Let’s face it—it’s impossible to eat healthy 100% of the time. Our bodies tend to crave things that aren’t necessarily good for us, and it’s okay to have those things every once and a while. Variety is the spice of life, after all, and, ultimately, that variety helps us appreciate healthy foods for what they are. An occasional treat helps us stay sane and curb junk food binges.

Sometimes, though, eating processed and junk food just seems like a simple solution to feed ourselves amid our busy lives. We feel like we don’t always have the time to create nutritious, tasty, and wholesome meals for ourselves and our families. It’s even harder when you’ve got a few picky eaters in your family. 

But before you think about ordering dozens of frozen dinner meals in lieu of your weekly takeout, we encourage you to re-vamp your meal routine and think about different ways to reframe healthy, nutritious meals in your household. Here are some tips from Herbalife Nutrition to consistently create healthy meals that everyone, from your fussy toddler to your meat-craving husband, will love.

Staying Away from Unhealthy Snacking

First and foremost, although salty or sweet snack foods can be tasty, they do not hold all the nutrients we need to keep ourselves healthy. Unfortunately, manufacturers design them not only to be addictive but also to cater to the palates of picky eaters. It’s not just your willpower that is holding you back when it comes to fending off junk food cravings—your body’s natural impulses just don’t fit well with modern living.

Humans are biologically wired to seek out food with sugar, fat, and salt. It’s an evolutionary trait our early human ancestors developed to sustain themselves in times of food scarcity. Mobile hunters and foragers of the past often expended more energy than they consumed from the readily-available plants, berries, and lean meats. Fattier food was harder to come by, which meant that it also wasn’t a trusted food source. So, Paleolithic bodies naturally developed to seek out fat, salt, and sweets.

When we crave those chips in the cupboard or stare lovingly at a fondue bar, it isn’t that we lack willpower—it’s that our body is reverting to its most primal instincts to sustain itself. If you maintain a diverse diet (we’ll help you with that in a bit), you’ll notice these cravings growing less and less persistent.

As well as not being beneficial to our bodies, unhealthy snacking isn’t good for the planet. Most of the meat and produce raised to create these foods are not sustainable. Traditional and low-impact agricultural practices aren’t suited to raising enough food for mass consumption and quick production. Therefore, the introduction of chemicals, mass livestock cultivation, deforestation—and, of course, plenty of plastic to contain products in—has become part of the solution for getting unhealthy snack foods onto the shelves.

Making Healthy Choices on a Time Budget

For most of us, even if we’re committed to making better choices for our bodies and the planet, at least one obstacle stands in our way—time. Luckily, we have a few tricks up our sleeves, which will help you better tackle the obstacle of meal planning on a packed schedule.

Meal Prepping

Meal prepping isn’t just for busy parents. Everyone can benefit from it. More millennial and Gen Z-aged people are starting to pick up on the habit, and it’s having profound impacts.

Meal prepping prevents food waste. For the environmentally conscious eater, this is a win-win. Not only does it keep entirely usable food from getting lost in the landfill, but it also saves you money. When you utilize every scrap of food in your fridge, you spend less time going to the store and spend less money on food that ultimately gets thrown in the garbage.

Meal prepping makes the process less stressful. We’ve all had those times when we’ve come home after a busy day of work and had approximately an hour to shower, get dressed, eat food, get everyone ready, and leave for an event. That hour can be super stressful! By prepping your meals, you save yourself from the ill effects of stress. Less stress in your life means fewer trips to the doctor (stress weakens your immune system) and fewer arguments among people in your house. 

Meal prepping can save you time during the week! You can still watch your favorite Netflix show, listen to the latest episode of a podcast, and even catch up with family over Skype when you meal prep. Choose a time, like a Sunday afternoon, to plan what meals you’ll be having, what you’ll need, and begin chopping, dicing, and measuring. Store everything with a label, and during the week, just combine the ingredients and go.

Make breakfast a priority.

Not to beat a dead horse, but breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. It kickstarts your metabolism, and it ensures you stay full throughout the busiest part of your day. Rather than hitting snooze four times in a row, get out of bed and make yourself one of these quick but filling breakfast options:

· Instant oatmeal or overnight oats
· Protein pancakes you prepare ahead of time and store
· Egg or egg-white scramble mix (you can make this ahead of time)
· Yogurt with granola and nuts
· Smoothies

Lunch—Light and Snacky for You, Exciting for Your Kids

Most of us have skipped lunches repeatedly because we’re too busy to sit down and have a full one. That doesn’t mean that we’re never hungry. Instead of packing yourself a big lunch that you might have to miss, like one that requires a microwave, plan on packing lots of little snacks. String cheese, carrot sticks, cucumber slices, almonds, fruit, whole-grain crackers, and a bowl of blueberries are all great snacks with enough nutrients to keep your energy high when you most need it. The upside? Prepping these foods takes little to no time and has a high payoff.

Kids, on the other hand, are still growing. So, when you pack their lunches (for school and otherwise), make them fun and appealing by including a little treat, like a small toy or a hand-written note, and make sure they are getting all their vital nutrients. Think like a kid when you do this. A child’s palate is still developing, and children do not have the same number of taste buds that you do. Pack foods that they love along with some new foods for them to try out.

Another key is to switch it up. Don’t just pack the same lunch repeatedly. If you pack a sandwich and veggie slices one day, opt for hard-boiled eggs, apple slices, turkey roll-ups, and ants on a log the next day.

Finally, creating a bento box is a great way to spice up anyone’s lunch routine—your child’s or yours! Packing the lunch into fun shapes will show your kid, your partner, or yourself a little bit of extra love and encourage them to eat their food.

Keep Healthy Snacks Out and About—Pack Treats Away

We love treats, and every once and a while, you just need them. 

But if your kids come home and see a package of Oreos next to the bowl of fruit, they’ll probably go for the Oreos. 

You can still keep Oreos in the house, but keep healthier options more accessible. Your body will naturally gravitate toward those options on a busy schedule rather than the bag of popcorn tucked away at the back of a cupboard. In addition to fresh fruit, you can stock up on healthy nonperishable snacks like whole-grain crackers and protein bars, like those offered by Herbalife Nutrition.

Know Your Weekly Schedule and Plan Dinner Around It

Always try to keep your mealtimes similar. It helps keep your body’s processes regular, and it also helps you better plan out your life. However, for busy people and families, that’s not always an option.

Before doing your weekly meal prep, go over your next week’s schedule. Make sure to include everyone, including your kids and partner, in that schedule. From there, make a weekly mealtime plan and post it somewhere prominent. This will keep you on-track for meal prep, prevent questions about when dinner is, and ultimately prevent food waste by making sure everyone is on board with your meal schedule.

Making Healthy Choices on a Budget

You could be the most organized person in the world and still have a big problem—your monthly budget.

Eating healthy on a budget can be deceiving. Vegetables and fruit individually priced look affordable, but when you take into account how many you need, how often you need to restock, and whether or not the vegetables are organic, the prices eventually add up. We promise there are ways to eat wholesomely (and deliciously) on a tight budget.

Check Local and National Food Waste Prevention Businesses

Companies like Imperfect Foods and Misfits Market sells unwanted food for a fraction of the cost! Often, this includes organic vegetables and fruits, as well as whole-grain breads and pastas, organic meat, and more. The reason they can price these foods so low is that they are either too ugly to go to supermarkets, or they are too close to their expiration date to be sold. Even better? Since most of these companies ship, you save time by purchasing online rather than going to the grocery store. Shop on your break at work! 

Additionally, if you live near a local produce supplier, check with them about produce giveaways. Many of them have surplus food at the end of the month that they are prohibited from selling (or which won’t sell in grocery stores), which they either give away or sell for a hugely discounted price.

Make a Grocery List & Stick to It

If you get most of your food from the store, making a grocery list is extremely important. Advertising works super well, and grocery stores are set up to make you buy more than you need. Instead of falling prey to impulse purchases, make a grocery list based solely on your meal plans (be sure to include snacks). This will help you stick to your list even if you see something super tempting.

Buy Generic When You Can

Believe it or not, the only things that most brand name items have for them is a solid reputation. They’ve been around for a long time—often for longer than their competitors—and, therefore, more people can back them up. But most store brand alternatives are just as good. So, if you want to save some money, put the brand name back and opt for a generic version.

Participate in Meatless Mondays!

We get it. If you’ve grown up eating meat, it can be hard to give it up. However, regularly eating meat not only negatively impacts you and the planet, but it can also put a strain on your wallet. You don’t have to go completely vegetarian to reap the benefits of less meat in your life. Meatless Mondays can save you hundreds of dollars per year, and they help you think creatively and mix up your meal routines. Plus, eating extra vegetables can help you get the nutrients your body needs. If your kids are opposed to your new recipes, encourage them to help you next time! Kids are more likely to eat something if they feel as though they’ve contributed to making it.

If you’re worried about getting enough protein after cutting out meat, consider stocking up on vegetarian protein powder to add to shakes. Herbalife Nutrition has its own line of protein shakes, which can help with getting plant-based protein on the go.

Spend some time reading Herbalife Nutrition tips, commentary and resources for additional ways to keep you and your family healthy.