by Tiffany DeWitt, RD, registered dietitian with Abbott
You might think that dietitians are the healthiest eaters around.
We know exactly what we should eat, we always dish out the perfect portions and we can even whip up Pinterest-worthy meals in seconds flat.
The truth is, however, we’re just like you.
As a full-time working mom of three young kids, I know what it’s like to be busy all day, how challenging it is to get a healthy dinner on the table every night and how cravings can get the best of you. Serving healthy meals is always my goal but I have my fair share of mealtime battles with my kids too.
I’ve learned to arm myself with a few short cuts to pull off eating healthy most of the time and you can too. Here are 10 life hacks I swear by.
1. Eat Plenty of Protein
If your sugar cravings are through the roof or you’re feeling famished every few hours, chances are you’re not eating enough protein. On top of that, you may not even know how much to get, according to a joint survey by Abbott and AARP which found that only 17 percent of people 50 and older do.
Active adults should aim for 20 to 30 grams of protein at each meal and children should get 10 to 35 percent of their calories from protein.
Try to include a protein source with every meal and snack to keep you feeling fuller longer and give you the energy you need to get through the day. On the go, grab an energy bar such as ZonePerfect that packs protein and essential vitamins.
2. Drink Up
If you think you’re hungry, sip some water first because hunger can often look like dehydration. Drink between 12 and 16 ounces of water before meals too so you’re less likely to overeat. Don’t like plain water? Add a few cucumber slices, lemon or strawberries for an extra kick. If you are traveling or have been exercising, grab a Pedialyte powder pack to mix in with a bottle of water to rehydrate.
3. Order Your Groceries
One of my favorite time savers is ordering my groceries. If you have young kids, you know that going to the grocery store for missing ingredients or weekly shopping is not always possible.
So instead whip out your computer or phone and order your groceries online for pick-up or delivery. The time you would have spent grocery shopping in person can be used to plan your meals and order your groceries so you know you’ll have everything.
4. Practice Prepping
I depend on Sunday for prepping. While the kids are busy doing an activity, I’ll cut, chop or peel fruits and vegetables for the week ahead.
You can also wash and chop all of your produce and store them in individual containers or plastic bags for smoothies and juices. Or fill mason jars with salads you can take for lunch.
5. Make Breakfast Portable
The morning rush can make it difficult to make time for breakfast and almost half of Americans fall short at least once a week, one survey found. Yet some studies show that people who don’t eat breakfast end up eating more calories throughout the day.
I keep breakfast simple throughout the week and rely on a high fiber cereal, or oatmeal with fresh fruit and almond slivers to keep my kids feeling full.
Grab-and-go options work well too especially when you’re tight on time. Mini egg muffins or a frittata can be made ahead of time and reheated, or make eggs in the microwave and pair them with a tortilla. You can pull together overnight oats or Greek yogurt parfaits in mason jars, or blend up a protein-packed smoothie in a to-go cup.
6. Use One Pot or the Crock Pot
Foil-baked chicken or fish with vegetables or one pot or one pan recipes are fast, easy and a no-brainer for dinner. The slow cooker also works well for soups, stews, and even a whole chicken that’s ready when you walk in the door after a long day.
7. Fill Up Your Freezer
To make sure I always have healthy food on hand, I stock my freezer with shrimp and bags of vegetables and rice, which can all been thawed and cooked quickly. I have a meal ready in 10 minutes and it’s healthy.
8. Have a Snack
If you find yourself hangry when it’s time to cook dinner or your kids are begging for something to eat, chances are you’ll throw in the towel and make something not so healthy or overeat when dinner is served.
To keep your blood sugar level, put out cut-up veggies, a piece of fruit, hummus or cheese. At my house, I’ll rinse and drain a can of beans and put them in a bowl for all of us to snack on. Beans not only staves off hunger without a lot of calories, but it keeps me sane while I prepare dinner.
9. Stock Your Pantry
If you always have your pantry stocked with staples, you’ll never have to question what’s for dinner. A variety of low-sodium soups, canned vegetables, beans, pasta, rice and other grains are good options. I also keep a 100% Whey protein powder on hand for healthy smoothies.
10. Make It Easy
Instead of trying to whip up that new recipe you saw from your favorite food blogger or a fancy dinner from a cookbook, be realistic.
Pick up a fully-cooked rotisserie chicken, chop up a quick salad and dinner is done. Even better—you’ll have leftovers that can be used in other meals throughout the week. Or pick up ready-made meals at the grocery store or sides at the salad bar.