• Ellen Spinner

When life gets busy...

Eating well and looking after your health is so much easier when you’ve got plenty of time. Unfortunately, this isn’t the situation for lots of us as we juggle various combinations of work, study and caring. I spotted a doom-laden meme recently that warned ‘If we don’t take time for our wellness, we’ll be forced to make time for our illness’, and whilst the threatening tone turns me off, there is some truth there. With that in mind, here are a few ideas when you’re up against it.

1. Prioritise eating proper meals. Gordon Gekko in the movie Wall Street famously said ‘lunch is for wimps’ but I bet he was rummaging around for biscuits in the office kitchen by about 3.30pm. Eating regular meals that include protein and healthy fats to keep you fuller for longer will not only give you the energy that you need to get through the day, but will also help to stop cravings for unhealthy snacks.

2. Use technology. If you’re someone who gets caught up in things, use your phone/fitbit to set alarms to remind you to e.g. drink a big glass of water, stop for lunch. You don’t want these to be pinging all day long and adding to your stress levels, but a couple here and there can help to set healthy habits.

3. A healthy snack box. If you’re out of the house a lot and know that you need to snack, make up your own box with e.g nuts, oatcakes, apples, roasted chickpeas (recipe below), avocado, sugar snap peas, olives - depending on what sort of storage options you have. Then just keep in the car/office drawer/work fridge as required.

4. Convenience is king. If you don't have time for chopping onions/veg and can’t take the mess; before you reach for a ready-meal or takeaway menu, try buying ready-prepped onions/garlic/ginger/vegetables. Home-cooking using pre-prepared veg is a much more nutrient dense option than anything prepared in a factory. I used to think that buying these was admitting defeat, but my judgey-pants are a lot looser these days! I also love the courgette noodles and cauliflower rice that are all done for you - we don’t use them all the time, but they're great just to grab as required.

5. Avoid coffee after 2pm. Much as you might fancy the boost of a mid-afternoon cup of joe, drinking coffee later in the day is linked to sleep disruption later that night - even if you feel that the effects are long gone. When you’re busy, your sleep needs to be protected as far as possible. My current hot drink of choice is fresh ginger tea and I make up a big flask in the morning - just thin slices of fresh ginger steeped in boiling water. The fact that it's ready-to-pour gives me great satisfaction if I’m having a busy day. Try it if you have a flask kicking about in the cupboard and if not, just make it in a cup.

6. Before you eat - breathe! For our digestion to work optimally, we need to be in ‘rest and digest’ mode. If you find that you’re tense when you sit down to eat, before you start, take 3 deep breaths to activate the parasympathetic side of the nervous system.

RECIPE: Roasted chickpeas

If you're looking for a snack that’s a healthy alternative to what you currently reach for, here is a high-fibre, minimally processed option. As well as being delicious on their own, these make a great topping for salads, soups, or anything else where you are looking for a bit of a crunch.

  • 1 tin of chickpeas, drained, rinsed and patted dry.

  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil.

  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika.

  • ¼ teaspoon cumin.

  • ½ teaspoon good salt.

  • Several grinds of black pepper

  1. Preheat your oven to 200C (or around 180C if fan assisted)

  2. Pat the chickpeas dry

  3. Mix all ingredients in a bowl

  4. Spread the chickpeas on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper, trying to spread them out so they aren’t all touching

  5. Roast for 30 - 40 minutes, checking them from 30 minutes to ensure that they don’t burn.

  6. Switch the oven off, but leave the tray in the warm oven so that the chickpeas really dry out, in order to maintain their crunch.

  7. Once cool, store in an airtight container.

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