Simple Health and Lifestyle Tips for Busy Women
School run, team meetings, social events? Busy doesn’t even cut it; flat-out is probably more fitting. And to get you from A to B, cups of coffee, comfort foods and compromised sleep become the go-to. Indeed, when it comes to staying healthy on a chocker-block schedule, the biggest obstacle is time – or, rather, a distinct lack of it. So how can you properly fuel your body and mind while juggling a crammed calendar? Two words: health hacks. Many fitness fanatics will tell you such habits are as entrenched in their daily routine as brushing their teeth. These no-frills trips are stellar weapons in your arsenal, and mean earning a living, running a household and doing the things you love doesn’t have to cost you your health. Yup, it really can happen.
Meal prep for the week
Leading a jam-packed life doesn’t mean you have to forgo healthy eating habits; it just requires a little more planning, that’s all. Meal prepping at the weekend for effortless weekday meals is a game changer. Planning dishes in advances means you can make healthier choices during the week and will prevent the inevitable pizza pick-up in the frantic dash after work or school. Simply frigate meals in ready-to-go Tupperware containers, et voila – no-nonsense, nutrient-dense dinners for days.
Pack in the protein
It’s easy to reach for calorie-laden grenades when hunger strikes: chocolate bars, cookies, or crisps, you name it; they’re all equally appealing in their shiny, colourful packaging. But these comfort foods won’t keep you full for long. The secret to satiety? High-protein meals. Eating protein with every meal will fill you up and keep you satisfied throughout the day. Think eggs for breakfast, chickpea salad for lunch, and salmon for dinner.
When in doubt, add veggies. This is the secret to making a mundane meal healthy. Fancy mac n cheese? Throw a handful of spinach, mushrooms and fresh tomato in the mix. The same goes for pasta, ramen, and even pizza. Not only will it make your dishes even more delicious, but it will also crank up their health properties. Plus, you’ll end up eating fewer carbs thanks to filling up on the fibre from the veggies. More satisfaction. Less food coma. Result.
Prepare pre-packaged smoothie bags
Prepping smoothie bags is another handy health hack to help you achieve your five-a-day. Just put frozen berries, spinach and anything else you fancy in zip lock bags and store them in the freezer. In the morning rush, blend your frozen fruit with a plant-based milk or coconut water for an extra electrolyte hit, a scoop of protein powder if you fancy, and blend. It’s fast, crammed with nutrients, and you can drink it in your car or at your desk.
Breakfast like a king
If a smoothie doesn’t hit the spot, you need to find an alternative. A hearty breakfast is nourishing fuel for the day’s activities – sadly, a fast-food muffin just won’t cut it. Flaxseed and chia cereals, avocado toast with nut butter, or porridge with berries are nourishing options for busy superwomen. For the ultimate on-the-go brekkie, overnight oats are a winner, hands down. The beauty of this dish is that it practically makes itself as you sleep. Combine ½ cup of rolled oats, ½ cup unsweetened almond milk, a pinch of sea salt and 2 tsp. of maple syrup. The rest is up to you: add berries, apple, chia seeds, nuts or cinnamon to jazz it up. Simply store in your fridge overnight, ready for your morning commute.
Eat healthy snacks
Don’t allow yourself to get too hungry during the day. Your brain goes into panic mode when you get ravenous, meaning you lose the ability to make informed, healthy decisions. The solution? Always have a nutritious snack to hand; never leave the house without one. Bring your own pre-packed goodies to work, so the office biscuit tin doesn’t lure you. Trail-mix, roasted chickpeas and unsweetened dried fruit are scrumptious snack attacks.
Re-engineer your commute
Working out is usually the first thing to be put on the backburner when you’re leading a super-busy schedule. But we want to dispel the myth that you need to slave away for hours in the gym to stay fit and healthy. It’s just not true. There are many inventive ways to squeeze physical activity into your daily routine. Re-engineering your commute to work is a big one: cycle to the office, get off the bus a couple of stops earlier, or very simply, walk. Heck, you could even jog the entire distance! The same goes for the school run. Who says you need to drive? Just put one foot in front of the other and get walking. Added bonus: this will instil healthy habits into your kids, too.
Newsflash: sitting is the new smoking and it’s time to quit. Sneak some exercise into your day by taking a gym class in your lunch break, encouraging walkie-talkie meetings, or climbing the stairs and using a Fitbit to record your progress? Even if you can only spare 15 minutes, it’s better than nothing at all. All of those extra steps will add up.
Work out harder, not longer
Forget hour-long stints at the gym; you only need fifteen-to-twenty minutes of exercise to reap the fruits of working out. In fact, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is thought to be more effective for heart health, sculpting muscles, zapping fat and boosting energy levels. Before picking the kids up from school or starting your working day, jump on the running machine, do some sprints and feel the burn.
Okay, you’ve probably heard this piece of advice a thousand times before, but we’ll say it once again for good measure: drink more fluids. Dehydration can lead to fatigue, brain fog, and headaches, which can eat into your precious time. Thankfully, the solution is oh-so-simple: drink up! Add sliced cucumber and lemon to your H20 to tantalises your taste buds and trick you into guzzling more. Always keep a bottle of water on your desk, too – a visual reminder to hydrate, hydrate and hydrate some more!
With deadlines looming, we often scoff food in front of computer screens or over coffee-stained print outs – inhaling every last morsel, forgetting to breathe, and totally and utterly failing to be mindful. Hey, we’re human – we’re all guilty of it at times. But no matter how taxed you feel, it doesn’t cost you anything to slow down. Breathe between bites. Properly chew your food. Enjoy the flavour burst in your mouth. Chances are, you’ll end up chowing less food and feeling infinitely better for it.
On the topic of mindfulness, it’s totally worth squeezing a five-minute meditation into your day. Sure, you may not think you have time for it on top of all that work, domestic and social admin you’ve got on your plate, but in the long run, it will actually add time to your day. Regular meditation will keep those ‘I-want-tear-my-hair-out’ moments to a minimum, which only undermine productivity. Plus, it’s only five minutes – you can do it as soon as you wake up, in your lunch break or just before you go to bed. Using an app like Headspace is a brilliant way to kick-start your efforts.
Thanks to the all-seeing, all-commenting, all-tweeting eagle eye of the Internet and social media, it can be difficult to switch off (literally) from technology. And this is made even harder by the incessant pop-ups and notifications on our screens, known to trigger that dopamine hit we all delight at. At work, leave your phone on your desk and turn-off notifications; and at home, disconnect from your gadgets entirely. Don’t worry; Facebook will still be there when you wake up.
Rising cortisol levels can have a negative impact on countless areas of life. Problem is, when we get stressed, we often turn to unhealthy vices to dull the pain: food, alcohol, or cigarettes. Instead, arm yourself with super-speedy stress busters, like deep breathing, green tea, smelling lavender essential oil, or taking a brisk stroll around the block. Another easy win: a good old-fashioned to-do list. If you’ve got bills, cleaning, deadlines and laundry on your mind, write them down. This way, those last-minute chores won’t add fuel to the fire and send your stress levels skyrocketing.
Get enough shuteye
This much-quoted nugget is a staple of any health guru’s mantra: don’t skimp on slumber. Getting enough sleep is crucial for concentration, productivity, mood, immune function, and social interactions. The secret to clocking those all-important seven to eight hours is good sleep hygiene. Make a point of going to bed and waking up at the same time every day – yup, even at weekends. Use reading, meditation or soaking in a hot bath to relax your body and calm your mind. You could even diffuse lavender essential oil to create the perfect slumber-including sanctuary. Oh, and make sure you don’t have caffeine past 2 pm or use screens before bed (ahem, falling asleep to Netflix is the ultimate no-no) – these will only disrupt your quest for rest.
Sometimes it can feel like time isn’t on your side when you want to live in a healthy, nourished way. But by making simple changes, it is indeed possible to lead a busy and healthy life. You might not nail it off the bat, but you’ll be surprised at how shaking-up your daily routine can rejuvenate your body and mind. Bottom line: start small and work your way up. It’s totally worth it. And it’s totally doable, promise.
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Keri Filtness has worked in the Nutrition Industry for 19 years. She is regularly called upon for her professional comments on health and nutrition related news. Her opinions have been featured by BBC3, Prima, Vitality, The Mirror, Woman’s Own and Cycling Weekly, amongst others. She has also worked one to one with journalists, analysing their diets and health concerns and recommending changes and additions, where appropriate.