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You and Your Health

Eating on the Run: Healthy Snack Options When There’s No Time to Cook

You’ve been at work all day without a minute to spare for a lunch break. Now, before heading home, you’ve got to stop at the bank and drop clothes off at the cleaners. Starving, you grab a bag of chips and a soda from the convenience store to munch on while riding the “L.”  When you’re constantly on the go, it can be hard to find time to eat, let alone eat healthy. But eating is what gives you the energy to do all those tasks on your to-do list. So how do you find the balance?

“Just because you can’t take the time to sit down to a meal doesn’t mean you have to eat poorly,” said Debbie Drewke, registered dietitian and exercise physiologist. “It’s just about being prepared and carrying healthier snacks with you.”  If you work in an office, Drewke said, keep healthy snacks in a desk drawer for those times when you just can’t get away for lunch. That stash will also help keep you from taking a trip to the vending machine and filling up on junk food.

Microwaveable soups or prepared meals by Lean Cuisine or Weight Watchers are also healthy lunch options — no longer just for dieters — that can be stored in the office.  When there’s no time to make meals or pack a lunch every day, it can help to prepare one or two meals on the weekend, with enough servings to bring the leftovers for lunch. Save time by dividing up the food right after you make it, so your packed lunches will be ready when you’re rushing to leave for work.

Even if you haven’t had a chance to plan ahead, Drewke said, there are ways to find healthy foods quickly.

“Convenience stores and gas stations carry fruit, sandwiches, yogurt and nuts,” Drewke said. “Instead of grabbing a bag of chips and soda, you can choose the healthier options.”

Some vending machines are also starting to carry healthier options, such as Nutri-Grain Bars, raisins, fig bars and sunflower seeds.

Those healthier foods provide the nutrients you need to keep going when you have no time to eat a full meal. Drewke said that’s especially important because when you don’t sit down and focus on your meal, your brain may not get the message that you ate, so you may not feel satisfied.

“Snacking needs to include some protein — such as nuts, yogurt, cheese or hummus — so you’re more sustained,” Drewke said. “Sources of fiber, like apples, raw vegetables and whole grain cereals, also help keep people fuller between meals.”

Too busy to cook?
Here are some healthy snack suggestions:

  * Nuts and fruits mixed into plain nonfat yogurt
  * Granola bars, cereals
  * Veggie snack packs with hummus or other low-fat dips
  * Cottage cheese single packs
  * String cheese
  * Apples or crackers with peanut butter
  * Energy bars
  * Dried fruits and nuts
  * Drink options: V8, Dannon
  * Light ‘n Fit Smoothies