Time to cook

“There just aren’t enough hours in the day.”?

“After a busy day, I don’t have the energy to put a meal together—I just want to put my feet up.”?

“I don’t have time to sit down for meals, I just grab whatever’s easy.”

I hear this sort of thing everyday. And I totally get it—we’re— all busy people. But you really don’t have to sacrifice healthy cooking. In fact, with a little strategizing and planning, you can put together a quick, nutritious homemade meal on even your most time-strapped, exhausting days. And the preparation actually starts right in your grocery cart—shopping right is the key to eating right.

Step one, leave the house armed with a list. This will not only save you time once you get into the supermarket, but will also save you money at the check-out counter, and inches on your waistline. Going in prepared—and this includes not going shopping on an empty stomach—will help steer you away from the unhealthy, expensive traps grocery stores have set up in plain view (like those tempting towers of Halloween candy!).

If your time is short, hit the produce section first. This is the department that is going to have the biggest impact by far on your health. The first thing to remember is: buy color! The more varied and colorful your salads and fruit bowls are, the more nutrients you’re getting. Different colors represent different vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, so be adventurous. Why not try sweet potatoes instead of white? They’re packed with beta-carotene!

When it comes to the “Great Grain” aisle, go for whole: brown and wild rice instead of white rice, whole wheat instead of white bread, whole-grain pasta instead of the traditional white varieties. Sometimes the texture and taste can be off-putting at first, and if that’s the case try mixing the brown rice with your familiar white rice, whole-wheat pasta with your usual brand. Taking a “step-wise” approach can help make the transition to whole grains easier on your palate.

Watch the snacks! Most packages, processed snacks are full of empty calories and cheap, nutrient-devoid ingredients that don’t do your body any favors, like sugar, salt, unhealthy fats, and junky white flour. Instead, choose smart snacks that pump your body with good nutrition. One of your best bets is a handful of unsalted nuts, like pistachios, almonds, or walnuts. Nuts are rich in heart-healthy fats and fiber that helps lower cholesterol and blood pressure. Other healthy snacks include a sliced apple with peanut butter, baby carrots dipped in hummus, or a few whole grain crackers with a slice of cheese. Or, make your own homemade trail mix. Just combine a handful of whole grain cereal with a sprinkling of dried fruit and nuts.

Tragically, a lot of us don’t have the luxury to go shopping. Over 6 million seniors in this country are facing hunger and malnutrition. The Meals On Wheels Association of America is the largest organization of its kind, and its volunteers deliver over a million hot, nutritious meals every single day to people who would otherwise go without. Please, find out what you can do to help Meals On Wheels eradicate senior hunger by the year 2020 by visiting www.mowaa.org.