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  • Jackie K

Always "on the run"? Eat healthy even when time is short

Hey runner! Do you find it hard to eat healthy or fuel your body right because you're busy and always "on the run"? Even though many of us are home more than usual these days, the days can fill up fast. There are runs to complete, work or school to attend, kids to take care of, and virtual happy hours to enjoy.


You might think you're always busy and don't have time for anything but delivery or a bowl of cereal. But with a few tricks up your sleeve, you can have healthy, satisfying, nourishing meals that not only make you feel good about what you are eating, but also make you a better runner in the long run (because you're eating the right stuff!).


Here are 6 tricks that will save you time and fuel you to be the best runner you can be.


🥘 Plan your meals in advance

Look ahead at your upcoming week. When are you busiest and when do you have a little more time? Knowing this can help you plan your meals out so that you know exactly what you'll be eating and when you'll be eating it. I wrote out details about how to do this easily here.


It also helps you figure out when you need to do what. If you want to have chicken on Thursday and all your chicken is in the freezer, then you can take it out to thaw in the fridge on Wednesday night. Or maybe you need to chop some veggies tonight so that you can whip up an easy stir fry tomorrow.


🥘 Eat leftovers


I love leftovers. I once heard them called "planned-overs" because in my household, that is basically what they are. I regularly plan them into my week, especially if I know I'll be short on time to prepare something. Most of my lunches are actually just leftovers from the previous night's dinners.


Leftovers are FAST. Just heat and eat! Or just eat cold. No waiting around for your meal to cook for 30 minutes in an oven... your meal is already done.


Leftovers often taste better the next day because the flavors intensify. They save you not only time, but they also save you money and prevent food waste. So, runner... why wouldn't you eat leftovers??


🥘 Rely on processed convenience foods


Wait, what??


Hear me out on this one. Most convenience foods are loaded with added salt, sugar, and/or fat... and they're not likely to help your running performance. But this is not true of all convenience foods!


Chopped frozen fruits and veggies? Convenient and processed. Canned tuna? Convenient and processed. Instant oatmeal, low-sodium broth, canned beans, corn tortillas, frozen whole grains, pre-washed salad, and plain Greek yogurt? All convenient, all technically processed. All can have a place in your diet and help you be a well-nourished, happy, healthy runner.


🥘 Cooking gadgets are your friend


I love my slow cooker - it makes a ton of food (hello, leftovers!) and is pretty hands off. I can throw together a recipe and my food is hot and ready to eat at dinnertime. There are lots of recipes out there that call for using many of the items I listed above, so there's often minimal work involved in these recipes. Alternatively, you can meal prep and then freeze meals, then just put them in the slow cooker when you're ready to eat them.


I don't have an Instant Pot, but I know plenty of people that have one and love it. This handy appliance means your dinner will be cooked and ready in no time, and there's no shortage of recipes on the Internet in all kinds of cuisines. You can also use air fryers, Dutch ovens, food processors, and even blenders to make cooking and chopping less of a chore.


🥘 Have a few go-to meals that take only minutes to prepare


There are days when you forgot to turn on the slow cooker, you don't have leftovers in the fridge, and you need to eat, like, NOW. Knowing what foods you can prepare in very little time with little effort will make you feel confident that you can eat well and avoid the drive-thru or delivery.


Ideas? Scrambled eggs take, like, 3 minutes to cook. A can of tuna + a little jarred pesto + cheese + whole grain bread = tuna melt. Smashed avocado + smashed canned chickpeas + salt/pepper + whole grain crackers = a plant-based version of your typical "chicken salad". Oatmeal is basically instant; peanut butter and jelly sandwiches come together quickly. You can make stir fry in minutes using frozen brown rice, frozen chopped veggies, pre-cooked chicken strips (or pre-marinated tofu), and teriyaki sauce.


For this to work consistently, make sure you have some back-up items of these foods in your pantry or freezer. I like to buy extra eggs and always have a few cans of beans in my cupboard.


🥘 Meal prep in advance


If you've got time to do this, then it can be soooo helpful to meal prep. If you're not familiar with meal prepping, It is basically a way to prepare a few individual ingredients or full meals so that you don't have to do it later on. It could be as simple as making a large batch of brown rice, or chopping carrots for your lunches, or preparing a sauce that you could use as salad dressing or marinade. Or you can make it more complicated - you could prepare one (or more!!) full recipes and individually portion them out so that you can grab and go when you need them.


It does take some time to do this on preparation day, but then you're done for several days and don't need to worry about what you'll eat or when you'll make it... so it saves you time in the long run. If this seems overwhelming, try just one recipe to start and see how it goes. No need to spend your ENTIRE weekend day meal prepping.


If you don't know where to start, the Internet has answers. There are lots of recipes and ideas out there on what to make and how to meal prep. I like budgetbytes.com as there are so many ideas on there, but there is a plethora of inspiration to be found.


What tricks do you use to make sure that you eat healthy despite a busy schedule? If this is something you're struggling with, I can help! I work with runners to fuel their bodies better so that they can run faster, run better, run easier... even runners that are crunched for time. Schedule a free runner's nutrition strategy call if you want in on how to make that happen for you!

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