Eating well with a busy lifestyle

20 Apr 2023 12:51PM by Dr Becky Townsend - Head of Nutrition

You’ll probably have heard by now: it’s not just exercise that impacts your fitness. It’s your food choices as well. In fact, nutrition is arguably more important than exercise when it comes to keeping on top of – and even improving – your health and fitness. While you may build muscle and use energy in the gym, your body won’t be able to correctly heal or fuel itself without proper nutrition. 

But eating well when you’re short of time can be a little tricky. We get it. So, we spoke to Dr Becky Townsend to find out how you can make smart choices when you’re at home, work or on the road. 


What does 'eating well' mean?

With so much information out there, it can be overwhelming to decide what’s best for you. When it comes to nutrition, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. It’s individual and you’ll find out over time (if you haven’t already) how your body likes to be fuelled. 

That said, there are a few guidelines that are key to a nutritious and balanced meal. You’ll need a good mix of quality carbohydrates, proteins, fats and vitamins on your plate. 

And, to do that, you’ll need to be prepared…

Prepping to eat well

‘Meal prep’ is not as scary as it sounds though it does require a little bit of time set aside to plan.  

When you hear the word ‘meal prep’, you might think of Tupperware filled with the same meals that last you all week. But Dr Becky says that prepping your meals doesn’t have to be boring.

“Batch cooking involves making large meals and portioning them into storage containers to be stored in the fridge or in the freezer to be defrosted and eaten at a later date.”

You could choose to cook the same meal to last you for the week or cook a couple of different meals and freeze them in batches.

This means that you’ll have a supply of varied meals to choose from every day. It won’t take you long to fill your freezer either. (Need some help planning your weekly meals? Download our meal planner and shopping list planner to help you.)

“Alternatively,” Dr Becky says. “…just part of the meal could be prepared in advance and some parts cooked fresh. For example, the carbohydrate source and vegetables could be prepared in bulk at the start of the week and then the protein cooked fresh each day.”


Snacking well at home, work or on the go

Whether it’s little ones keeping you busy or simply a busy calendar of work, socialising, hobbies and workouts, Dr Becky has a few tips on how to snack well.

Hungry between meals but don’t know what to have? Dr Becky says: 

“Be aware of the common mid-afternoon slump and be sure to pre-empt or manage it with a good quality snack, such as something high in protein with a piece of fruit.” 

Here are some simple snacks that you can keep in your cupboards, on your desk or in your bag: 
• Plain nuts and seeds
• Nut butter sachets
• Biltong/jerky
• Protein bars
• Whole fruit
• Dried fruit
• Rice cakes, crackers and oat cakes
• Popped crisps/lentil crisps 
• Dried peas 
• Low sugar cereal bars
• Sweet and salty popcorn 

• High fibre cereals like Bran Flakes, Shredded Wheat or Weetabix 

And, if you’ve got space in a fridge or cool box, here are some fresh snacks you could try:

• Fresh fruit pots
• Protein yogurts/low-fat Greek yogurt 
• Kefir milk/yogurt
• Protein shakes
• Low-fat hummus with carrot sticks 
• Cottage cheese with crackers
• Boiled eggs and spinach
• Pre-cooked chicken, fish or seafood

Supermarkets: for when you don't have time to prep

Even with the best will in the world, it may not always be possible to prepare nutritious food in advance. Thankfully, there are lots of options at hand before you have time to think about heading to your local fast food restaurant. 

When you’re looking for a healthy lunch, remember that you don’t just have to limit yourself to the food-to-go section. You can just as easily put together a nutritious meal as you can pick a sandwich from the shelf. You just need to know what you’re looking for. 

Remember: high fibre carbohydrates, lean protein, unsaturated fat and vitamins/minerals.


Dr Becky says: 

“If an on-the-go lunch from a supermarket is the only or best available option, you should use the traffic light labelling system and check the ingredients and nutritional content before making lunch choices. A couple of examples of balanced meals that could be bought from a supermarket include;
• Chicken breast slices, a pre-made couscous salad and a fruit pot
• Fresh salmon sushi, a packet of king prawns and a banana
• A plant-based protein soup, wholemeal bread roll and an apple.”

So, there you have it. Being short on time doesn’t mean you have to make compromises for your health. To learn more about nutrition, why not consider joining the Certificate in Advanced Nutrition Essentials for Fitness and Leisure with the Virgin Active Academy? 
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