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Healthier eating on the go

Jami Dellifield for Progressive Cattle Published on 24 May 2022
Meal planner

A common theme in American households: Individuals are moving at an always-increasing pace of “go, go, go.” Whether the “go, go, go” is related to work or play, many days you may find yourself moving from work to play to work to play with little time in between.

Or in the case of those in agriculture: work, work, work. The stress of balancing everyday expectations and responsibilities can sometimes be overwhelming. When life gets busy, healthy eating habits can be difficult to maintain. Many times, you will find you do not have time for a sit-down family meal, but instead are grabbing something quick and eating while doing another activity. When this happens, the quick food option available to you might not be your healthiest choice.

When my children lived at home, there were many days that began at sunup and ended at sundown – and healthier eating seemed like an impossible task. I found that with a little bit of preparation and intent, I was able to make healthier choices than the concession-stand hot dog, a granola bar or a fast-food meal by packing food for myself and my family and my kiddos’ friends. I recruited other families to help with this, so we shared the workload and the food costs. I also thought it would be easier for me to eat healthier when life “slowed down.” This has not been the case, and I have still found that I need to prepare and be intentional about healthier choices.

The following information is to help you succeed in eating well-balanced meals and snacks when grabbing a sugary snack might seem like the easiest way to fuel up. And while those “sometimes foods” can be a nice treat on occasion, they will not give your body the energy it needs to sustain the “go, go, go” throughout the weeks and months to come.

The current USDA dietary guidelines give this information for healthier eating:

  • Follow a healthy dietary pattern at every life stage.

  • Customize and enjoy nutrient-dense food and beverage choices to reflect personal preferences, cultural traditions and budgetary considerations.

  • Focus on meeting food group needs with nutrient-dense foods and beverages, and stay within calorie limits.

  • Limit foods and beverages higher in added sugars, saturated fat and sodium, and limit alcoholic beverages.

MyPlate reminds us to eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods and dairy and fortified soy alternatives. Remember each day to make your plate colorful and choose nutrient-rich choices to make every bite count. The website provides recipes and helpful information.

MyPlate guidelines

Prepare for success

Anything worth doing takes a little more time when you first begin. This is true for healthier eating. It is important to have the right tools for the right job – this includes prep areas, storage areas and, of course, ways to carry meals from place to place. Success always begins with a well-thought-out plan. This is true for making better food choices. I am sharing my plan for success and the order I do things in. Modify this to meet your individual needs in any way you might need.

  • Schedule time to prepare on your calendar. By scheduling time (preferably the same time each week) for meal planning and grocery shopping, and looking ahead to the upcoming weeks, healthier eating will become a habit – and over time, it will not feel as much like a chore.

  • Clean, organize and sanitize the preparation area. Starting with a clean work space (the kitchen counter or the kitchen table) will allow you to free some of the clutter in your mind and focus on the task. This is also a good time to clean and organize the refrigerator and freezer.

  • Plan your weekly menu using a printable template (or design one of your own). Utilize websites such as Celebrate Your Plate (celebrateyourplate.org) for low-ingredient, easy, healthy recipes. Double-check to see that each meal or snack includes proteins, grains, vegetables, fruits and dairy to meet the MyPlate guidelines.

  • Make a grocery and ingredient list. Look in your refrigerator, freezer and pantry to check off the items you already have. If you did not yet clean and organize your fridge/freezer, this is a good time to do that and make room for new groceries.

  • Plan ahead for storage. Do you have an insulated lunch box, cooler and water bottle? Don’t forget to add plastic baggies or small storage containers to the list.

  • Head to the grocery store or farmers market to purchase the needed items.

  • Clean and prep the food for the upcoming week so you can grab and go. When the celery is already cleaned and the peanut butter in smaller containers, it is ready to go when you need it. The same for fruit, meats and cheeses. Cleaning the grapes or strawberries, placing them in serving-size baggies, and then throwing into the freezer/fridge will make grab-and-go packing easier.

  • Clean, cut and organize the perishable items. Prep any vegetables or meats or upcoming meals. Marinate the chicken. Chop the onions and peppers. Mix the casserole.

  • Enjoy your week. Healthier eating is now one less thing you have to worry about.

If you are feeling like this may be too much to begin, start smaller. Make a smoothie or eat some yogurt with fruit for breakfast instead of grabbing the donut. Grab a handful of your favorite nuts and a few cubes of cheese for your mid-morning snack. Replace one sugary drink a day with a bottle of water. Notice the changes in your energy levels and thought processes as you begin to make healthier choices. Celebrate your successes each week with healthier eating – and don’t be too hard on yourself when you eat more “sometimes” foods than you would like.

Remember: In the race of life, healthier eating is an Iron Man Challenge and not a sprint … it is varied with many outside circumstances that will affect the outcome.  end mark

ILLUSTRATION: Illustration by Kristen Phillips.

References omitted but are available upon request. Click here to email an editor.

Jami Dellifield
  • Jami Dellifieldk

  • Family and Consumer Sciences Educator
  • Ohio State University Extension
  • Email Jami Dellifield

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