On making time for health:
As I sit at my computer writing this, I have just put the finishing touches on a paper for school and am feeling relieved (I still have to leave early to print in though- no printer here L) The paper has pretty much been my main focus the last few days- though I have many roles and hobbies, I consider school a top priority. I am a full time nursing student and spend about 20 hours a week just at school and my clinical site, not to mention time spent on homework. I work between at least 16 and sometimes up to 26 hours a week as a nurse’s aide. I also have a husband, apartment, and cat that need daily attention!
Most of us are juggling multiple roles in our lives: students, employees, homeowners, spouses, parents (how do you do it?!). With all these responsibilities, good intentions of making time for ourselves and our health can easily go by the wayside.
For me, healthy eating and an active lifestyle are important. They make my body and mind feel good and balance the effects of stress in other areas of my life. When I make healthy meals, I am exercising my creative side and aim for aesthetics along with flavor and nutrition. A healthy dinner is also a relieving break from a homework-a-thon and can be a motivating factor for getting something finished by a certain time.
Here are a few things I do to ensure I can stay healthy when working or going to school all day:
*Pack a lunch the night before. This also saves money! My usual method of doing this is to throw together a “leftover salad” as I’m putting dinner leftovers away. I simply mound some spinach or mixed greens into a container, top it with leftovers (roasted vegetable dishes and stirfrys lend themselves especially well to this- soups, not so much), and take a tiny container of dressing if needed. Throw in a piece of fruit and you have a nutritious and filling lunch! And it takes less than five minutes longer than just putting away leftovers would. When there are no leftovers or I wont have access to a refrigerator, PB&J with some carrot sticks is my go-to.
*Either work out in the morning or bring gym bag. I love morning workouts because they are an energizing start to the day and free up my evenings for relaxing or… homework. And yet… I tend to have a hard time fitting them in. I usually have to be somewhere in the morning between 7 and 9 am, and quite honestly don’t like waking up any earlier than 6:30. I have trouble falling asleep at a decent hour, and tend to favor a full nights sleep over a morning workout. So for me, the key is usually throwing the gym bag in my car. If I go to the gym right after work/school it saves me the time of going home and hassle of going home and back out again and also prevents me from going home and getting occupied with something else.
*Slow cookers! I love my crockpot dearly… unfortunately it was recently left oo close to a burner on the stove and suffered third degree burns… not sure yet if it will be ok L. Slow cookers are great for busy people though, especially when you wont be getting home until late in the evening and know you will be hungry! Some of my favorite things to make in mine are lentil or split pea soups, chilis, and spaghetti sauce. I like to chop some extra vegetables while I prepare dinner the night before, then in the morning before I leave I can just literally throw everything in the pot and have dinner ready when I get back! I also like to make big batches of beans (black beans, pintos, garbanzos, and white beans most commonly). I soak them overnight, cook them in the slow cooker all day, then have them ready for use by dinner time. The ones that I don’t forsee being used within a week get portioned into containers and stored in the freezer- another great time saver when I need it!
*Plan meals for the week before grocery shopping. I don’t always stick to this plan exactly, but it saves me time wandering around the grocery store and ensures I will have ingredients on hand for a weeks worth of healthy meals. I don’t really have a limit on buying seasonal produce, and tend to just buy what looks good and is a good price whether I have a definite plan for it or not. I figure it is good for me to be challenged to include more produce!
*Have a handful of quick meal ideas on hand for busy nights. These are usually things that come together really quickly like a frittata or that have some premade portion like the tortellini salad I made last night. I had dinner ready in less than 30 minutes last night with this simple recipe:
Lemony Artichoke Tortellini Salad:
One 10 oz package refrigerated tortellini (I used pesto filled)
15 oz can artichoke hearts, quartered
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced into rings
1 small zucchini, thinly sliced into half moons
Handful of fresh spinach, torn (optional)
2-4 Tbsp. vegetable broth or cooking water from pasta
2 Tbsp. grated parmesan
2 Tbsp. crumbled chevre
1 small lemon, zested
Salt and pepper to taste
Slice onion first, and heat olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the onion and a generous pinch of salt. Fill a large pot up with salted water and place on the stove top to begin boiling while you prep the rest of the ingredients. Slice the zucchini and add to the onions, then slice the artichokes and add them to the sauté. The pasta water should be boiling by now, so you can throw the tortellini in and cook according to package directions (should be around 4-6 minutes). During this time, you can zest the lemon and get the cheeses ready.
Once pasta is finished cooking, drain and toss into the pan with the veggies. Add the broth or cooking water if it seems a bit dry. You could add more olive oil if you wanted also. Add the cheeses and about 1 Tbsp. or juice from your zested lemon and toss everything to coat.
Serve topped with lemon zest and additional cheeses if desired. Enjoy!