You’re busy, you’re late, you’re tired, you’re stressed. Whatever your reason for eating badly, it often comes down to the fact that you are pressed for time. But food that’s good for you can be quick and convenient—and truly satisfying, says Ellie Krieger, TV host and author of Weeknight Wonders: Delicious, Healthy Dinners in 30 Minutes or Less. Check out your best bets for one-handed breakfasts (salty or sweet), desktop lunches (hot or cold) and afternoon-slump snacks.
Fast Food Decisions—Not Defaults
When you’re tense or tired and you hear a slice of pizza calling your name, you’re not imagining it entirely. “Comfort food has physical as well as psychological aspects to it,” Krieger says. “The more carbohydrate-dense your meal, the more sugar enters the bloodstream, triggering the release of serotonin, which has a calming effect.” It’s partly why salads and steamed vegetables aren’t most people’s defaults in the middle of a crazed day.
So to eat healthy, you need to override your body’s default—and that requires a bit of mindfulness. “It’s as simple as taking a beat and thinking about what you really want to eat,” Krieger says. And to make your decision even simpler, here are her meal suggestions for busy workdays.
You’re in the mood for something salty: “An egg wrap you can make the night before. Just take a whole wheat tortilla, one sliced hard-boiled egg, avocado, lettuce and tomato—add some hot pepper sauce for an extra layer of yum—and wrap it all together for a meal that has a good amount of protein, carbs and healthy fats.”
You’re in the mood for something sweet: “A smoothie in the blender. Use a really ripe banana—you won’t need any sweetener—that’s frozen, low- or no-fat milk and a scoop of peanut butter for protein. If you’re feeling wild, throw in some strawberries.”
You want something hot: “Buy soup that has beans, which are chock-full with fiber and nutrients and are very filling. So lentil, split pea, minestrone—they can be a complete meal by themselves, or you won’t need much more if the soup is just a starter.”
You want something cold: “Those tossed salad places where you choose the ingredients are great. Just be sure to pick a healthy protein like chicken, tuna, salmon or beans; skip the croutons and crunchy noodles; choose a flavorful cheese—you won’t need as much—like cheddar, blue cheese, parmesan; and go easy on the dressing, preferably olive-oil based. Or try avocado and vinegar instead of dressing.”
You have the munchies: “Almonds and dried fruit. Put 1/3 cup of them combined in a small baggie and bring it to work with you. It won’t seem like a lot but it’ll actually be very satisfying.”
You need an energy kick: “One or two squares of dark chocolate. Buy the best quality so you can really savor it. The percent on dark chocolate refers to the cocoa solids—100% is bitter and for baking—and 70% tends to have the right bitter sweet flavor. Dip in peanut butter for protein and healthy fat to satisfy you longer if it’ll be a while before dinner.”
Ellie Krieger is a registered dietitian and is best known as the host of the Food Network’s hit show, Healthy Appetite. She is author of New York Times bestsellers, The Food You Crave: Luscious Recipes for a Healthy Life and So Easy: Luscious Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Week.