It’s often hard enough to eat right when you have time, but when you’re racing against the clock it becomes even more challenging.
“Plan ahead! It’s a little change you can make with big benefits. When you are prepared with healthy snacks, a packed lunch and food in your refrigerator to cook dinner, you aren’t tempted to grab the first thing you see in a vending machine or an unhealthy dinner,” Alison Sweeney, actress and host of The Biggest Loser, said.
When you’re planning ahead, be sure to stock your pantry with these five time-saving superfoods – they will boost your health and well-being with minimal time and effort.
Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, protein, fiber, antioxidants, and calcium, chia seeds are an easy way to add a nutritional boost. Used long ago by Mayan and Aztec cultures to boost energy, these tiny seeds have a mild, nutty flavor. Some studies have shown heart health benefits of chia seed consumption, such as lowering cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure. Try adding them to your oatmeal, yogurt, smoothie, or baked goods.
Those little blue-hued berries are among the best of the berry world, offering the highest antioxidant levels of all commonly consumed fruit. They are also a top choice for Sweeney, who said she likes blueberries on a salad, mixed with other fruit, or even for dessert. Adding vitamin C and fiber to your diet, blueberries have only 80 calories per cup making them a smart choice for weight management and heart health. For convenience, keep frozen blueberries on hand for a quick smoothie or for when you can’t find fresh.
No time to grill fresh fish, no problem – open a can of sardines. These tiny fish are high in protein, low in mercury, and loaded with omega-3 fatty acids. Sardines also provide other important nutrients for good health. For example, a quarter-cup serving of BELA sardines in olive oil contains 120 calories, 13 grams of protein and provides calcium and vitamin D for good health. Short on time? Try mashing them in the tin with a fork into a pate and enjoy with crackers for a quick lunch or on-the-go snack.
Whether you like Italian, Mexican, or Vegetarian cuisine, tomatoes add taste and nutrition to almost any dish. However, if you don’t have time to make homemade lasagna, cherry tomatoes are an easy and nutritious grab-and-go superfood. Tomatoes uniquely contain all four major carotenoids: lutein, alpha- and beta-carotene, and lycopene. Not only do these carotenoids have benefits on their own, such as reducing the risks of certain types of cancer and eye disease, they also work together synergistically to provide added health benefits. Tomatoes also contain vitamin E, vitamin A, and vitamin C, and potassium.
If you’re looking for a superfood with staying power, eggs are a great choice. While eggs have gotten a bad rap over the years, the American Heart Association says it’s okay to have an egg a day – including the yolk. Eggs provide high-quality protein (7 grams each), vitamins, minerals, carotenoids (like lutein and zeaxanthin) for eye health, and choline for brain development and memory. Research has also shown that eggs can help you lose weight and feel fuller, longer. Keep hard-cooked eggs in your fridge and add them to a salad, sandwich, or enjoy as a healthy on-the-go snack.
Patricia Bannan is a Los Angeles-based registered dietitian specializing in nutrition and health communications. She is the author of "Eat Right When Time Is Tight: 150 Slim-Down Strategies and No-Cook Food Fixes." Follow her on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn.