Managing nutrition when schedules seem overwhelming

by Susy Natal

You are what you eat but, if you are a full-time woman, nutrition has potentially dropped quite far down your priority list. But what if everything else on your list became easier, and some items could even disappear because you prioritise your nutrition strategically?A well-fuelled body and mind functions optimally, is resistant to injury and disease, fires on all cylinders, rests more peacefully and nurtures higher feelings of self-efficacy.

When you are scrambling from task to task it can be easy to turn to comfort foods and, more often than not, the idea of cooking becomes just another thing that you would rather avoid adding onto the pile. However, store-bought foods, even the ‘healthier’ types, are mostly made with cheaper, lower quality ingredients. They are often laden with more calories than necessary and typically feature foods that are lacking in nutrients.

This means that, while they may satisfy the hunger, they mostly hold minimal nutritional value, yet are usually quite calorie dense, creating a very dangerous habit.

Consequently, consuming these foods regularly may leave you feeling sluggish, out of shape and, most importantly, malnourished. So many of the signs and symptoms of fatigue and burnout are the same as those of nutrient deficiency.

So many common diseases are associated with poor nutrition. And, it’s just extremely difficult to feel productive and to get things done when we don’t feel great.

Here are some simple strategies to help you get on top of nutrition:

  • Shop and cook with a plan – plan the following few days’ meals in advance as much as you can, so that when you go to the grocery store you know exactly what you need to buy. This is the best strategy to minimise the amount of junk and comfort food creeping into the shopping trolley.
  • Cook in larger batches – eating something different every single day is a nice idea, but highly impractical for people with a lot on their plate (so to speak) and exhausting, as you need to prepare food more often. You also need to make many more decisions around food, which is mentally draining. It creates more mess to clean up than making several meals of the same dish in one go. Meal prep isn’t glamorous but waking up and grabbing a stack of pre-prepared meals on a working day will set you up without the frantic scramble of needing to cook before work, and without the consequences of repeatedly eating food that does not nourish you.
  • Shop on a full stomach – if you can, avoid going to the grocery store when you are very hungry, upset or tired. Any draining emotions as well as hunger itself can influence your decisions around food choice, and make you more likely to go for unhealthy fast food and comfort food options. This is where your plan comes in extra handy to keep you on track, particularly in the early stages of creating these habits.
  • Outsource if you need to – some people need to reshuffle priorities to make time to cook more. Some will be in a position where there is just too much else going on. In this scenario, just like with every other task in business and work, if it’s too much to handle, then delegate it. There are heaps of meal prep companies out there now, and many are run by health professionals and are reasonably priced. They will cost more than making it yourself, but usually less than going to a café and a LOT less than the doctors’ bills you could accrue after years of not looking after your health.

You wouldn’t encourage anyone in your family to purposely hinder their health for the sake of a career or external commitments, so I hope that these tips help you to create strategies for putting your health first too.


Susy Natal is a qualified personal trainer with a background in psychology research, and is both a sporting and executive coach. Her approach to health and fitness integrates optimal and enjoyable movement, balanced nutrition and a positive mindset, as true health is achieved through an alignment between these three elements.