Health Hacks for a Busy Lifestyle
We all begin the year with the best of intentions: We’re going to lose weight, read more books, and start going (back) to the gym. Aaannnd, every year, real life thwarts our good intentions and we get bogged down in obligations and commitments.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is important throughout the year. It’s especially critical for healthcare workers for two reasons: Our physically demanding jobs are a lot easier to do when we’re healthy. And we have a responsibility to model healthy habits for our patients. The question is, how do we align our good intentions with reality? The answer: Get creative!
Diet: Hacks for healthy eating
The great thing about habits is once they’re established, it’s easier to keep going than it is to stop. That’s true of healthy and bad habits alike.
Research shows that it takes 21 days to establish a habit. So commit to a healthy diet, stick with it for three weeks, and soon feeling great will start to feel like second nature. Try these tips to establish the habit.
Related resource: Achieve a Healthy Work-Home Life Balance
1. Smart snacking
Cheese and crackers have ruined many a diet. If you’re a snacker (and most of us are), it’s hard to kick the habit. But it’s easy to snack smart. Store these items in the fridge or pantry for easy access:
Keep sliced fruits and veggies in the refrigerator. Apples, carrots, edamame, and blueberries make great nibbles. Add peanut butter, almond butter, or a slice of cheese for a healthy protein kick.
Buy nuts in bulk. Almonds, cashews, and pistachios are the lowest-calorie nuts. “Their mix of omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and fiber will help you feel full and suppress your appetite,” says Judy Caplan, RD, from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Buy nuts in bulk and portion them in one-third cup serving sizes — and then seal individual portions in sandwich baggies to prevent overeating.
2. Cook smarter, not harder
You might not be able to cook seven nights per week … but you have one or two opportunities to cook, right? So go big:
- Plan a menu of healthy meals for the week and grocery shop specifically for those meals.
- Purchase some bento boxes or other freezer-proof containers for lunches, and some disposable aluminum pans for dinners.
- On your cooking night, make a double or triple batch of several recipes at the same time.
- Portion out the meals into lunch or dinner sizes and put them in the freezer.
Need a lunch on the go? Just grab one of your pre-portioned containers, and it will be thawed by lunchtime. No time to make dinner for the kids? Pop the dinner-sized pan in the oven, and your homemade meal will be ready before you can say “wash your hands!”
Good candidates for large, freezer-friendly make-ahead meals include one-pan dishes like enchiladas and lasagna, spaghetti sauce, and soups. Turkey burgers and other meat or veggie patties also freeze well — just put wax paper between the patties and cook them as you need them.
Related resource: 7 Ways Healthcare Professionals Can Find a Healthy Work-Life Balance
3. Befriend (or invest in) a slow cooker
Ah, the Crock-Pot: The only place where a can of tomatoes + chicken breast + half an onion = dinner. Using a slow cooker takes relatively zero prep time and few ingredients, cooks while you’re away at work or class, and the result is always delicious.
Try out these healthy slow-cooker recipes!
Physical: Tips for exercising
You know exercise is important. But you also have a life to live, and going to the gym might not fit into it. Fortunately there are other ways to get your body moving that don’t take much time.
4. Bike to work
Not everyone has the luxury of being able to bike to work; distance, time, and parental status are all considerations. But consider this: If you bike to work — which might be the nicest part of your day — your exercise is done! No need to go to the gym, to feel guilty about not having taken a walk or run … the necessary job of going to and from work fulfilled the obligation of exercise. And that feels good!
If you’ve never commuted to work on your bike, it can seem quite daunting. Download a map of bike routes, invest in a few flashing lights, and give it a try.
5. Connect watching TV to working out
Here’s an easy one: Every time you watch TV, do a short routine of stretching, planks, leg lifts, calf raises, and crunches. This workout game makes it fun!
Other healthy lifehacks
6. Get a flu vaccine
Getting sick not only prevents you from working, but it also ruins your diet and exercise routine. Thankfully, modern science has given us an easy partial solution for this: Get vaccinated.
7. Get more quality sleep
Have you heard this one before? If so, that’s because sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of depression, obesity, heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, and a compromised immune system. Try these tips for a better night’s sleep:
- Remove TVs, computers, and handheld devices from your bedroom.
- Avoid eating a large meal within two hours of bedtime.
- Develop a regular bedtime routine.
- Set and stick to firm bedtimes and wake times.
- Make sure the bedroom is quiet, dark, and relaxing.
- Do quiet activities a few hours before bedtime, like reading, knitting, or doing a puzzle.
- Stop studying, texting, and playing video games several hours before bedtime.
Related resource: 5 Ways Nurses Can Improve Their Sleep Habits
8. Drink more water
This is an easy hack, because it requires almost no preparation, equipment, or time. Buy a nice water bottle and take it with you everywhere. Even if you’re not in the habit of drinking water now, it won’t take long to get in the habit … especially if you’re lugging a water bottle around!
At Ameritech, we care deeply about our students’ well-being — inside and outside the classroom. For more tips on student life and healthcare careers, follow us on Facebook. And for more nursing school program information, visit our programs page.