Business of Well-being

I'm too Busy to Eat Healthfully

All too often in my practice, I'm confronted with the words, "I'm too busy to eat healthy." It's easy during the busy corporate day to just grab and go, or just to snack and go. After awhile, my clients realize that it really isn't that difficult to eat healthy meals while maintaining a hectic schedule [and a hectic schedule is a topic that deserves attention, but we'll talk about that in another article.

It does take some planning however, but after all, if you're that busy a business man or woman, you haven't gotten where you are without the ability to plan and execute. Moreover as more and more companies implement corporate wellness programs constructed by companies such as mine, the job becomes easier.Whether or not you are working in a company with truly healthy options in the cafeteria or in the vicinity if your location doesn't have a cafeteria, you can do it.

By the way, "truly healthy" is written so because a salad offering with fried or breaded chicken on top of it upon which many load croutons full of chemicals and trans-fats, and finally top off with creamy ranch dressing is not a healthy option although the intent was there and the plate may have started out on the healthy side. Following are some tips to heat healthy in the office, on the go or while maintaining a hectic schedule.

Cook once; eat two or three times

First, this requires some cooperation from a spouse or partner or commitment and planning if you live alone. It is very easy to cook once and eat two or three times. When I was in the corporate world, that was the method I used to great success to help me though the day. Usually whatever I cooked for dinner was on my plate once again during the week as lunch or as a left over thanks to my microwave some other night during the week.  

An example of making more than one meal out of one cooking is to broil a few chicken breast fillets for example, make some extra rice, and bar-boil some vegetables on a Sunday or any other night. That meal you just cooked could be two or three meals during the work week.

Oftentimes, I left chicken or some other meat marinade in the refrigerator, cooked two pieces; one of which was dinner and the other became the next day's lunch. Also, buy a rice-cooker; they are not very expensive at least inexpensive models can be found, and rice will last in the refrigerator more than a day or so.

Be sure it's brown. An alternative to rice is Kamut, I think it's tastier; try it sometime. While we're talking about grains, I'd like to take this time to introduce you to two additional grains.  Two of my other favorites are millet and quinoa. By the way, quinoa is a complete protein, so if you are a vegetarian or in a non-meat mood, you'll get your day's worth of complete protein from a serving or two of quinoa mixed with some vegetables.

Quinoa can be found in your local Whole Foods, Fairway, and other like minded stores. If you buy the plain grain, I advise you to soak it overnight [there's a reason for this, but I'll save that for a future article. This may sound like a lot of work, but it really isn't; and if you forget or your schedule changes and you can't cook it the next day, don't worry about it.

I've left quinoa, buckwheat, millet, and other grains a couple of days so that they started to sprout. There is nothing wrong with sprouted grains, they are just as good, and will add taste variety to your meals. If you want some millet or quinoa recipes, send me an email, and I'll be glad to give you a couple as well as advise you of a good book in which you can find many other recipes. So there you have it, we've taken care of one or two dinners and a lunch or two. Was that so difficult? I trust you will agree, not.

Breakfast in one and a half minutes

The typical American Breakfast is full of calories mainly from sugar and is all too light on nutrients. A good rule of thumb is the less processing the better whether for breakfast or any other meal. Using that rule will eliminate most boxed cereals; there are a few such as Grape Nuts and Shredded Wheat, but be careful how you sweeten them; use honey, Stevia or fruit. My favorite cooked cereals are Oatmeal, Wheatina, and Farina.  

When I was on a very busy "road warrior" schedule, I prepared as much as I could the night before; that was simply putting a serving of oats and some raisins in a bowl ready for the stovetop or microwave the next morning at 6 AM. My preference is stove top solely because microwaving oats tended to fill the inside of my microwave oven with oats unless, and you are willing to spend the time experimenting on what is the right level at which to set the power level on your microwave or scrub down that same microwave while you miss your bus, train, or spot on the freeway use a pot.  

There are some purists among my lot of health counselors who would never dare use a microwave; but I'm agnostic so far as microwaves are concerned. It's probably better to cook foods on the stove top, broiler, or in the oven, but we do live in a fast paced society, and my advice is:  do what you need to do to get some healthy food into you.

I've also found that if you bring the stove top pot to a boil, then lower to a low simmer, then go about your other morning duties, by the time you're back in the kitchen, your meal is cooked. When you are done with the pot, leave it in the sink with some water in it; that will make it easier to clean when you're home at night and ready for the next day.

Another alternative is have a shake, and bring the oats to work and cook them there as a mid morning snack. My preference is Isagenix products solely because I believe they have the highest quality protein and other organic ingredients in them. Eating out of microwaves means cooking and eating out of plastic and not all plastics are alike or healthy from which to be eating on a regular basis.  

Again, the purists will say use glass; that might be fine at home, but definitely not an option travelling to and from the office especially on public transportation as I did for so many years. There are all grades of plastic some of which will readily leach chemicals into your food [especially in a microwave] and some that will not.  

A good rule of thumb is to check out the recycle number on the bottom of the plastic container. The higher the number the better; I advise my clients to pick a plastic container with a 7 on the bottom, but if you can't find a 7, get as close to 7 as possible. These are easy to find in any supermarket; many of these items are labeled as such, but check the numbers anyway.

Lunchtime Drinks

Stay hydrated, and don't spoil that good lunch you just brought to the office with a sugar laden drink. Pick a drink sweetened with Stevia or Agave Nectar, but definitely not high fructose corn syrup, cane sugar, or any ingredient ending in -ose. My strong suggestion is just plain water. Too many of us are not hydrated.

Moreover, I think you'll enjoy that delicious, healthy lunch that you bought or prepared more when you wash it down plane ole' water. Again, avoid the bottled kind. If you have a purifier in the house, take some with you, or use the water cooler at the office which usually is filtered rather than buying bottled water. You can be healthy and "green" at the same time.

Those bottles do last an eternity in landfills. On a business lunch, whether or not your employer is picking up the tab, it is not appropriate for you to be drinking alcohol even if your guest or host chooses to do so. If you want to drink alcohol, you should be doing it on your own dime as the saying goes, not on the company's. Moreover, as I talk about below, alcohol dehydrates you, not to mention make you say something you might be sorry about later.

Eating while traveling

The real road warriors among us know the pitfalls of eating airport, hotel, and restaurant food. Although most of us are not as lucky as George Cluny's character in Up in the Air to be racking up millions of miles and eating fine cuisine out of glasses in first class, we can make do with Trail Mixes and other snacks.

Remember, read the labels; and remember that ingredients are listed in order of weight so if sugar or something that sounds like sugar or is otherwise unpronounceable, leave it on the shelf. Hydration is particularly important while flying. Stay away from alcohol and carbonated drinks; they dehydrate you. That bit of information about the carbonated drinks, I got right from a flight attendant on one trip where I was sitting in a bulk-head seat and chatting with her across from me in the jump seat [a name I always pondered.]  

We were talking about jet leg, and believe it or not, jet leg is not really much more than a bad case of dehydration; especially on coast to coast flights. Think about it, you're at forty thousand feet or so for five hours, the air is thin, the air is dry, and you fill your body with carbonated water and alcohol; two diuretics.

On long flights for every drink I have [and it's usually just wine,] I chase the alcoholic drink with two glasses of water.  You might want to try that method and see what it does to your jet lag.

Dinner - Eat Drink & Reconnect - A time to slow down

When you are home, this is an opportunity to reconnect with family and friends. Take time if you have it to cook, light candles, and sit down with someone and just enjoy good whole foods, soft lights, music and of course good company. Shut off the television, radio, put down the newspaper or book, and dare I say, shut off the phone.

This is the time of the day when you should keep for yourself. You can't be on the top of your game the next day in the office if you are continually shoving things down your gullet.  On the road, don't eat in your room even though that temptation is great; I know I've been there. Now that you're in the restaurant, what I'm about to suggest will strike some readers as bold, but ask the Maitre d' to pair you with another solo traveler.

You might also tell the Maitre d' that you are open to an eating companion should another solo eater come into the restaurant after you are already seated. You would be surprised what interesting conversations you will have, and who knows, you may very well make a business connection.

You will also be surprised at how so many people eating alone will jump at the opportunity to have a dining companion. Exchange business cards when your meal is over, and politely part ways. It will have done both of you good to have had some interesting conversation with someone in the same boat you are in and learn something new about someone you have never met. My bet is, your digestion will be better too because your dinner will be interspersed with pleasant conversation.

The Dining Ritual

In days of ole, most said some form of Grace before [and sometimes after] meals. Many today don't. If you say Grace before meals at home, do it in the restaurant. There's nothing to be ashamed of. Moreover, there is, I believe, a purpose besides a religious intent in the practice. If you're not inclined to say Grace, try this.

Put your hand on your stomach which day in and day out takes the food you eat and converts it into you, yes you; and which enables you to extract the energy and the energetics of the food you eat, and thank it for doing so without any instructions from you.

Likewise, put your hand on  your heart, thank it for beating day in and day out without a thought from you, taking those nutrients converted by your stomach and intestines from the food you've eaten and delivered them to the organs of your body that enable you to be the successful business man or woman that you are.Good luck; eat well, and savor life!

About the Author

Nicholas L. Merolla is the owner of New Millennium Wellness, and is a Certified Health Counselor, a Certified Exercise Specialist, and a former Athletic Competitor. Nick worked in for Fortune 100 companies for a good part of his career. He decided to become a health counselor to fulfill his passion of working with men and women of all ages to improve their health and family life.  

Nick is certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine and the American Council on Exercise.Nick received his health counseling training at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York City and the National Education and Training Association.

He is board certified by the American Association of Drugless Practitioners and the State University of New York, Purchase College as a Health Counselor.Nick is available for workshops, and offers individual health and nutrition coaching for individuals, groups, schools and provides comprehensive corporate wellness programs for companies of all sizes.

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