HEALTHY-EATING PLAN: Nine tips on how to increase energy, improve health and happiness by Lindy Ford, RD, LDN, LOL contributor

Quite often I hear, “I want to eat healthy, but I’m too busy.” There are many pieces to the proverbial health puzzle, but in my book nutrition is the biggest. Ignoring healthy eating is like driving a car on low fuel and saying, “I’m just too busy to stop for gas.”
I relate and empathize with this time-crunch issue. I run a business, as well as a household, complete with a plethora of kid activities. To keep it real, my busy life will always make eating healthy a challenge. If I received a surprise inheritance from a “rich old uncle,” the first thing I’d do is hire a full-time chef (who does dishes too).
I’m a nutritionist, so not only do I want to practice what I preach, I truly desire the benefits of greater energy, better sleep, focus, and great health, all of which good nutrition uniquely provides. I want that for clients and readers also. The following tips are not exhaustive, but helped to make eating healthier, easier and more time efficient.
1. Batch cook or plan a prep day.
When making sauces, chilis, soups, and casseroles, double or triple the amounts, or make enough for a small country. My husband and I usually do this together.
2. Plan meals and grocery shop once or twice a week.
Take time every week to plan meals and snacks. Make a shopping list and stick with it. This will save money, time and the tendency of unhealthy food magically jumping into the shopping cart.
3. Stop fearing the “breakfast police.”
Many of us think we need to cook traditional breakfast or it’s not breakfast. Forget that! Heat up leftovers from the night before or take nitrate-free turkey and avocado and/or baby spinach and make rollups. They take about three minutes and can be eaten in the car.
4. Go frozen.
Because I’m the mommy of a little girl, I’ve had to watch the movie “Frozen” at least 43 times, but I’m talking frozen vegetables (preferably organic). They are often more nutritious than fresh and can be a huge time-saver because they’re easy to stock up. The same is true for wild-caught seafood, chicken and grass-fed beef.
5. Go canned.
I’m not a huge fan of canned vegetables, like green beans, but I stock up on canned wild-caught salmon, and organic vegetable and chicken broth. (Check out my easy-peasy salmon cake recipe that can be made ahead of time; I’ve often eaten these for breakfast as well.) Other canned items like roasted red peppers, capers and artichokes make it simple to assemble last minute meals.
6. Choose pre-prepped.
Because I’m not a chopping fan, pre-prepped foods have become a life-saver. At almost any time, Trader Joe’s Healthy 8 Chopped Salad will be in my fridge. I even had it for breakfast this morning, mixed with a hard-boiled egg (and I didn’t get arrested!). I mix together a little dressing made with low-sugar mayo, balsamic vinaigrette and lemon juice; it’s becomes a family favorite. Chopping up eight different veggies would take me a millennium.
7. Snack well.
Let’s be honest. There are some days everything will go cray-cray. Sometimes we just work in survival mode. Having a stash of healthy snacks already prepared will become a healthy diet’s lifeline. Always strive to have healthy snacks on hand: nuts, seeds, hard-boiled eggs, cut-up veggies, and pieces of fruit, like apples and pears. A perfect snack is an apple and almond butter.
8. Keep it simple.
My husband is delusional about my cooking. He tells people I’m a good cook. Not true—the man is a non-foodie, eat-to-survive, kind-of guy. Except for special occasions, no one will ever accuse me of being Julia Child. A typical meal for us is an organic, baked whole chicken, frozen green beans sautéed in olive oil, sautéed fresh baby kale, and watermelon for dessert. Total prep time: 20 to 30 minutes. Also, take advantage of the crock pot and pressure cooker and let them do some of the work!
9. Get help.
There are many ways to do this. First, look within the family. One person shouldn’t be doing all the cooking unless he or she has the time and desire. Enlist the help of spouses and children. Teenage children can be easily and quickly trained to cook full meals. My son does this at least one night a week. It may not be perfect, but I’ll take anything to stay out of the kitchen.
Take advantage of companies who deliver healthy meals. They deliver boxes filled with the exact ingredients and recipes right to the doorstep. There are companies that will prepare cooked meals for pick up or delivery. A great one in Wilmington is Homemade Healthy Eats by Kim Connors. The hot food bar at Whole Foods is a go-to for me at least once a week; many other grocery stores have them, too. Just make good choices—stick with mostly veggies and protein.
Yes, healthy eating takes some planning. Yes, it takes some thought. Yes, it is worth it. Are you too busy to eat healthy? Is your car too busy driving for gas? Eating healthy will pay back with increased energy, clearer thought, increased productivity, and a higher quality of life. LOL

“Lindy was extremely helpful in improving my all-around health and also helped me lose the excess weight I carried. My blood-sugar levels dropped, and my energy improved dramatically. Lindy is thorough in her instructions and gave excellent suggestions for products. She can help anyone be successful.” —Mike, age 82

Lindy Ford, RD, LDN is a Registered Dietitian and licensed Nutritionist with Lindy Ford Nutrition & Wellness, LLC, Wilmington, NC. or 910.899.7954. Subscribe to her YouTube Channel for more gut health info: Lindy Ford Nutrition & Wellness. Like her Facebook Nutrition Page: Lindy Ford Nutrition & Wellness. Follow her on Twitter: @lindywellness.