We know you get it, logically at least. The first step to eating healthier is cooking your meals yourself. But it's so much easier to stop for fast food on the way home, isn't it? Before you're tempted to pull off the highway during your evening commute, you should know that even fast food joints that claim to have lots of healthy options or sensible foods are still packed with fat, salt, carbs, and possibly even processed ingredients to help them stay fresh in the back kitchen. After a long day of work, school or even running around town doing errands, we understand that it's hard to whip out a cookbook and all the dishes to make yourself a good meal when you get home. There are some shortcuts, though, which will make it easier for you to eat better.
Do your grocery shopping during the weekend and plan out your meals for the entire week. That way, you won't have to stop after work to buy ingredients, and you'll probably spend less on food that way (especially since you're not getting take out every night). Plan your meals for the week, and try to pick foods that last at least overnight so that you can enjoy leftovers a couple of times. Making double the amount means you can take a night off from cooking or bring the leftovers for lunch, too. Since it's easier to make larger amounts than cooking for one anyway, you won't even have to worry about dividing up the recipe amounts. Just make sure you dole out the right portion size instead of eating the whole thing.
What you buy at the grocery store is also going to be what saves you time and energy thinking about healthy food when you're putting meals together later. Use olive oil -- or flax seed or sunflower oil -- instead of butter or margarine. It's still got fat and calories, but it's the better kind. You can also pour just a dash of light chicken broth into the pan if you need more protection against scorching. Skim milk, egg whites, Splenda, sea or Kosher salt, and organic ingredients are also good substitutes to buy.
Earlier in the week, you can also prep vegetables and fruit so that they're easy to take with you during the day or to throw in a salad or stir fry at night. Use the chopped vegetables for recipes earlier in the week so they stay fresh longer. Bagged salads and even frozen veggies are other helpful shortcuts, even though they cost more. You may also find extra sodium in frozen packages of vegetables, but not enough to cancel out the nutritional benefits. If you've bought pre-packaged sides, you'll only have to simmer rice, boil whole wheat pasta, or grill a chicken breast on a counter-top grill. Remember, save enough for tomorro!