It’s not always easy sticking with health goals. Throw in unexpected circumstances, like the COVID-19 pandemic, and what had seemed like a realistic achievement can quickly become a former, distant dream. You may have thought, “I’ll get back on track when things settle down” (or “when I have more time”). But if you scrap your plans now, it may be more challenging to begin again down the road.
Instead of losing time (and progress you’ve already made!), consider some simple and easy-to-implement fixes. These hacks will allow you to continue making healthy choices, despite recent disruptions in “normalcy.”
Health Hacks to Stay on Track
1. Always make a grocery list
Even if you have a great memory, it can be tricky to remember everything you need to buy when you’re at the store (or shopping online). Creating a grocery list will help you to avoid making unnecessary purchases or splurging on items that aren’t in line with your health goals. Throughout the week, decide what meals you’ll make and what snacks you’ll feel good about eating, and build the list around those plans. If you’ll be shopping in person, try organizing your list by aisle to make the trip easier.
2. Don’t grocery shop when you’re hungry
You may have heard this before, but shopping on an empty stomach isn’t a good idea. In fact, a study conducted by researchers out of Cornell University found that shopping while hungry results in the purchase of a greater amount of high-calorie foods. If you can, shop after a meal, when you’re full and less likely to have cravings that cause you to toss junk food items into the cart.
3. Cut up fruits & veggies when you get them
It doesn’t have to be right when you get home (or unpack that delivery box), but aim to wash, cut up and store fruits and veggies as soon as possible after you get them. You’re much more likely to grab a fresh, healthy snack when all the hard work is already done! This will also make cooking healthy meals easier. If you have kids, keep containers on the low shelves of your fridge so they’re encouraged to make good snack choices, too!
4. Keep better-for-you snacks on hand
Fruits and veggies are great snacks, but if you’re in the mood for more, it’s helpful to have healthier choices on hand. Nuts, seeds, popcorn, hummus, whole grain cereal, dairy-free yogurt and smoothies are all good options. If you’re craving chips, try a vegie version. Want crackers? Get your crunch on with rice crackers or multigrain crackers. Plant-based bars are another take-along snack that satisfies and provides protein. Try to avoid mainstream processed snacks that can be high in added sugar, saturated fat and chemical ingredients. If they’re not in your home, you won’t eat them!
5. Make a point of meal prep
The concept of meal prepping can feel intimidating – like it’s just too much work to really do. Here’s how to change that mindset: No need to meal prep every meal of the week! Start with just a few days’ worth of lunches or dinners. Carve out some time, say on a Sunday, and prepare a few big-batch recipes (for example, a rice-veggie-protein stir fry). Divide the dishes into containers that you can grab and reheat throughout the week. It really is that easy!
Need more motivation to meal prep? Research shows that meal prepping can help with weight control and eating a more nutritionally balanced diet in general.
6. Choose restaurant food carefully
Whether you’re dining in or picking up carryout, eating restaurant food is a treat. All it takes is a little planning to be able to enjoy it without straying too far from your health goals. Check menus online for nutrition details and make healthier choices whenever possible. Instead of fries, go for a side salad. Replace cheese and sour cream on your tacos or burritos with salsa or a spoonful of guacamole. Add extra veggies to pasta dishes. You might even divide the meal, saving half for lunch or dinner the next day.
7. Get creative with workouts
Having a hard time getting (or staying) motivated to exercise? You’re not alone. Whether you’re swamped with work and parenting responsibilities or you’re just not “in the mood,” you can make moving more part of your day. Aim to take a walk around the block, even if it’s just once a day. As it becomes more of a habit, build up to longer walks, or take more “walk breaks” throughout the day.
Small stretch sessions also help get you off the couch or away from your desk, without taking up too much time. For some people, exercising first thing in the morning is a good way to commit. You’ll be able to check “workout” off your to do list right away and not have to stress about getting to it later.
These simple hacks will help you make healthy choices on your journey toward your health goals – even when life feels unpredictable. Don’t forget the power of a good night’s sleep and taking steps to manage your stress. For extra support, consider one of these supplements: