Health looks different for everyone. For one person, “healthy” could mean looking a certain way or dropping a couple pounds, but for another person it could mean having good lab results and simply feeling better. Whatever the health goal may be, a person’s idea of “health” can be difficult to achieve while living a busy lifestyle.
It may also be difficult to achieve if that person has no idea where to begin with health. So, determine what that health goal is and continue reading on for nine dietitian approved tips for staying healthy with a busy lifestyle!
Tip #1: Plan Meals and Snacks
Whether that goal is to lose weight or achieve better lab results, the number one tip for staying healthy while living a busy lifestyle is to plan meals and snacks. There are many reasons why this is the number one tip:
- Able to plan meals that fit personal health goals
- Make trips to the grocery store easier
- Always have food options for when hunger hits
Where to Start with Meal Planning
To start the meal planning process, take a look at what is already in the refrigerator, fridge and pantry. Using what is already in the kitchen will decrease the cost of groceries when heading to the store (and decrease food waste).
After making a list of items already in the kitchen, start with planning dinners first. Humans are creatures of habit, so breakfast and lunches tend to be more on auto-pilot than dinners. Also, choosing dinner meals first can determine if leftovers will be available for lunches (or dinners later in the week).
When planning dinners, choose a variety of protein sources and then build a balanced meal from there (more information in tip number two on balanced meals). Once dinners have been chosen, choose a few breakfast, lunch and snack options that can be rotated through during the week.
Planning meals and snacks takes away a lot of decision making through the week which, therefore, can save a lot of time. However, feeling stuck to a “schedule” might turn a person away from the meals they’ve planned. Allow flexibility in the meal plan throughout the week.
Need assistance in planning weekly meals? Check out this freebie I offer: Weight Loss Planning Kit
Tip #2: Eat Balanced Meals and Snacks
The second tip for staying healthy while living a busy lifestyle is to have balanced meals and snacks. This tip builds off of tip number one. While planning weekly meals and snacks, it is important to make sure they are balanced (i.e., include balance of macronutrients and food variety).
Why Balance Matters
Each macronutrient (carbohydrates, protein and dietary fat) provides something different to our bodies that the other does not. This means that we should never be removing a macronutrient from our diet.
When planning meals, a good goal is to aim for half of the plate to be non-starchy vegetables, a quarter of the plate to be a lean protein source and the final quarter of the plate to be a starch or starchy vegetable. Also, adding a good source of healthy fat can help keep you full longer!
Everyone's Plate Will Not Look the Same
Depending on the health goal, the plate may look a little different. If a person’s health goal is to lose a couple pounds, there may be slightly more protein on the plate than someone who is not focusing on weight loss.
Also, if a person has certain health conditions, like kidney disease or diabetes, their plate probably will look different than someone who does not have those conditions. For more information on creating a balanced plate, check out this blog post “5 Simple Health Tips for Weight Loss” – tip number two goes into full detail on each section of the plate.
Tip #3: Put Activity (and Recovery) on the Calendar
Tip number three for staying healthy while living a busy lifestyle is to plan activity or workouts and put them on the calendar. Many individuals find this to be very helpful in ensuring they are engaging in activity or exercise daily (or at least most days each week).
Also, this tip can be helpful in decreasing the chance of muscle strain from participating in the same activity over and over. When planning activities at the beginning of the week, pay attention to how many activities are leg or lower body focused versus how many are upper body focused.
Another way to limit the chance of muscle strain is to incorporate recovery (or rest) days, stretching, warm ups and cool downs. Rest days and recovery times are just as important as the workouts. However, it is important to note that a person should still move on rest days.
Some individuals call this an “active rest day”. The activity should still get the body moving, however should be done at a lower physical demand (1). The activity could be a walk, a low-impact cycle or even a yoga session.
The body knows when it is time for a rest day. It can take some time for a person to be able to accurately determine if a rest day is needed (1). Generally, a person could use an active rest day at least every three to five days (1).
Too Busy to Stick to a Workout Schedule
When living a busy lifestyle, it is normal for day-to-day schedules to change. So, it may not be realistic to put activity into the calendar. If that is the case, it can still be helpful to choose the daily workout or activity.
Why might it be helpful? Take a look at this example. Let’s say you find 15 minutes in the day to complete a workout or activity. However, you have no idea what workout or activity to do. Instead of spending the 15 minutes moving your body, you spend the time looking for some kind of activity to do.
The 15 minutes goes by and you no longer have the time to move your body. With a little preparation at the beginning of the week, the opposite could occur where you’ve found the 15 minute timeframe and moved your body.
Side note: it is not necessary to be a member of a gym or fitness studio to move your body and experience the benefits of exercise!
Tip #4: Food Prep
Tip number four for staying healthy when living a busy lifestyle is to food prep. This process may look different for everyone, just like health goals. Some people enjoy prepping full meals while others may only want to prep the produce. Find what works for you.
Various ways to participate in food prep:
- Cook full meals to eat throughout the week
- Cut produce for snacks
- Prepare freezer meals to toss in a crock pot
- Cut vegetables that will be used while cooking that week
- Wash all produce to eliminate time when cooking
Tip #5: Time Batch Tasks
Time batching takes the fifth tip for staying healthy when living a busy lifestyle. This tip is key to saving time throughout the week. The idea is to pair similar tasks together and complete all of those tasks at one time.
For example, let’s say this is what someone’s task list looks like:
- Stop at the post office
- Clean the kitchen
- Pay the electric bill
- Pick up the dry cleaning
- Pay the mortgage
With this task list, pair together going to the post office and picking up the dry cleaning at one time. When doing it this way, it is only necessary to leave the house once versus leaving the house twice.
Another way this person could time batch is by paying both the electric bill and the mortgage at the same time. Or, putting the bills on auto-pay can remove the task completely from next month’s task list.
When living a busy lifestyle, a goal to accomplish is saving as much time as possible. With time batching, a busy individual can accomplish this goal and make more time for other things in life (like meal planning and moving the body).
Tip #6: Carry a Bottle of Water
The sixth tip for staying healthy with a busy lifestyle is to always carry a bottle of water with you. Water is everywhere in our body. In women, the body is made up of 50-55% water, whereas a male’s body contains 60% water. Furthermore, as lean body mass increases so does the amount of water in the body.
Due to the high water content of our bodies and the fact that we are consistently losing water daily, we need to drink water throughout the day. We lose water through our sweat, breath, urine and fecal matter.
How much water?
We understand that it is necessary to replenish water daily, but how much water? That answer will vary per person. There are many factors that determine a person’s water requirements:
- Activity level
- Body size
- Environment they live in
- Season/outdoor temperature
- Amount of sweating
- Diet consumed
- Current health status
- Pregnant or breastfeeding
With so many factors, how does a person determine how much water they should drink? There are two ways to monitor hydration: thirst and urine. If your urine is colorless or light yellow and you are normally not thirsty, you’re probably consuming adequate fluids.
A general rule for generally healthy people is to consume four to six cups of water each day (2). However, the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has determined an adequate fluid intake for males and females to be 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) and 11.5 cups (2.7 liters), respectively (3).
Water provides our bodies with many benefits. Benefits include decreased constipation and bloating, experiencing less headaches, increased hydration of the skin and weight loss.
There have been human studies noting that an increase in water consumption resulted in a decrease in body weight in adults and children of all weight classifications. Additionally, consuming about two cups of water 30-minutes before a meal resulted in decreased daily caloric intake and weight loss.
Water also helps to regulate blood pressure and body temperature, cushions our joints and may decrease the risk of developing kidney stones or urinary tract infections.
Tip #7: Learn How to Manage Stress
Tip seven for staying healthy with a busy lifestyle is to manage stress. We experience two different types of stress in our lives: acute and chronic stress. Acute stress is an immediate response to a particularly stressful event (physical, emotional or or psychological). The situation signals our body to face the threat and get us to a safe place (4).
During acute stress, our heart rate increases and we begin to breathe faster (4). Additionally, our muscles begin to tense up and our brain begins to use more oxygen and energy (4). When this type of stress forms from a non-life threatening situation, it can help people be more productive and feel more motivated.
Chronic stress is the type of stress that can be harmful in the long run. In chronic stress, the same response that occurs from acute stress happens, but it does not stop. These responses can impact many systems in the body and result in chronic diseases.
Systems that can be affected in the body include the immune, digestive, cardiovascular, reproductive and sleep systems (4). This lines up with common symptoms people experience with stress: digestive issues, headaches, inability to sleep, irritability, anger, etc. (4).
The continued strain on the various systems in the body may result in chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, depression or anxiety (4). In order to prevent these conditions, it is essential to learn how to cope with the stressors of life.
Stress Management Techniques
The American Heart Association recommends to practice positive self-talk, learn what can be done in the moment to decrease the stress response (such as taking a deep breath) and find activities to do that decrease stress (like reading a book) (5).
Other stress management techniques include:
- Deep breathing exercises
- Quality time with friends and family
Everyone will have their own method for managing stress. Try many techniques before finding what works best for your lifestyle.
Tip #8: Get Adequate Sleep
Tip number eight for staying healthy with a busy lifestyle is to get adequate sleep. Twenty-five percent of Americans report having inadequate sleep for at least half of the month (6). Poor sleep habits can begin to negatively affect behaviors related to family health, interpersonal relationships, productivity and even accidents with medicine, motor vehicles and in industry work (6).
Why Sleep is Important
Sleep is vital for good health, especially as a young child. When asleep as a child, the brain plays a major role in growth and development (7). Additional benefits of sleep are to maintain brain health and maintain overall physical health (7).
According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, sleep deficiency can affect healthy brain function, emotinal-well being, physical health, productivity and reaction time (7).
As for physical health, the process of healing and repairing our blood vessels occurs when we sleep. Because of this, sleep deficiency is linked to increased risk for heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and stroke (7).
Tips to Improve Sleep Hygiene
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, here are some tips on how to improve your sleep hygiene (8):
- Go to sleep the same time each day, including weekends
- Make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark and relaxing
- Make your room a comfortable temperature
- Before bedtime, avoid large meals, caffeine and alcohol
- Remove electronics from the room
- Be physically active during the day
Tip #9: Start with Small Changes
The final tip for staying healthy with a busy lifestyle is arguably one of the most important. When choosing to live a healthier lifestyle, it is common to want to change everything at once. However, I am here to tell you that changing everything at once is the perfect way to fail.
Starting with small changes will feel less overwhelming, plus you will be building consistent habits in the process. Once the small change begins to feel easier, make the change a little larger. For example, if your goal is to “walk for 10 minutes each day” and you’re easily able to walk those 10 minutes, increase the goal to 15 minutes each day.
Choose one thing to start with, see if you enjoy it and continue building your health while living a busy lifestyle!