Do I have time to make healthier choices?

Posted by on 25th February 2020

Let’s be honest, we all know what we should be doing to lead a healthier life – eating our greens, doing some exercise, and drinking more water – but how many of us really feel we have the time? Life just gets in the way. We’re always on the go, always have somewhere to be, and when we do get home at the end of the day, the last thing we have the motivation for is cooking a healthy dinner or exercising. We know the risks, we know the healthcare implications and we know that we could all do a little bit better. There are so many podcasts and books around telling us what we need to do and how to do this but let’s be honest here, being healthy just feels like SO MUCH EFFORT!

But does it have to be?

A few of years ago I found myself asking that very question.  I had been brought up on the classic ‘meat and two veg’ menu that so many Brits enjoy, which is fine but not all that adventurous. That meant that when I started living on my own I wanted to play around with cooking and creating things my mother never would’ve made. I knew how to make food safe to eat, and how to make a cracking roast dinner, but now I could put together whatever combination of ingredients I liked, and the only person affected would be me! It was oddly liberating. The only trouble was that living on my own meant that dinner wouldn’t be prepared for me when I got home, and I was hungrier than a hungry caterpillar.  I was also completely skint.

They do say that necessity is the mother of invention; this is when my love for one pan cooking began…

One pot cooking

If you’re on a budget, unprepared veg is cheap.  Frozen veg is even cheaper. Beans and lentils are much cheaper than meat, and wholegrains cost largely the same amount as white or processed.  You can see where I’m going here. I could cover all of my main food groups easily, and pretty healthily, but this was no ‘pop and ping’ lifestyle. I bought a large roasting tin, a large-lidded casserole and a slow cooker, between these three vessels I created some epic masterpieces – and some epic fails. I discovered that most of the meals you stand over the hob to cook (and which take up precious time) can be done in one pan and the day I perfected making risotto in the casserole pot was amazing. I went down the route of bulk cooking, freezing meals, reinventing leftovers, roasting a whole rainbow of different veg, and learning through trial and error how to successfully soak and cook dried beans. I even started to think about easy ‘better’ swaps in my food – chopped dates instead of sugar in my porridge, passata instead of pre-made pasta bake sauces, and adding red lentils to thicken things. It sounds faffy, but the more I practised and built up my store cupboard essentials (and my confidence!), the easier it became and even more importantly, the more ‘free time’ I gained.

You see, by throwing together a meal and putting it in the oven or slow cooker I regained my evenings and massively reduced the amount of washing up! I’d like to say I use that time wisely to do washing or hoovering, and sometimes I do, but mostly I just sit down and relax or take a short walk on a pleasant evening.  I’ve realised that being healthy isn’t too much effort at all, and it didn’t cost the earth either. Because I get time to chill out in the evening, I feel my stress levels came down, I have more energy because I eat well, and I’ve started to feel more resilient. Suddenly going out to an aerobics class once or twice a week didn’t bother me, I learnt to run, and before I knew it people were asking me for food and fitness advice. I’ve always been a fan of the outdoors, but with a decent coat and a bit of routine, a walk at lunchtime became so expected that now people don’t even bother trying to book at meeting with me at 1pm. And the best part? I’m a much happier person to be around in the afternoons when I’ve had my lunchtime walk!

The interesting thing about all of this is that I didn’t set out initially to be ‘healthier’. Now, getting my five a day isn’t even something I worry about. I always have a reusable bottle of water with me, and because I care more about where my fibre and other key nutrients come from these days, I tend to have a box of nuts with me rather than a bar of chocolate (although dark chocolate is high in fibre, who knew?!). My diet and lifestyle isn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, (no Friday in the office is complete without a couple of biscuits and a proper cup of tea), but I am fit and well enough to do the things that I want to, and at the end of the day isn’t it just this empowerment that we all really want?

Hilary - The Ryvita Team

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