How to Eat Healthy on a Busy Schedule

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We all know that we have to eat healthily. However, like most things that are good for us, it’s easier said than done.

While Tanzania as a whole has numerous amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables that are readily available at a reasonable price, most of us consume meals that have a large quantity of processed starch and meats; wali nyama (rice and meat), ugali maharage (ugali and beans), ndizi nyama (bananas and meat). Vegetables are rarely the main part of the meal, and only feature as a side dish.

This presents a challenge for people who may want to eat healthily but do not have the time to cook food at home.  Most people purchase food that is easily available and tastes good. And even if you want to buy healthier meals, healthy food options can be difficult to find and expensive to purchase at delis, restaurants and local food spots.

So does that mean that eating healthy is impossible?

Absolutely not, in fact, here are 7 tips that will put you on the path to healthy eating despite your busy Tanzanian lifestyle:

1.     Change your outlook towards healthy food

Contrary to popular belief, being healthy does not mean becoming a strict vegetarian/vegan. When you restrict yourself to a life full of bland foods that have the distinct taste of cardboard, you are only setting yourself up for failure. After all, you are only human so you will most likely fall off the wagon and resume eating fried and incredibly starchy meals.

The thing is, to be healthy you need to be consuming a balanced diet. Most people think that eating healthy involves resulting to a life of vegetables, fruits, and tasteless snacks. This is far from the truth, in fact, having a healthy lifestyle requires you to eat proteins like eggs, beans, chicken and red meat (optional) as well as healthy fats like avocado and nuts.

But most importantly, most of the food you consume is meant to be carbs! That’s right, the dreaded food that many dieticians tell you to stay away from. What you don’t understand is that there are good carbs like; brown rice, vegetables, whole grain pasta and sweet potatoes and then there are carbs that are not so good for you (if eaten frequently) like; white rice, pasta, fries and white bread. But one thing is certain, you need carbohydrates in your diet!

How you prepare your food, can also determine how healthy or unhealthy it is. So ask yourself:

  • Do you use too much oil when you cook?
  • Do you mostly fry your food?
  • How much salt or sauces do you add?

Another thing to consider is portion size. Or as we like to say it, “how much is too much?” This may all seem overwhelming but in all honestly, eating healthy is not as hard as they make it out to be.

2.     Meal prep

Ok. So you may be too busy to dedicate time each day to preparing meals for the next day. But surely there is a time each week where you chill at home and watch your favorite shows. Why not use the time to also prepare your meals for the week in bulk and pack them in small containers in the fridge.

Meal prepping, in general, takes an hour or two out of your day, and then you can enjoy not having to cook for the entire week!

  • The best day to do this is Sunday, before you start a new week of work/school.

  • The first step to meal prepping is making sure you make a list of all the food items you will require for the week and purchase them.

  • Then you can plan what meals you will have throughout the week for lunch and dinner. This may seem exhausting at first, but you will get the hang of it very quickly and save so much time in the future.

Once you commit to it, you will see that it’s a pretty easy habit to develop and stick to. And it is what most personal trainers and nutritionists do to stay healthy. When you have all your food and snacks prepared for the week, you will find yourself less likely to snack on junk food, order takeout or stop for some chips mayai (chips and fried eggs) on your way home.

3.     Always have snacks

Contrary to popular belief, eating healthy doesn’t mean that you should tolerate hunger. To prevent yourself from buying junk on the go when you get hungry, pack a bag of snacks like; fruits, nuts, and yoghurt. This will ensure that you’ll always have something to eat when you are hungry.

Keep it simple by snacking on cashew nuts, almonds and peanuts or fruits such as apples and bananas. For something more elaborate, you can make your own hummus, guacamole or nut mix. There are various online resources to help you with recipes. But, remember to keep it simple at first so that you don’t get overwhelmed.

4.     Choose healthy restaurants

What about when you go out? Are you supposed to only drink water at Mary Brown, Edo’s chips, and KFC?

Well, this is where eating healthy can get very challenging. Unlike the past where you could pick any restaurant and eating spot your heart desired, if you are serious about eating healthy then you have to pick restaurants that you know have healthy food options.

Luckily, ZoomTanzania has information and menus of restaurants with a wide range of healthy food options. Remember, healthy meals comprise of carbohydrates, proteins, vegetables, and fruits – so something like potatoes and steak (preferably grilled chicken) with a salad is a perfectly acceptable meal to have (just not every day).

5. Always eat breakfast

When it comes to healthy eating, how you start matters as much as how you finish and eating breakfast can make or break your healthy eating routine for the day. When you eat a healthy breakfast:

  • You become motivated to continue to eat healthy throughout the day.

  • You are satisfied and won’t be easily tempted to eat the quickest thing you can find, cause you won’t be hungry

  • Skipping meals can increase your body’s insulin response, which encourages your cells to store more fats

6.     Exercise with a friend

In addition to eating healthy, getting some exercise is critical to a healthy lifestyle. However, just like making healthy food choices, exercising is an activity that many of us would rather avoid.

So to make you more accountable, exercise with a friend. You are much less likely to press the snooze button when you know someone is waiting on you at the gym or the local park for your morning run or walk.

And when you make exercise social, you take the focus off that all-too-common question, “Are we done yet?”.  Talk about current events, share problems and solutions to life experiences and, before you know it, you’ve finished six miles!

7. Be realistic

In life, we’re told to dream big. Reach for the stars. Go for the gold. While many people would agree that having big aspirations is admirable, not to mention inspiring, you should take a more calculated approach when setting fitness goals. There will be days when you will order takeout or miss a workout.

So on these days when your willpower is weaker, and you cannot say no to the voice in your head, make smart unhealthy choices. Order a burger without fries and don’t put mayo. Have a thin slice of cake to curb your cravings. Have a slice of pizza rather than the whole thing!

Remember: The point is not to starve yourself, but to make the right choices about food whenever you are hungry.

This isn’t a diet, but a lifestyle

Eating healthy is a lifestyle habit, and it takes time and real effort to reinforce. But your body and mind will quickly thank you for it, and soon, you will wonder why you didn’t start to eat healthy sooner.  It’s evident by now that we really are what we eat, so make sure what you eat contributes to making you your best self.

Iman Lipumba
A digital storyteller, experienced in creating content that improves website visibility on search engines, enhances the user experience, and nurtures brand loyalty. With a background in the social sciences, an expert in researching complex ideas, and communicating them in engaging language to multiple audiences.