9 Ways to Make Healthier Food Choices, Even When You’re Exhausted

9 Ways to Make Healthier Food Choices, Even When You’re Exhausted

Eating well regularly can be a challenge — especially after an exhausting day. And while it may be harder to make smart choices when you’re tired, it’s not impossible. Here’s how to get started.

1. Stash grab-and-go snacks.

Keeping nonperishable snacks in your desk and car (weather permitting) can curb the temptation to reach for convenience foods. Snacks like nuts, seeds, jerky, roasted chickpeas, and popcorn can help stabilize your blood sugar and make it (way) easier to steer clear of the drive-thru.

2. Double up on prep.

If meal prep isn’t your thing (or your schedule makes it a difficult habit to maintain), prep as you go by cooking more than you think you’ll need each time you’re making a meal — say, double or triple. The more versatile the foods (think: brown rice, grilled chicken, roasted veggies, tuna salad), the more mix-and-match options you’ll have to choose from.

3. Make extra servings (and freeze them).

Sure, frozen meals are convenient, but they can get pricy, and so can throwing out leftovers that you can’t stand to look at anymore. Solve both problems by dividing your leftovers into single-serve portions and freezing them in storage containers or bags. After a few cooking sprees, you’ll have a variety of ready-to-heat homemade meals to choose from.

4. Plan out your indulgences.

Sometimes when you’re craving something sweet, you’re not going to stop fantasizing about it until you give in to the craving — especially when you’re tired. Go ahead and indulge, but in a planned, moderate way. For example, if you have a nightly chocolate craving, keep two Hershey’s kisses out on your counter to satisfy it.

5. “Meal prep” your snacks.

At the beginning of the week, lay out five small containers and fill them with healthy snacks — like nuts, dried fruit and whole-grain crackers — and do your best not to buy any other snacks for the week. You’ll satisfy your need for a snack, but the pre-planned healthier options won’t weigh you down.

6. Organize a dinner swap with friends.

Organize a meal swap, where you all cook one large healthy meal, and swap portions. Put servings into individual containers and, voila, one healthy meal for every night of the week.

7. Satisfy cravings with healthier substitutions.

Swap your heaping dish of ice cream for a 6-ounce cup of Greek yogurt or your box of chocolates for a chocolate-flavored protein bar. You’ll get to enjoy the textures and flavors of your underlying craving, and the protein in these picks will help keep you fuller longer.

8. Choose your dinner during your lunch break.

If you know you’re going to be working late, keep a list of healthy restaurants on standby. Check out the menus ahead of time and bookmark the healthiest meals available at each establishment so you can make an informed decision, even when you’re crunched for time.

9. Stick to recipes you love.

Keep a stash of five to 10 “greatest hits” recipes on hand — ones you know are quick to make and you can put together without much fuss. The more you love (and possibly even drool over) the recipes, the less you’ll let a little thing like being tired get in the way of enjoying a healthy meal.

(Health delivers relevant information in clear, jargon-free language that puts health into context in peoples’ lives. Online at www.health.com.)