Today was the first day of school. I survived but I.Am.Exhausted. I have to make dinner tonight? I can’t even process that…
Life brings transitions. For many of us, whether we are teachers or simply have school aged kids, it’s the change from the relaxed pace of summer into the busy schedule of a new school year. For other people, it might be a new job, a new home, or new family obligations. It’s easy and tempting to rely on fast food, take out, and high sugar snacks to get us through these times. But in the end, these high fat/calorie/sodium options just leave us feeling more tired, sluggish, and oftentimes guilty. So how do you keep your diet healthy through a busy transition? Here’s my top 6 tips for staying healthy through a time of change:
- Plan ahead: If you know the transition is coming (the end of the summer, a start date for a new job) you can make some preparation. The last few weeks of the summer I start making meals that I can easily double. Some casseroles and some soup don’t take much extra time or effort to prepare in larger quantities and freeze beautifully. We’ll eat half of the casserole/soup for dinner and the other half will be saved for a night when I just need to be able to pull something out of the freezer.
- Cut down on cleanup: Line casserole dishes with foil. Use paper plates and cups. Buy disposable pans. If you know that most of the mess can be thrown in the trash after dinner is over, the prep work of dinner won’t seem so daunting after a busy day. I’m not advocating this as a permanent solution (think of the polar bears, people!!) but as a temporary fix there’s noting wrong with a little convenience.
- Make eating healthy as easy as possible: By setting up your environment to be as healthy as possible, you will have to go out of your way to find unhealthy options (hint: this also is a great all-the-time strategy, not just when life gets busy). Keep a bowl of apples on your counter instead of cookies. Cut up a lemon into wedges and keep it in a bowl in the fridge, then throw the lemons in a glass of water instead of drinking juice or soda. Pre-cut fruits and vegetables are more expensive and most of the time cost prohibitive for people on a long term basis, but if you are short on time they can mean the difference between a healthy meal/snack and take out.
- Over pack your lunch: If you will be packing your lunch for work, pack more food than you think you will eat. Then, if you get a craving for a snack in the morning or afternoon, you can dip into your lunchbox instead of the vending machine.
- Create a system: Speaking of lunches– if you are going to pack, create a system. Have some healthy options to throw in the lunchbox and everyone gets a variation on the theme. Mine goes like this: Sandwich (or leftover dinner from last night, pre portioned as I’m putting away the extra), whole fruit (not fruit in syrup), cheese stick, crackers, veggie (baby carrots, cucumber slices, or celery- usually with hummus). Every night– no thought necessary.
- Give yourself some grace: Transitional times are tough but, by nature, they don’t last forever. You will eventually find your new normal. So set yourself up for success, but also give yourself some grace if dinner ends up being oatmeal one night. There are worse things in the world.
So there you have it. Best of luck to all of us in this transitional period.
And what do you think? Is there anything I missed? I’d love to hear your tips and tricks.