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Ok, first thing first.
This post is all how to eat healthy when you’re exhausted but I want to make it clear that I am totally ok with everyone having a different definition of ‘healthy eating’. I’m primarily plant-based, but I’m not here to tell you that you have to subscribe to my view of a healthy diet. It varies somewhat from person to person depending on what your body needs and your viewpoint of the world.
I would imagine, though, that there are some healthy eating basics we can all agree on:
- more vegetables + fruit
- low sugar intake
- healthy carbs instead of processed carbs
- plenty of water!
If we can all agree on those principles that’s sure enough for me!
But how can we practice healthy eating when you have a business to run, the kids need to get to school sport, the dog needs to be washed, the pile of laundry is about to swallow up the laundry basket and honestly you’d much rather just drink a glass of wine while watching Netflix than spend two hours cutting up vegetables?
Honestly, I’m not such a whizz in the kitchen, so I feel your pain. There are a few tips and tricks, however, that can help you (and your family) with healthy eating… even when you’re exhausted!
Prep Ahead of Time
After a long day, there’s no better feeling than knowing you have a delicious home-cooked, healthy meal already defrosting. All you have to do is re-heat and perhaps steam some vegetables for freshness. And bonus, your lunch was a pre-prepared healthy meal that you just grabbed from the fridge as you left the house this morning.
How do we achieve this blissful state of ready-to-go healthy meal happiness?
Kristen at Hello Nutritarian’s says it perfectly:
‘It’s a simple principle: You have to invest the time when you’re not stressed to stay on-plan when you are stressed.’
Meal prepping is a lot of work. It’s a solid 2-3 hours each week, probably on your weekend, that you dedicate to preparing all of your meals for the seven days ahead. So why do so many people do this? Because the amount of time it saves throughout the week is priceless! Preparing in advance is my number one tip on how to eat healthy.
Here are my top tips for getting started with meal prepping:
- Make it a routine. Look at your schedule and work out a block of time that you will consistently be able to meal prep each week. My best friend loves to do her meal prepping Sunday afternoons after Church. Perhaps for you, Wednesday morning while the kids are at school works better. If you can find a consistent time you’ll be more likely to do it each week.
- Plan a week’s worth of healthy meals at a time. Pinterest is a great resource for healthy meal-prepping recipes and remember, when you meal prep you want to cover all lunches, dinners, healthy snacks and most breakfasts. That sounds like a lot of work, but think of the stress you’ll be saving yourself when you can just pull a family meal from the fridge after sports practice!
- Once you’ve written out and planned your meals for the week, write a grocery list and do one big shop. This saves plenty of time throughout the week, and sticking to a written list prevents spontaneous junk food purchases!
- Shop at bulk stores (with your eco-friendly produce bags) for a much cheaper grocery shop!
- Organise your fridge to accomodate for your prepped and labelled meals to prevent rummaging around for that hidden container of curry. It’s best to put food that will be used and eaten later in the week at the back of the fridge, and food that will be used up first at the front.
- Eat before you go to the supermarket. Sounds silly, but you’re wayyyy less likely to grab those chocolate biscuits that aren’t on your grocery list on a full stomach.
- Be prepared with proper containers. Avoid plastic as glass is so much more eco-friendly!
- Pre-proportioned snacks such as wholegrain muffins are a great way to go as you can grab just one from the freezer and head out of the door!
- You don’t have to fully cook each healthy meal in advance. Simply preparing and bagging all of the ingredients together is a huge time saver for things like slow-cooked casseroles. In the morning, you can simply pour all of the ingredients into your slow cooker, set it to cook and that night you’ll come home to a yummy meal.
Here are some best practices for your actual meal prepping routine:
- Batch tasks together. Do you need cut up carrots for your curry on Tuesday night, stir-fry on Thursday night and BBQ Skewers on Saturday night? Cut them all at once to save yourself a heap of time.
- Feel free to double your recipes and stock up the freezer! The family won’t remember they had a certain meal three weeks ago when you whip it from the freezer- they’ll just be enjoying a delicious healthy meal.
- Batch-cook your grains. Prepare your wholegrain rice for both your curry and stir-fry.
- Keep avocados, tomatoes and bananas away from other fruits and vegetables- they release a gas which speeds up the ripening process.
- Use beeswax wraps to keep your food fresher for longer in an eco-friendly (and beautiful) way.
I won’t lie- meal prepping is a lot of work at first and it takes a few weeks to get into a routine. But the reward of a constant supply of healthy meals is so worth it!
That husband or flatmate of yours? Get them involved in this whole ‘cooking’ thing! Use it as a time to create something together while chatting about your day, your week or your plans. When you sit down to eat, you’ve both contributed to a healthy meal that you can enjoy together.
I’m happy to put my hand up here say that I don’t have children yet, so I know this mightn’t be as easy as I’m making it sound. But I also know that at the age of 8 my partner (who, granted, grew up to become a chef) was making spaghetti bolognese from scratch for his entire family without his mum even asking. Kids are much more capable than we give them credit for. So if your children are able, get them involved in preparing the family meal. What a lovely and educational way to spend time together! And, there’s a bonus- it’s so important for kids to know how to cook themselves a nutritious meal because one day they won’t be kids. They’ll be adults trying to work out how to actually survive on their own, and knowing how to cook Mum’s fresh tacos will suddenly be extremely helpful.
So what tasks can you delegate to the little ones?
- Rinsing dishes
- Setting the table
- Grease baking trays and pans
- Help put the groceries away
- Cook at the stove with you (when age-appropriate)
- Measure and level ingredients
- Use a small paring knife to cut vegetables (when age-appropriate)
- Grating cheese
- Using the garlic press
- Helping with the baking (measuring and stirring ingredients, scraping down the mixing-bowl, scooping into the cake tin or muffin pan)
Assuming you live with others, it shouldn’t be all up to you to create the family’s meal. So spread the load!
Bring Out That Slow Cooker
A few years ago I invested what was (for me at the time) a lot of money into a Staub cast-iron cooker. And it’s been the best purchase we’ve made in our kitchen. We use it five times as often as our KitchenAid (that people swear you can’t live without) and in winter it simmers away on the cooktop six days a week.
There are so many reasons to love slow cooking:
- It’s quick & easy- chop up your ingredients, add some flavour and let it cook for hours. The end result is a delicious healthy meal!
- You can make a large batch and freeze the rest for later meals.
- You can achieve a flavoursome meal without stirring, sautéing or grilling for hours!
- As mentioned above, slow-cookers and meal-prepping go hand in hand!
Pinterest is bursting with healthy slow-cooker recipes so have a search around and create a board of your favourites.
When it comes to the actual Slow Cooker you use, you have some options:
Cast Iron Slow Cookers
As I mentioned, I love, love, love our Staub cast iron pot (they blow Le Creuset out of the water, by the way). Cast Iron Slow Cookers have a few advantages:
- they’re incredibly environmentally friendly.
- they are life-long pieces (potentially multiple lives… your children might end up with yours!)
- they are easy to use- you can transfer them between the stove top and oven.
- they’re non-carcinogenic unlike other non-stick cookware.
- trace amounts of iron are actually absorbed into your food and therefore body which is healthy for your red blood cell count.
We actually now have three Staubs- we love them that much! The reason I recommend Staub over Le Creuset primarily comes down to the dimples on the underside of the Staub lids. This little features goes a long way. As your food cooks, precipitation hits the lid, and is redirected via the dimples back onto your food- it’s self basting! We’ve been amazed at the difference this one feature makes.
Electric Slow Cookers
Your other option is an electric slow cooker. Obviously these aren’t as environmentally friendly, but they do have the advantage of programable functions. This can be handy if you like to put your meal on to cook in the morning, head off to work, and come home to a beautiful meal. You can find an example here (I have not tried this brand personally). I’ve honestly never had an electric slow-cooked meal that is anywhere near as delicious as a cast-iron version and they’re certainly not as environmentally-friendly, but I understand they have their uses.
Juicing Is Your New Best Friend
No, I don’t mean juice detoxing or only consuming juices. How do people even do that?? I would go absolutely mental crazy hangry at everyone in sight within three hours!
So. Much. Hunger = So. Much. Anger.
Anyway, juicing is a fantastic, cheap and efficient way to eat healthy. I love to top up my diet with a healthy juice, rather than replace my diet with a juice, but that’s just me. I do get a bit slack at this over winter (when my body probably needs it the most), but something about sunny summer days inspires me to break out my blender again.
Juices and smoothies are just such a quick way to get a heap of nutrients into your body! But, it is important to not just blend up a whole bunch of fruit and count that as your ‘healthy’ food for the day as this is just a big glass of sugar. Build a delicious, nutritious smoothie or juice with vegetables, perhaps some protein and one serve of fruit to taste.
You can incorporate into your juice or smoothie:
- Leafy greens such as lettuce, kale, rocket, spinach
- Fruit such as banana (yummy way to thicken a smoothie), apples, pears, oranges, kiwi fruit, cantaloupe etc. etc.
- Oats, protein powder, hemp seeds or chia seeds
- Yoghurt- dairy or non-dairy
- Probiotics (more on that below)
Talk about a nutritional powerhouse! And smoothies and juices are so versatile you can mix it up everyday and never get bored!
Put Fresh Fruit Somewhere Visible
You know how it is- out of sight, out of mind.
Yep, some fruits need to live in the fridge. But I can 100% guarantee I’m going to forget about the berries sitting in the crisper until I miraculously discover them in there a week past their best-before date. Sad but true. The fruit that I don’t forget about is the colourful variety of bananas, apples, pears and kiwi fruits sitting in our fruit basket on the kitchen bench. They’re unmissable. And because they’re unmissable, I’m reminded to eat my fruit.
Fruit makes the perfect nutritious, affordable healthy snack. I’m not the kind of person who gets filled up by an apple (#ineverstopeating) but munching on a few pieces throughout the day between meals keeps my blood sugars happy.
So, what’s so great about fresh fruit anyway?
- The potassium found in fruit can lower your risk of heart disease and stroke. High potassium fruits include: peaches, cantaloupe, oranges and bananas.
- The folic acid found in fruit helps the body from red blood cells.
- Most fruits are naturally low in (unhealthy) fats.
- The dietary fibre found in fruit can help lower blood cholesterol levels and may even reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Fruits are bursting with nutrients and vitamins, such as : Vitamin C, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus and A Vitamins.
In summary, fruit is great. Let’s eat more of it.
Only Have Healthy Food in Your Home
Sometimes my partner likes to treat me by bringing home a packet of vegan choc-mint cookies. And I love him for it. It’s thoughtful, kind… and dangerous. Because I’m telling you, if those cookies make their way through the front door, all 12 will be gone in 3 days. Guaranteed. And he doesn’t even eat chocolate. So yep, that’d be me eating all dozen delicious biscuits. Mmmm.
But if he doesn’t buy them… then I don’t eat them. I don’t purchase them for myself at the supermarket so they don’t end up in our home (and therefore my mouth).
Now, I know I can’t be the only one who snacks when they’re tired. When I’m wiped out, there’s nothing I love to do more than crawl into fresh sheets, watch some Outlander and snack on a cup of tea with choccy biscuits. It’s heaven. But it’s also not high on the list of ‘top ways to stay healthy’. Yes there are times to treat yourself but ‘it’s Tuesday night’ isn’t reason enough to break out the Ben & Jerry’s topped with chocolate sauce and sprinkles.
So how do we achieve this magical kitchen of only-healthy-food?
- Firstly, we don’t throw out perfectly good food. That’s wasteful.
- As you use up the remaining ‘unhealthy’ food, look to replace it with healthier alternatives. Replace your normal pasta with wholegrain, white flour (which has zero nutritional value) with wholegrain or a nut-flour alternative, etc. etc.
- Shop at bulk supply stores. They tend to have a healthier options and you can easily purchase in a zero-waste manner by bringing your own produce bags. This also helps you cut down on food waste by purchasing only what you need.
- We all get hungry so stock up on healthy snacks that you’ll actually eat. A selection of nuts and seeds is a great choice to nibble on (you can chop up and include some sweet dried fruits such as dates if you wish).
Developing a healthy diet takes time, and it’s likely to evolve as your lifestyle does. Adjust and tweak as things change, and one day you’ll look up, and find your pantry is full of nutritious nuts, seeds, legumes and flours, and your fridge is bursting with fruit and vegetables!
Supplements are great for a variety of reasons. Due to how nutrient-depleted farming soil has become, supplements can be an affective way of ensuring you’re getting all of those nutrients your body needs.
Note: supplements do not and never should replace a balanced diet. They’re not your escape route. They’re there to top up your body to healthy levels.
I have an MTHFR gene mutation. This means (in simple terms) my body sucks at detoxing. It is seriously complicated but ultimately I need a form of converted folic acid, not the folic acid that plenty of food is fortified with.
To make things a little easier on my body, this means I take one methylated B12 supplement a day. They’re cheap, accessible and I notice a difference in my stress responses, skin and overall wellness when I take them consistently. I also use The Beauty Chef Cleanse powder in my smoothie daily to assist my liver with detoxing (we all need a little help from our friends, right?)
But that’s not enough.
I also need to go real heavy on leafy greens. I need to seriously monitor how much sugar I eat because my body can’t quite work through it as well as it could. I have to drink a heap of water each day to keep things flushing through my body. I also try to avoid foods that are artificially fortified with folic acid that my body can’t process.
See? Supplements are great for my body and make a difference, but they’re not the only key to the kingdom.
I do find, though, that supplements really make a difference when you’re tired and stressed. In fact, they can even help us from getting tired and stressed!
So how do you know which supplements are best for you?
- Start by finding (or using) a trusted healthcare practitioner and get them to do a complete blood work to gauge where your body is at in terms of things like Iron, Vitamin D, . I’m sure there are plenty of great doctors out there, but I prefer a more holistic healthcare practitioner such as my naturopath, as I find they tend to look for more subtle variations in your blood results.
- Based off your results, your practitioner can recommend the best supplements for you moving forward. Some, you may need long-term, while others may just be necessary for a quick boost.
It can take a bit of trial and error to work out which supplements make your body sing, but the help of a blood test and professional analysis will point you in the right direction.
Probiotics Are The Best
Probiotics have changed my health regime.
The right probiotics have changed my health regime. The first game-changer was a humble bottle of immunity-targeting probiotics prescribed by my naturopath. In short- they reduced the severity of my asthma and hugely reduced the severity of my allergic reactions to dairy and eggs.
I’m putting together a whole post on probiotics and how they affect our health, because I love them so much.
In the mean time, look at incorporating probiotics into your daily routine for a healthy body.
I strongly, strongly, strongly (is that enough ‘strongly’s?) recommend The Beauty Chef probiotic powders. I take two or three serves of these every day- you can easily work them into your morning smoothie, and I take my last serve at night to help me sleep. These have been such a game-changer for my health… I’m a little obsessed!
Eat Your Water
Ahhhh, drinking water. That thing we all know we should do more of, but somehow never quite manage to achieve. And yes, I know drinking water isn’t way of ‘eating healthily’ as mentioned in the title of this post. But it’s vital for a healthy body and actually, we can eat water! Plenty of fruits and vegetables contain high levels of H2O, so incorporating these into your diet can also boost your hydration.
You’ll find generous amounts (80%-90%) of water in:
Obviously you also need to drink plenty of water to keep healthy. If you struggle to drink enough plain water a day, consider prioritising the habit:
- sip on green or botanical tea throughout the day (yum!)
- flavour-up your water with some cut fresh fruit in your glass
- reduce the variety of other beverages in your home- they’re guaranteed to not be as healthy
Water is so important to flush toxins out, keep your joints, brain and muscles hydrated and even satiate hunger!
I hope you’ve enjoyed my top tips on how to eat healthy when you’re exhausted. Like plenty of things, eating a good diet takes time to develop and has to become routine to really stick. If you start with a number of these practices and build in more as you go, you’ll find yourself breezily reaching for a prepared nutritious, delicious, healthy Mexican Buddha Bowl on a Friday night!