No Excuse Ways to Create Healthy Meals When You're Too Busy

Trying to meal plan can be such a hassle. Tired of hearing, "What's for dinner?" How do you find time to plan when you are THIS busy?!? Check out 3 healthy meal plan options that work in real life. A must read!

Excuses.  We all have them.  Somewhere in our lives, we have a reason we don’t do something we should because, well, we just don’t want to.  Except that’s too hard to swallow sometimes.  It’s just easier to find a reason we shouldn’t or we can’t.  But isn’t it really that we just won’t? 

That’s the hard question I want to ask you today.  Which is it?  Can’t? Shouldn’t? or Just plain WON’T?  I think it’s often a mixture of things that come in and trip us up.  We often know what to do, but we just don’t want to.  Sometimes, though, we haven’t a clue.  

The list of reasons we aren’t our best selves can be long at times and short at others.  We can blame our genes, our jobs, our kids, you name it— even ourselves.  One of the biggest excuses we all have probably used at one time or another when it comes to taking control of our health is something we all are given the same amount of in any given day: TIME.

TIME.  

24 hours.  1440 minutes. 86, 400 seconds. 

We all have the same amount in a day. 

It hit me like a ton bricks when I realized I wasn’t going to the gym a few years ago because I didn’t have enough time.  I was working half the number of hours at the hospital, I had family in town I didn’t have before, and I wasn’t even pregnant— all things that weren’t true when I consistently worked out years ago.  Hmmmmmm, something didn’t add up.  

I was thinking about all this as I sat in the drive-thru line picking up my family’s dinner.  Yep, you heard that right.  DRIVE THRU.  What gives?  Things just weren’t adding up.  I was too busy to cook; I didn’t have time!  I was sick and tired of being sick and tired of not having time.  As the bricks piled on one by one the fog cleared.  I totally had time.  Once again, I just wasn’t using it to be healthy.  I had been here before.  

As a dog returns to his vomit so a fool repeats his folly.  Proverbs 26:11

So, you’re busy.  I’m busy.  WE ARE ALL BUSY.  Life is busy.  It’s as busy as we make it.  You’ve got to find a way to work around the busy.  I’m not talking about finding a way to hit the gym every day in the midst of your crazy travel schedule or your hectic workweek.  I’m simply saying, busyness is not a reason that you cannot be healthy.  It’s just not.  Guess what.  Healthy people are busy too!  So how do they do it? How can you do it?  

How Can You Be Healthy Even When You’re Busy?

1. Decide

For starters, you have to decide.  It’s that simple.  No one can do it for you.  That stinks.  I know.  There’s no magic bullet to health.  There’s no secret potion.   God created a glorious thing in you, beloved, and you deserve time to honor his creation and be healthy!  You don’t have to do a schedule overhaul. 

2. Plan 

Prior proper planning prevents poor performance.  Ever heard that before? It’s the truth.

 One new thing.  

That’s it.  Whether it’s meals, exercise, sleep or any habit you’d like to work on, PLAN.  It’s basic.  It’s simple.  It works.  But start small.  

One thing at a time so you don’t overwhelm yourself.  You have the rest of your life to work on your health and make changes and habits that stick.  The more success you see the more successes you’ll continue to have. 

So pick ONE thing and plan it into your day.  Plan a meal for lunch or dinner.  Plan a walk during your day.  Plan to take the stairs all week rather than the elevator.  Plan to drink a glass of water each morning before you have your coffee.  Just plan.  

Helpful Tip

One of my favorite tricks: my calendar.  

I like the gym.  It isn’t for everyone, but it’s for me.  So guess what, it’s on my calendar.  It’s an appointment scheduled three days a week.  It has become a priority for me.  Play with what works for you.  If you don’t use a calendar, this trick will be silly for you.  This is about you, not me.  Try different things and see what works FOR YOU. 

Spoiler Alert: you are not perfect. 

You will not be perfect and everything you try will not work.  It’s ok.  Give yourself grace.  Just make sure you try one thing at a time so you will know what is working.  Once something clicks, you’ll gain confidence and you’ll know when it’s time to add something else.  You can do this.  I believe in you!

Healthy Meals in Real Life  

Let’s say you’ve been working all day or driving kids around or volunteering or meeting with friends or whatever you need to do in your day and it’s 5:30 p.m. and you are finally driving home and you are WIPED.  But guess what.  Your family is hungry and they aren’t particularly concerned about how tired you are; they want dinner—NOW.  There’s an Applebee’s on your way home and they have a healthy menu and you don’t even have to get out of your car to pick it up.

Win. Win.  

A quick phone call and $30 or $40 (or more) later you have dinner for 4 and everyone is happy as you walk in the door at 6 o’clock.  Whew! But wait.  You just spent more money than you wanted and ate unhealthy restaurant food.

Enter the plan.  

Option 1 we planned way ahead, option 2 we planned to always have a plan for this situation, and option 3 is a staple for non-planning emergencies. Regardless, we have a plan.   

In our example, I am choosing two comparable meals, but choose anything you like.  The idea is that you plan to have (option 1) something cooked ahead of time ready for when you arrive home to either simply heat/serve or (option2) you have a go-to meal that you can grab to assemble. 

Option 1: Something cooked ahead

Crock Pot Chicken.  Did you know if you put one whole chicken in a crock pot with some vegetables like celery and carrots and on low before you leave in the morning when you get home in the afternoon you will have dinner ready when you get home? You can season it any way you like before or after you cook it.  You can eat it all for one meal or save it over two if you have a small family.  You can save the bones and add water and cook on low for the next 48 hours and make a delicious bone broth.  What I am saying is the possibilities are many.  Get creative; don’t be afraid to experiment.  And for around $15-$20 you can do this organic.  But keep in mind that you don’t have to.  If you cannot afford organic, eating chicken that you cook at home is still a superior choice than chicken someone cooked for you in a run-of-the-mill restaurant.  Always.  

Option 2: Quick Meal assembly

For those of you who are not “cooks” or who aren’t ready to experiment in the kitchen yet, this is an ideal place to start. It’s pretty simple.  You grab a rotisserie chicken and you get your vegetables.  THAT IS IT.  You can get a head of romaine lettuce and a tomato and drizzle with olive oil and vinegar if you like salad.  You want SUPER easy, grab a bag of pre-washed, pre-cut broccoli heads that can be steamed right in the bag.  A pint of blueberries or a bag of frozen ones (my favorite) and you have a complete meal with essentially zero prep.  Simply assemble.  This fix can not only be money saving, but be health saving as well.  

Additionally, there is a standard third option that I believe should exist in your home at ALL TIMES.  I highly recommend this, especially for busy families.

Option 3: No Excuse Meals

Create two meals that your entire family enjoys that are SIMPLE, INEXPENSIVE, QUICK and ingredients can be kept on hand. These are what my family calls our “no excuse” meals.  
We have a freezer and a pantry/fridge “no excuse” meal. You aren’t going to be able to have the freshest ingredients for these because you need to have them on hand at all times.  However, frozen veggies, fruits, and fish are fantastic.  Now why fish here?  Fish thaws quickly, especially shrimp.  This fast thawing qualifies for a “no excuse meal.”  If you have ever forgotten to thaw your chicken until it’s time to cook dinner then you know, this would be an excuse.  Canned chicken and salmon and tuna are much better for the no excuse meals.  
 
If you’re wondering, my family freezer no excuse meal is frozen mahi-mahi steaks (from Costco), frozen broccoli and frozen berries.  Our pantry meal is chicken salad or tuna salad and again frozen berries.  We keep our fridge stocked with condiments, pickles, and eggs so the ingredients are always at home since I used canned chicken or tuna if I am in a pinch.  No excuses, right? 

LIFESAVER.

So we’ve saved some time on a healthy dinner, but what about our other meals, groceries or working out?  The possibilities are endless. I just want to whet your appetite and encourage you.  
You can do this.  You have the time.  You just need to plan.  

Moving on to Working Out

Let’s talk about working out.  Let me tell you a little secret.  You don’t have to go the gym ever again.  Yep, that’s right.  But you do need to exercise, regularly.  
Exercise is great for your body, mind, and spirit.  It doesn’t necessarily make you thinner, but it prevents disease and does indeed make you healthier.

Tip: Movement equals exercise.

Stay active.  While I will encourage you to take the time to treat yourself to isolated activity each day, if you are struggling for time, then work it into your already busy day.  
For example, I work at a stand-up treadmill desk; I don’t sit down when I work.  Even if I am not walking I am standing.  This activity helps, and it’s worked into my day.  

Some people love long endurance training like running and biking.  If that’s you and your sanity depends on it, do what works for you.  But, if you go to the gym or run around the block hour after hour or day after day because you think you have to, STOP! There is no need to put your body through the beating it is taking.  Give it a rest and try something new.  

One of the most important things I can teach you is to work out smarter rather than longer.  Your time is precious and saving it is what we are trying to do.  High heart rate bursts are the key to increased metabolic burn long after your workout is over.  In fact, you don’t even have to keep your heart rate up for much more than about 4-8 TOTAL minutes during a workout.  

That’s right 4 minutes!  Now, that is not 4 minutes all at once.  You should be working hard enough that those four minutes cannot be done all at once.  What you will do is burst them out in 15, 30, 45 or 60-second increments for a total of 4 to 8 minutes with active rest in between.  

What the what?!?!? 

You may be asking yourself what it is I just said.  Ha! Don’t worry, you are not alone.  This idea of interval bursts at high intensity may be totally new to you.  It’s ok.  You will learn to workout smarter in shorter periods of time and get healthier in the process.   So what does this look like?

Here are some examples:

HIIT Workout

Walking/Running/Bike/Elliptical: 
-Warmup up to get your muscles warm
-30 sec: walk/run/bike/elliptical as fast as you can
-1 min: walk/run/bike/elliptical slower to catch your breath
-30 sec: walk/run/bike/elliptical as fast as you can
-1 min: walk/run/bike/elliptical slower to catch your breath
-Continue and repeat until you have burst as fast as you can a total of 4-8 minutes.  Your cool down between bursts can last as long as you need to feel ready to be able to get through your next burst. 

Body Weight Circuit:

-1 min jog in place
-30 sec: jumping jacks
-30 sec: pushups
-30 sec: high knees
-30 sec: squats
-1 min: jog in place

Repeat 2-4 times and rest as needed. 

I call these “sprints” because even when I’m not sprinting my heart is ALWAYS sprinting!  

Remember, these are examples and can be modified and played with.  Have fun.  Be creative. There is no magic.  Make it up as you go along.

JUST KEEP MOVING!  

You can do something different every day you try an interval workout. 

I know you are busy, friend.  I know you are tired.  I also know you have what it takes.  You are beautifully and wonderfully made.  

I want to encourage you to try something new this week.  

  • Find some time to plan.  
  • Try a new, smarter workout.  
  • Try a new plan for a meal.  

You might be surprised what works for you.  Remember, trial and success.  I believe in you! 

Trying to meal plan can be such a hassle. Tired of hearing, "What's for dinner?" How do you find time to plan when you are THIS busy?!? Check out 3 healthy meal plan options that work in real life. A must read!