Practical diet ideas from Majed Alhamad for busy people


If you’re trying to eat healthily despite a busy lifestyle it can be frustrating and difficult to achieve your goals. The key is understanding what you should be eating and then making it as easy as possible so you make good decisions. 

Each part of the day has challenges, but having a plan is the key to avoiding the temptations of sugary drinks and fatty foods.

Prepare a simple breakfast to suit your diet

Most of us are in a bit of a rush in the morning, and breakfast is often something convenient that can be eaten quickly. The problem is that this often means lots of calories and not enough fibre.

Having one or two pre-planned options available that you can use quickly is a great way to eat simply and well, and still get out of the house quickly.

Greek yoghurt is a great option here, as it is easy to store, quick to eat and a valuable source of protein, calcium, iodine, probiotics and vitamin B-12. The protein helps you to feel full and helps build muscle, while calcium helps bone strength and probiotics boost the health of your gut.

You should always have at least two options to avoid getting bored, and I recommend overnight oats because you don’t need to cook them. Just soak rolled oats in milk or yoghurt overnight, and they’ll be ready in the morning. They’re rich in protein and fibre, and will store for a few days in the fridge.

Another quick option is a smoothie, which you can whizz up in a just a few minutes as long as you have the ingredients to hand. There are so many healthy ideas for smoothies it’s hard to know where to start, but I do love the combination of banana with vanilla yoghurt and a dash of vanilla extract as it gives you a good hit of protein, carbohydrates and fibre.

Drinking lots of water helps your diet

You should always try to maintain your hydration as part of a healthy diet, but this is even more important if you are busy. It’s so easy to rely on energy drinks, coffee, tea or soft drinks if you get thirsty, and these usually come loaded with sugar and caffeine that doesn’t help your diet.

Instead, get yourself a decent sized water bottle that you can carry with you. By having this you always know you will have drink to hand, and are less likely to go for a latte.

Water is vital to your body’s health, as fluids carry nutrients to your cells, flush away bacteria, and play a major role in digestion. Without water your energy levels will droop and that can cause you to reach for a sugar or caffeine boost.

Prepared snacks make life easier for busy people

As a busy person on a diet, preparation is essential. Getting a load of healthy snacks ready for later is time well spent, as it gives you a shortcut to eating healthily.

This doesn’t have to be complicated: just some small tubs with a selection of nuts and fruit give you a simple snack full of fibre and protein when you need it. There are other healthy snack options too, such as combining rice cakes with peanut butter or hummus.

The portion size is just as important as the content: you need enough to stop yourself feeling hungry but not so much that you overeat. The balance is different for everyone, so try different combinations to find what works for you.

The key thing is that having the healthy snack to hand makes you less likely go hunting for a chocolate bar at the snack machine or café.

Busy and hungry? A light lunch is ideal

In most work environments lunch is the meal which dominates the day, especially if there is a culture of eating out or getting a take-away delivered. There are lots of downsides to this, so try to keep your lunch light.

The first step should be to get control of what you eat by taking your own healthy lunch to work. A simple salad is easy to prepare and take with you, which means it’s easier to avoid joining in the pizza run. You can also dodge the rich, fatty options offered by many restaurants.

If you do go out for lunch, look for dishes which include green leaves and low-fat protein. A heavy lunch can be a problem if you sit down to work, as there is some evidence to suggest your digestive system isn’t efficient when you’re sitting as when you are standing.

Your body also uses energy to digest food, which is one of the reasons you may feel sleepy and sluggish after eating a big meal. Keep lunch light and you’ll feel better, work better and eat better.

Eat mindfully

Mindful eating means creating more time to enjoy your meal, and that means taking a little longer to chew on each mouthful. This might seem counter-intuitive for a busy person, but it is actually a very valuable approach.

Research has shown that eating slowly makes us feel more “full”, so you’re less likely to need to eat again soon.

Mindfulness also means being more aware of what you’re eating, and also enjoying the effect it has on you. This is great for anyone trying to eat more healthily in general.

Plan carefully, and shop sensibly

How often have you gone to the pantry or fridge looking for something to eat and found all you have is unhealthy options? You can avoid this diet pitfall by the way you plan your meals and shop for food.

Make sure your meals include plenty of lean protein and fibres, and then ensure you buy enough. Include plenty of fresh fruits in your shopping, because these are great impromptu snacks when you’re in a hurry. Fresh vegetables really help with meal planning, because they are full of important vitamins and fibre.

Planning your meals and knowing what’s going to be in your snack pots gives you a powerful asset: knowledge. If you know you have a nice meal to look forward to then you are less likely to eat something unhealthy.

Ultimately the most important aspect of your healthy diet as a busy person is planning and commitment. By controlling what you eat you can make the best use of your time, avoiding the trap of convenience foods which are usually full of sugars or fats.

Majed Alhamad is an accomplished personal trainer who inspires his clients to pursue their fitness and health goals. Read more at his blog