Mayo Clinic: Our busy family of five rarely has a chance to
sit down to meals together during the week. We often eat out
or order takeout. I feel like this leads to a lot of
unhealthy eating that includes way too many french fries.
Can you give me some ideas for fitting healthy meals into a
Making healthy meal choices while juggling a busy schedule
can be challenging. But it doesn’t have to mean fast food
and a steady diet of fries. By taking some time to plan and
making thoughtful choices when eating away from home, you
can eat healthy on the go.
not alone in your struggle to fit home meals into a
jam-packed calendar. About 60 percent of food dollars in the
U.S. are spent on food prepared or eaten away from home.
Relying on restaurants or takeout is often a quick solution
to meals amid the weekday evening rush. But that convenience
comes at a price. Large portions filled with an excess of
ingredients such as salt, fat and sugar, and prepared in
unhealthy ways, can sabotage healthy eating goals.
you prepare meals at home, you tend to eat more reasonable
portions, and the food is often more nutritious. You can
make it easier to create healthy home meals regularly by
take 15 minutes at the beginning of each week to look at
your schedule to determine when you’ll have time to cook
and eat at home, and when meals will need to be quick. Try
prepping and cooking ahead (batch cooking). Planning for
leftovers or having items already cooked that can be
incorporated into another meal can aid in ready or near
ready-to-eat meals. Kitchen appliances, such as
slow-cookers, pressure cookers or sous vide, are popular
ways to make time-efficient, homemade meals. When you know
how you’re going to handle meals each evening, you’ll be
less likely to fall back on takeout foods or restaurants
when pressed for time.
as you make your grocery list, include healthy foods your
family can eat on the run. For snacks, buy fruits and
vegetables that don’t need much preparation, such as
apples, grapes and baby carrots. Stock ingredients, such as
lean meats and canned fish, low-fat cheeses, tomatoes, bell
peppers, cucumbers and lettuce for easy, healthy salads and
some cases, takeout food can be part of healthy home meals,
too. When you’re in a time crunch, try pairing
ready-to-eat broiled or baked chicken from a deli with a
vegetable or fruit and a healthy starch at home. A meal like
that takes under 30 minutes to prepare and provides a better
balance of nutrients than most restaurant meals — less
salt and fat, and more vitamins, minerals and fiber.
you must eat away from home, choose wisely. Go to
restaurants that offer a range of menu items, rather than
those that focus on a few unhealthy options such as burgers
and fries or pizza. If you can, check the calories,
saturated fat and sodium count in menu items before you
items that are baked, broiled or grilled instead of fried.
Substitute fresh fruit or a salad for a side dish rather
than french fries. Ask for condiments, such as mayonnaise
and salad dressing, to be served on the side, so you can
decide how much to add.
mindful, too, of portion sizes. A restaurant meal may equal
two or three portions of a meal you would serve at home.
With that in mind, consider splitting a restaurant meal with
someone else. Or ask for a to-go box before you start
eating, and put half your meal into it right away. This has
two benefits. You eat a more reasonably sized portion, and
you have a meal ready for someone to eat during another busy
it takes some preparation and planning, you can have healthy
meals even as you and your family are dashing in and out the