Planning out your meals for the week and prepping food in advance will help you maintain a proper diet. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

When life gets crazy—and it sometimes does—it isn’t always easy to eat healthy food.

Many women tell me one of their goals is to avoid the drive-thru and keep from eating junk when they’re on the run.

But when people are hungry and nerves are frayed, unhealthy eating just seems to happen.

I would propose a simple statement: If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

There are solutions to these problems. Eating healthy does not have to be expensive, nor does it require an excessive amount of time.

Spectrum Health offers a host of classes that teach people healthy approaches to cooking—approaches that are realistic and usable. One class, Eating the Mediterranean Way, showcases one of the healthiest dietary concepts available.

Still, healthy cooking has its challenges.

For starters: How do you make a healthy meal for yourself if everyone else in your family wants the standard old fare?

Women will sometimes tell me they don’t want to make two separate meals. They might want to really limit their own carbs at dinner, but their kids and husband want meat and potatoes.

They feel it’s not worth the effort to make separate food—so they eat food they know doesn’t support how they want to feel.

But food provides crucial protein, vitamins and minerals. It also supplies the necessary energy for our brains and bodies.

Too many calories, especially simple carbs, can leave us feeling tired, sluggish and slow.

At the Spectrum Health Midlife, Menopause & Sexual Health clinic, we enjoy talking about solutions that help us get around the challenges we all share. This includes recipe ideas for everyday weeknights, when life gets crazy.

Be a food artist

It’s a good rule to think about the plate like an artist’s palette.

Add lots of color.

White carbs or starch is not as healthy as colored carbs such as sweet potatoes, brown rice, whole wheat tortillas, quinoa, brown rice pasta or whole wheat or brown rice crackers.

These choices are yummy and give good energy without going straight to fat.

One of the nurse practitioners on our team shared a favorite salad recipe:

  • 1 pound mixed greens
  • 2 onions thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 sliced pears
  • 2 cups red grapes
  • 1 cup dried cherries
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 4 ounces crumbled goat cheese

Also, add some maple vinaigrette:

  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

First caramelize the onions: Cook for 45 minutes in the butter over low heat (prep ahead), then cool. Mix the ingredients for the dressing in a jar and then toss it all together.

This salad can be mixed with cooked chicken for a healthy supper. The chicken can be served with the salad and roasted sweet potatoes for the whole family.

Leftovers can be packed for lunch with a whole wheat wrap.

An easy chicken with great flavor: Roast the chicken breasts in a bit of olive oil, salt and previously roasted garlic for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

The sweet potatoes take about an hour, so these can be prepared earlier, even on the weekend and stored in the fridge in a big baggie.

To finish

Dessert? This time of year, there’s nothing better than a fresh-sliced peach or nectarine. It always seems like more of a treat when it’s sliced than whole.

If you have time, roast the peach or nectarine with a bit of maple sugar and cinnamon.

These ideas prove eating well can be affordable, fast and incorporated into a busy week.

Bon appetit!