Eating on the Go

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Did you know that March is nutrition month in Canada? Let’s take this as an opportunity to address and highlight the nutritional needs and challenges of various communities, draw attention to making informed food choices, and develop healthier eating habits.

Along with sleep, nutrition is one of the cornerstones of physical and mental wellbeing. Your brain requires a constant supply of fuel and functions best when it gets that energy from foods that contain high levels of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Moreover, what we eat has a direct impact on stress and anxiety levels.

That said, there are also barriers to achieving food security, including high food prices, limited access to more nutritious options depending on time of year, dietary preferences/restrictions, and for busier folks, lack of time (and energy) to prepare meals.

Nutrition is a complex, multidimensional topic, and we acknowledge that food systems are deeply inequitable. Generally, eating what is affordable, accessible, and works best for you is better than not eating at all. The purpose of this article is to provide suggestions for optimizing your nutrient intake and promoting optimal functioning if you have limited time to prepare meals.

Stock up on nutrient-dense snacks. If you’re running from one commitment to another, keep some snacks with you to get you through the day and between meals. Some examples of nutrient-dense snacks that tend to fill you up include whole grain crackers, fruit, nuts and seeds, nut butter, plain popcorn, plain yogurt (dressed up with fruit, granola, honey or maple syrup), dried fruit, hard boiled eggs, cheese, vegetables and hummus, whole grain toast, canned tuna, and oatmeal. Essentially, try to limit foods that are overly processed.

If you have an early morning, try preparing your snacks the night before, even putting non-perishable items in your bag so that they’re ready to go. If you have a secure office space, consider keeping snacks at work to avoid having to remember to bring something each day.

Eat a high protein breakfast. Eating a protein-rich breakfast can help to give you the energy you need to power through the morning and keep you fuller for longer. When we are very hungry, we are more likely to reach for less nutritious foods.

Stay hydrated and be cautious of what you drink. Water has countless benefits, including preventing dehydration headaches, flushing toxins from your body, and carrying nutrients to your cells. While moderate amounts of caffeine can enhance alertness and productivity, it is recommended to avoid drinking large amounts of caffeine and sugary drinks as they can leave you feeling dehydrated and reduce brain function. Carry a reusable water bottle with you and keep it filled. Try setting a reminder on your phone (there are even apps for this) that reminds you to drink water periodically throughout the day.

Meal prep. This is a common strategy that will look different for everyone. This could involve preparing several meals in advance to have for the week ahead or perhaps doubling (or tripling, or quadrupling) a recipe to have plenty of leftovers – also known as batch cooking. Many meals can even be frozen so you may have supply for weeks ahead.

Eating out. It’s inevitable that you might have to eat out when on the go. Fast food restaurants can be tricky to navigate in that many of the products offered tend to be high in sodium, saturated and trans fats, and sugar. Opting for vegetable-based dishes, soups, and foods that are baked or grilled rather than fried are a few ways to get around this. You may also choose a salad, fresh fruit or vegetables instead of fried food as a side dish.

Eating mindfully. Our busy daily lives can rush our mealtimes and we may end up paying less attention to what and how we are nourishing ourselves. Mindful eating encourages one to make choices that will be more satisfying and nourishing to our bodies. It involves focusing on your body-related sensations, thoughts, and feelings about the food, with heightened awareness and without judgment.

One simple exercise to try, which does not take any additional time (rather, just remembering to do it!) is Mindful Eating. This exercise involves paying attention to all of your senses while eating a meal. Think about how the food looks, how it tastes, and smells. What's the texture? What memories does it bring up? How does it make you feel? Try to only focus on this one activity and nothing else, even if only for a few bites.

Meal delivery kits. For those with the means to access these, there are a variety of enterprises that offer meal prep kits or fully cooked meals. This can save a great deal of time as it removes the burden of having to think of what to eat and then preparing it.

For food security resources, both on and off campus, see the links below:

SNAC (Student Nutrition Accessibility Club) offers free and low-cost food boxes for McGill students (limited quantities)

Les fermes du marché is a lower-priced grocery market located in the SSMU building that also offers prepared meals

Midnight Kitchen

Community Food Resources and Services


Nutritional psychiatry: Your brain on food (Harvard Medical School)

Overeating? Mindfulness exercises may help (Harvard Medical School)

Canada's Food Guide: Healthy Snacks (Government of Canada)

9 healthy eating tips for busy people (APWU Health Plan)

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