So, um, wow. Time. Thanksgiving happened, and today it’s December, and January first is going to be here before we know it. A lot of my clients say that the holiday season is one of the toughest times of the year to stick to a healthy routine, mostly because they’re so busy. Recently, I wrote about how to maintain your weight during the holiday season, so today’s post has some more details. Here are some of my go-to tips and tricks for making healthy eating possible, even during hectic weeks when your calendar is laughing at you and your phone keeps lighting up with notifications.

As someone who routinely works 60-hour+ work weeks and tries to find time for friends and family, I know firsthand how challenging it can be to fit in basic human stuff like good food, sleep, and workouts. That self-care is important, though, and can help you feel calmer and more productive. Let’s just not talk about cleaning or laundry right now… The eating part, I can definitely help you out with. Here are some of my favorite tricks to staying sane and eating tasty, healthy things no matter what’s on the schedule.

  • one-hour-food-prep Prep: Take an hour or two once a week to prep food for the days ahead.  Wash and cut up veggies. Make some protein (meat, beans, tofu, etc) and /or grains (rice, quinoa, pasta, etc). If you’re turning on the oven to make one thing, may as well make all the things. Want some inspiration? Check out this post I wrote for the Lady Project on how to turn your fridge into a salad bar.
  • Pre-portion things like nuts, crackers, trail mix, etc into single servings. Ziploc bags and small airtight storage containers are perfect for this.
  • Make multiple salads in advance and dress later—or layer ingredients in mason jars. Just remember to put the dressing on the bottom!
  • Save some for later:Freeze leftovers in single serving sizes for easy (re)heat-and-eat later. Chilis, soups, and stews are great for this, but you can also do it with cooked proteins (I like to cook meat in a slow-cooker and shred it), beans, grains, and vegetables. Grated zucchini can be thawed in the microwave to make savory or zucchini bread oatmeal. Spaghetti squash can be reheated and tossed with meatballs you also found in the freezer.
  • Pack your lunch the night before. One way to make it easy—Pack tomorrow’s lunch while you’re making tonight’s dinner. If I’m having, say, chicken and veggies with pasta for dinner, I’ll throw some of that chicken and veggies over greens in a portable container to make a salad.
  • Have a plan:It doesn’t have to be super-detailed, but having a general idea of your schedule and what you plan to eat (and where) that week helps you stay organized. Write it down somewhere you’ll see it, like on a piece of paper stuck to the fridge or even as a note in your phone. There are also tons of cute downloadable templates and meal-planning apps and services you can use.
  • Don’t  feel ashamed of taking shortcuts. I used to feel guilty about buying pre-chopped bags of broccoli and cauliflower, but needing to save a little time by purchasing florets instead of a whole damn head does not automatically make me a bad person. Neither do frozen veggies or the occasional frozen dinner! Life is messy and busy—striving for perfection will make you crazy. Not worth it.

 Have any favorite healthy-eating tips and tricks to share?

This has been another installment of the Running with Spoons Thinking Out Loud link party, where randomness is the name of the game. Thanks to Amanda for hosting.

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