Eating for busy people - by Cadence Health and Nutrition Courses

Posted by Cadence Health on October 22, 2010

Eating for busy people - by Cadence Health and Nutrition Courses

Can food be convenient but healthy?

Well, some would say emphatically ‘no’, but let’s be real about this. It’s all very well to say, “eat organic, eat slowly, use whole foods and fresh produce”, but in reality many of us just simply don’t have the time, are too exhausted after a day with the kids or don’t have the inclination at nine o’clock at night after 12 hours’ work to slave over the stove. But does this mean we are left fearing for our nutrition and health?


Not at all. The vast array of quick cookbooks is testimony to the variety of healthy but quick meals; even one of Australia’s top chefs has produced a fabulous 10-minute meals recipe book. Moreover, many of the foods once touted as nutritionally inferior to fresh food options, such as tinned and frozen foods now, in some cases, offer better nutritional quality.


Why bother at all?

I won’t harp on about the importance of each nutrient, but suffice to say that your body will function better physically, mentally and emotionally if it’s well nourished. Avoiding nutrient deficiencies can help you to ward off nasty bugs, as well as give you more energy and mean you live a longer, healthier life. Here are just a couple of basic points to work from when shopping and cooking, in order to cover a few important nutritional bases:

§  Complex carbohydrates offer you sustained energy over simple sugars and, even more so, added sugars that are linked to obesity, tooth decay and some cancers.

§  Protein is important for your mood. It’s essential for making hormones, including some that the brain uses for your emotional state. Protein also makes you feel full.

§  Eating regularly means your brain is less likely to run low in glucose, preventing those foggy, brain-lag times.

§  And of course it’s important to eat the right balance of fats and watch out for excessive salt that is so detrimental to our heart and blood vessels.


Top tips for reducing time but not nutrition

So, with this in mind, here are a few tips for your next dash to the supermarket:

§  Keep frozen fruit and vegetables in stock; they can be nutritious and very convenient. Many brands are snap frozen and can have better nutrient retention than some ‘fresh’ fruit and vegetables, which may have been transported and processed in less than an ideal fashion.

§  Have a good pasta sauce (if you look hard you can find ones with no nasties or sugar and that are low in salt but packed with vegies and herbs), that will make a quick and easy base for many meals, such as pasta, gourmet pizza, stews, etc. Plus it seems that cooked tomatoes give up more of their antioxidant lycopenes.

§  Consider keeping some ground nuts and seeds in the fridge (you can buy them pre-prepared or grind them up yourself for an even better result). Sprinkle over your cereal or add to a smoothie for a ‘food supplement’.

§  If you believe your diet is inadequate, opt for fortified milks and cereals that may have extra calcium, iron, iodine, omega-3s and B vitamins.

§  Try to buy different coloured fruit and vegetables; the colour difference generally means you are getting a different mix of nutrients and lesser concentration of the unwanted stuff.

§  Experiment with exotic fruit and berries: organic dark chocolate-covered goji berries are a great example and available in many supermarkets.

§  Fish is generally much faster to cook than meat and, according to a number of studies, a healthier option all round.

 §  Canned fish (unless you are vegetarian or allergic) as a quick and healthy filling is a convenient option to fresh when time is short. Choice found that even tinned salmon has reasonable levels of omega-3s, and if you opt for brands with the bones you’ll also get extra calcium.

§  If you use muesli bars and protein shakes opt for ones with a good level of protein per 100g, just a few grams probably won’t be a big help. They will last in your tummy longer and tell your brain you are full. Another important thing to look for in any protein supplement is that all the essential amino acids are present (ask a good health food shop); if any are missing your body won’t be able to use as much of the protein.


What to look for in products

It is a very handy skill indeed to be able to understand nutrition and ingredients labels, so to help you along a little here are a few basic pointers:

§  Check the sugars figure and compare it to the total carbs figure (which includes both natural and added sugars). The greater the sugars figure is the more simple sugars you will be consuming.

§  Opt for products that have sugar well down the ingredients list or with none at all.

§  A rule of thumb for a reasonable product is if the potassium is greater than the sodium (in the 100g panel).

§  Opt for products with little or no added salt. A low-sodium product is considered one which has 120mg or less per 100g.

§  Check for additives in the ingredients panel and opt for brands with fewer or none at all.

§  Opt for brands that use wholemeal flour and wholegrains over white baker’s flour.

§  You can now buy loads of organic canned products; try these instead of other brands.


Meal ideas

§  Consider a smoothie made with frozen fruit, natural yoghurt and your choice of milk instead of going to bed hungry. This will help with fluid, nutrition, sleep and even with waking up feeling refreshed in the morning.

§  If you opt to use prepared low-calorie frozen meals, add a quick green salad and a little extra something, such as cheese, yoghurt, ground nuts and seeds, tinned fish, etc. Many of these frozen meals lack enough energy for the average person and can leave you hankering for a little something soon after. We tend to make our worst eating decisions when hungry, so the Tim Tams can seem to be begging to be eaten after a low-cal meal.

§  Have a real juice: freshly juiced vegetables and fruit can be a great way of adding nutrients to your diet; just remember that you don’t want too much fruit as it can be a lot of sugar all at once. Trying adding this to your diet, rather than swapping it for fresh fruit, as there is little fibre in juiced produce.

§  Try to include herbs, onions and garlic in your cooking wherever possible; they are great antioxidants.

§  Homemade pizzas can be a tasty and convenient way of covering many of the food groups and you can buy pizza ovens cheaply, so your pizza can be ready in just a few minutes.

§  Strongly coloured fruit, such as an array of berries (also available in the freezer section), tends to have good levels of antioxidants and is often nutrient-rich.

§  Cook in large batches: when you do it, do it big so you can freeze in bulk and defrost when you need to.

§  Miso soup is a quick, healthy and easy option for dinner. The Asian section of most supermarkets offers ready-made soup that you just add water to.

§  Invest in one of the many quick meals recipe books.

§  Always wash your fruit and vegetables to reduce exposure to pesticides.


Other tips

§  This may sound silly, but trust me it works: contact your local Tupperware representative and invest in some fruit and vegetable fridge containers. You can almost double the life of your produce, which is very handy if you are an occasional shopper.

§  If you really feel your diet and you are in a bad way, consider a visit to a nutritionist, dietitian or naturopath to get motivated to make changes.


Keep the bevies under control

It would be remiss of me to not mention alcohol. There is little doubt that limiting alcohol or abstaining can reduce your risk of diseases including diabetes and cancer. Now, it may also be worth saying here that alcohol and sugar don’t turn to fat in the body, but they do help you to get fat by encouraging your body to store fat and prevent it from using fat for energy.


So how is this for an incentive to reduce your intake? Most of us watch our waistlines and/or butts, some with despair at their increasing circumferences. If this is you, alcohol and sugar are not your friends, both cause you to release a ‘fat storage’ hormone, so that the more you drink the more likely you are to store body fat. If you are already somewhat on the inactive side then this can add insult to injury.


But you don’t have to go without…

Now I am not suggesting you become a teetotaller. Instead, here are some tips for incorporating alcohol:

§  Before you start drinking have a full tummy from a good meal

§  Go 1 for 1 (water and alcohol, start with the water first if you can)

§  Go for singles instead of doubles and add in a mixer instead

§  Opt for low-calorie beverages where possible

§  Use lots of ice wherever you can


It doesn’t have to be more work to eat a quick but healthy meal, but it certainly will mean your body will function better physically, mentally and emotionally.


The information presented is not intended to replace medical advice, always seek qualified advice if you have a health concern.


This fact sheet may be reproduced in whole or in part for education and non-profit purposes with acknowledgment of the source.  It may not be reproduced for commercial use or sale.


Copyright 2010 - Cadence Health and Nutrition


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