Expert tips for eating healthy when time is short

SALT LAKE CITY -- Fourteen teachers from Salt Lake Valley high schools are participating in the 2018 My Heart Challenge: Teacher's Edition, and they will work to achieve a more healthy lifestyle during the 100-day challenge.

Making healthy food choices can be tough in today's busy, multi-tasking world, so Barbara Sherwood shared her expertise on the subject.

Sherwood, a Registered Dietitian with Intermountain Medical Center,  says changing our eating habits can be hard—so thinking of small things can be an easy, inexpensive, and quick way to help us make better nutrition choices.

She recommends trying to stick to foods with five ingredients or less for those who are trying to make healthier meal choices, see below for other tips and some recipes.

General tips

1. Prepare meals by cutting up your fruits and veggies in advance

Have a “cut day” when you prepare your fruits and vegetables. Make fruit slices, carrot sticks, cut up celery, cauliflower, or green peppers, then put them in baggies ready to grab. Individual hummus packs are great to take on-the-go with veggies. Cut up hearts of romaine lettuce and use a salad spinner (get one for around $15). Salad keeps fresh in the fridge in a salad spinner for many days.

2. Make enough healthy meals for leftovers

You can have premade healthy snacks for your family in just 15 minutes. I recommend making a batch of high-energy, healthy snacks that you can grab throughout the day to keep everyone happy. I’ve listed two family favorite recipes, Snack Packs and Protein Balls, below. Breakfast is another meal you can prepare the night before. With just a few minutes of preparation, you can have breakfast ready and waiting in the morning (or for the next three mornings!). Check out the Overnight Oats recipe.

3. Cook excess meat and store in the freezer for later

Dinner can be tricky, but there are some standbys you can always have on hand. When you have a little extra time, cook meats in portions that can be used later in recipes. Frozen precooked chicken or ground beef can be used in casseroles and soups and save time on preparation. Try the Tortilla Soup recipe below.

My Heart Challenge Time-Saving Recipes

Overnight Oats

Ingredients

1 ½ cups oats
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 cups milk
Add a handful of each: almonds, sunflower seeds, raisins, pumpkin seeds, and chia seeds (a good source of healthy fat and also available in bulk); this recipe has about three servings

Preparation

Mix all ingredients refrigerate ingredients overnight. Optional: Top with fresh berries and cinnamon in the morning. I prefer to eat this cold.

Snack Packs

Ingredients

About 1/3 cup dry cereal: good choices are Cheerios, Kashi Autumn Wheat, or Quaker Oatmeal Squares with a hint of cinnamon
About 2-3 Tbsp. nuts (pick your favorite — my family likes cashews and almonds)
About 1-2 Tbsp. dried fruit (craisins, raisins, dried apricots; you can find good prices on nuts and dried fruit in the bulk section; WinCo has good prices)
Optional: about 1-2 Tbsp. chocolate chips

Preparation

Put all ingredients in individual sandwich baggies. Make several at a time.

Protein Balls

Ingredients

2-2 ½ cups oats
1 cup peanut butter
½ cup honey
2 scoops vanilla protein powder
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. almond extract
Optional: chia seeds

Preparation

Combine all ingredients in large bowl until well incorporated. Roll in small balls and serve (I use small cookie scoop to make the balls). Store in airtight container in the fridge or freezer.

Tortilla Soup

Ingredients

2 cans low sodium chicken broth
1 15 oz. can each: kidney beans, black beans and pinto beans (drained and rinsed)
1-2 cans diced tomatoes with green chili peppers
1.25 oz. package taco seasoning
1 oz. ranch dressing mix or ranch dressing
2 cooked shredded chicken breasts (make a large amount in the Crock-Pot prior and freeze). Can also use canned chicken.
Optional: A few Tbsp. sour cream

Preparation

Combine all ingredients into a large pot. Mix well, reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes or until heated through.