocers and gas stations are offering to-go salads, fruit mixes, or packaged pairings like veggies and hummus — which is awesome! Keep in mind these should be “last minute” options, because purchasing healthy food pre-packaged is usually a tad pricey. Although when needed, the extra few dollars is a huge investment in your health and keeping you on track to your goals.