Posted on: August 27, 2015 at 4:19 pm
Last updated: March 19, 2018 at 12:41 pm

This awesome post was written by Alina Islam, a wonderful Certified Nutritional Practitioner from Toronto, Canada. She is a writer, speaker and nutritional consultant. You can read more of her work at or follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

We’ve all been there. You think you’ll have time to make dinner at home, but end up having to stay late at work. By the time you get done the thought of cooking sounds downright laughable, so you grab a sushi tray or shawarma plate on your way home, plop down on the couch and dig in as you watch Netflix. You deserve it after all, it’s been a hard day.


Does this scenario sound familiar? Why is it that even with the best of intentions, we end up eating out more often than we’d like? And while the most obvious answer appears to be “lack of time”, there’s more to it than that. The real answer is “lack of planning” around the lack of time. While most of us living in a big city don’t have the time to whip up a Martha Stewart casserole in the evening (or the culinary expertise quite frankly), we do have the ability to plan creatively around our busy schedules to ensure we’re more in control of what goes into our body and out of our wallet.

To get started, below are some strategies I suggest to my clients to get into the mindset of planning ahead and avoid eating out:

For breakfast

  • Goal: to avoid grabbing a bagel or egg muffin sandwich
  • Plan ahead tips:
    • Always keep your fruit bowl full at home. That way you can grab one or two fruits on your way out the door.
    • Make breakfast in bulk the night before. Chia pudding in small Tupperware containers is an easy favorite.
    • Fill a small mason jar with dry oatmeal (or buy plain, unflavored oatmeal packets) and leave it on the countertop to take to work. Add hot water to your oatmeal at work.
    • For oatmeal toppings, stash a trail mix and nut butter in your desk drawer. If you have a fridge, keep some fresh berries in there.
    • Boil some eggs at the start of the week. Grab two on your way out the door along with an avocado. Chop up both at work for a filling meal! (1/2 avocado usually does the trick).

For meals

  • Goal: to avoid grabbing a wrap, sushi or pizza during the weekday and eating out too much over the weekend
  • Plan ahead tips:
    • Ask yourself, what could you buy instead if you weren’t eating out as much during the week? A movie date? A new blouse? For example, if you want to buy a new blouse for $30, cut out between 2-3 meals eaten out that week. Tying the goal to a reward makes it more fun when you’re getting started!
    • Decide on how many lunches and dinners you will allow yourself to eat out that week. Aim to get your spouse or significant other on board so that you can keep each other on track and cook more together.
    • Plan your meals beforehand. Take out one hour a week to decide what meals you will make and grocery shop accordingly.
    • Cook in bulk. Some items you can bake in bulk are fish fillets, chicken breasts, burger patties, roast veggies and sweet potato.
    • Make your grain of choice in bulk for the week i.e. brown rice, quinoa
    • Don’t cave into peer pressure everytime a friend or colleague wants to meet for lunch or dinner. Suggest coffee instead.

For snacks

  • Goal: to avoid lunging for leftover cupcakes, muffins, bagels, potato chips and candy from the vending machine.
  • Keep a stash of snacks in your desk drawer at work. These can include fruit, trail mix, nut butter, rice cakes, healthy crackers and protein bars.
  • Keep a stash of snacks in the fridge if you have one. These can include Greek yogurt, fresh berries, hardboiled eggs, baby carrots, hummus, chopped veggies.
  • For homemade snacks, prep your Ziploc bags on Sunday night for the week ahead e.g. homemade energy balls portioned out into five-weekday servings.
  • Keep a large glass bottle of water at your desk and leave it there. Often our cravings are really just a signal for thirst.

Alina Islam
Certified Nutritional Practitioner, CNP
"Alina Islam is a Certified Nutritional Practitioner (CNP) and in-house nutritionist at The Hearty Soul in Toronto, Canada. Through her relatable approach, Alina loves to educate and empower her clients to create long-lasting, sustainable change using food, lifestyle and natural supplements as her toolkit. Click here to claim her free eBook, 'The Beginner's Guide to Meal Prep' to lose up to 10 pounds, skyrocket your energy and take control of your health."

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