One of the biggest challenges I hear people face is genuinely being motivated to eat a healthier diet, but struggling because they’re so busy with work, family, school, or other commitments.
Even if someone does have the time, unless they absolutely love cooking, chances are they’d rather be spending that time elsewhere. This is a big reason so many people end up giving up on a healthy lifestyle and settle for fast food meals, microwave dinners, and all forms of processed foods.
Luckily, when you know the right strategies, eating whole food meals can actually be faster, cheaper, and even better tasting than the processed “fast food” options. In college, I developed some super secret “ninja” strategies for eating healthy on a busy schedule.
You’re about to discover some of my favorite techniques for eating well when you have little to no spare time, but the key thing is not to get too caught up in the specific recipes. Rather, take the concepts and apply them in your own way with the foods and recipes you personally enjoy. I encourage you to mix it up, try new things, and then leave a comment at the bottom with some of your favorite quick and healthy recipes.
The “Secret Weapon” For Fast Meals
The most effective way I’ve found for eating healthy on a busy schedule is to use a slow-cooker, also known as a crock-pot. This handy kitchen device is largely responsible for getting me all through college without needing to rely on fast food.
I know the idea of using a slow cooker, which takes 4-8 hours to cook a meal, seems like the exact opposite thing you’d want to use when in a hurry. But bear with me and you’ll see why this is exactly what you need.
A slow cooker is great for busy people because it allows you to:
- Cook in bulk so you can prepare several days worth of food at a time.
- Set it and forget it so you can cook while you’re asleep, at work, or just going on about your day.
- Make just about any kind of great tasting healthy recipe.
Watch and learn how to prepare meals fast (in only 5 minutes) in a slow-cooker.
Fast and Healthy Slow Cooker Curry
- 1-2 pounds of chicken breast
- 2 cups bagged mixed vegetables
- 2 cups of kale
- 1 can of unsweetened canned coconut milk (available in ethnic food section)
- 2 tablespoons curry powder
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 onion
Add chicken and vegetables to slow cooker. Chop onion and then blend onion with coconut milk and spices in a blender. Top chicken and vegetables with sauce. Cook on high for 3-4 hours or low for 6-8 hours.
Here’s another tasty crock-pot recipe:
Quick Crockpot Beef Stew
- 2lbs of stew beef
- 1 peeled onion
- 1 1/2 cups beef broth or water
- 1 cup baby carrots
- 5 small red potatoes halved
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tablespoons Italian seasoning or Onion soup mix
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
Combine ingredients and cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours.
The real take home point here is that you can come home, toss a few things in a crock-pot, go to sleep, and then not have to worry about cooking anything more for the next couple of days because you have so much food leftover. Obviously if you’re cooking for a family (or have roomates that eat your food) it may not last as long. But even with only 5 minutes invested for a days worth of food, that beats out a drive-thru in terms of speed.
It goes without saying, but the one draw-back of using a slow-cooker is that you have to be prepared. It doesn’t work as well for situations where you’re in a pinch and need something now, so keep reading to find out my strategies for that.
Healthier Quick Meal Ideas
Let’s say you don’t have any food prepared and you need to eat something ASAP. Here are a few healthy meals that can be made in 3-5 minutes.
- Cottage cheese or kefir with berries
- Canned black beans and salsa
- Protein powder plus almond flour – For on the go. Add these to a shaker cup and add water when ready to eat.
- Eggs with curry powder, salsa, and coconut oil
- Pre-cooked Rice and Tuna – Top with whatever dressing you want. No cook time makes this super fast.
Don’t need a full meal or watching your calorie intake? Try these quick fix healthy snacks.
- Fruit and dried fruit
- Nuts and seeds like almonds, pistachios, or walnuts
- Celery or an apple with almond butter
- Hard boiled eggs
- Black olives
- Rice cakes
- Homemade protein bars – Must be prepared ahead of time
More Quick and Healthy Recipes:
Youtube Recipe Channels:
Slow Cooker Recipes:
- Quick Crockpot Chili
Weight Loss Recipes:
What are your favorite recipes and strategies for eating healthy on a busy schedule? Share a comment below.