Sometimes, as a wife and mother, I feel like I’ve got the never-ending to-do list—keep the kids alive and well-fed, don’t forget to exercise, get dinner on the table, handle that pile of laundry on the guest bed, spend time with the hubs, take a shower if you’re lucky, and try to get some sleep. I know the daily grind can be exhausting. And many times, staying balanced in terms of eating healthy can often be overlooked. By making a few changes, (if you’re not doing them already), your actions can become habits and you’ll have one less thing on your to do list to stress about: eat healthy, check
One of the simplest improvements you can make in your lifestyle is to add in vegetables. I remember talking to my friend recently and she made a comment in passing about how they don’t eat many veggies at their house—like at all. She said “my kids just don’t like them.” Clearly, she’s not much in favor of them either because they don’t make an appearance at her house very often. My Dietitian heart broke for them because in my older years, I’ve learned to appreciate veggies, for how they taste, how they make me feel, and what they’re doing for my bod. So, if my friend sounds like you, take a step back, and get ready to do something outside of your comfort zone:
Step 1- Hang out in the produce section, and pick out 3 veggies. Buy them.
Step 2- When you get home, assess the veggies. If it’s celery, wash those bad boys, cut them up, and store them in Tupperware. The last thing I want to do is cut up fruits and veggies after unloading groceries, but by making them more accessible to you and your family, you’ll be more successful in actually eating them.
Step 3- When bringing any sort of produce into the house, it’s important to have a plan for them. Will I eat these for lunch? Is this for dinner Monday night?—you don’t want them to get lost in the “special” drawer or hidden by leftovers as the week ends. If it’s not something you can prep immediately, decide when and how you will prepare them and do it: if it’s brussel sprouts you brought home, pick a recipe and go for it. (This is one of my favs: https://keviniscooking.com/roasted-brussels-sprouts-balsamic-vinegar-honey/).
Step 4- Eat the veggies and encourage your little ones to do the same. The rule in our house is that you have to try everything on your plate. You don’t have to eat it all, but putting your tongue on it does not count (insert eye roll emoji). Children’s taste buds are still developing, and one day, they may just say “hey, I like this.” If you tried a new recipe and you didn’t like it, try another one. Eat veggies, check.
Speaking of our little ones, I know of friends who resort to frozen chicken nuggets and hot dogs for easy dinners for their children because “that is all they will eat”. I’ll never judge you for being the mom that is exhausted and too tired to put dinner on the table, but I will encourage you to not give up just because you think your child won’t eat it. If you’re already making yourself something healthy and awesome, don’t sell your kid short—encourage them to take a bite. I have seen my babies go from garbage disposals who will eat anything to “this is green, I won’t touch it”. But I haven’t given up on them, and I refuse to let frozen chicken nuggets win. They may not like everything I make, but they do have some healthy favorites and I wouldn’t have known that without offering it to them. If I’m roasting veggies for dinner, I will put them on their plate, but I also give them frozen broccoli (or peas, or green beans) because I know they like them and will eat them, and there’s not much easier than heating up some frozen veggies. Another tasty and simple option is a sweet potato. I haven’t met many kids who don’t like sweet potatoes and they are one of the easiest foods to prepare. Pop that spud in the oven and an hour later you’ve got yourself a nutrient-rich, kid-friendly food (hopefully). It might take a little bit of effort, but by letting your children explore foods, you’re winning. Offer your littles ALL the foods, check.
Now, maybe you’re that mom who is eating the chicken nuggets and hot dogs, too, because you don’t have time to think about what is for dinner. Meal planning can be one of the most challenging things, but it’s also very easy to improve upon. Every Saturday, I write down the meals we’re going to have that week. I use the format of main dish, vegetable, and side and I run with it. If I’m really hungry, I’m usually more successful in my planning efforts, but sometimes I sit there and just mull over the chore. While it’s not always fun, it’s purposeful. I only have to go to the store one time that week, and I know what we are having every day, which makes my life somewhat easier. So, if you aren’t doing this, try it. If you need inspiration, look on Pinterest or get that old cookbook out of the cupboard. Once you get into the routine of planning your meals, it really does become second nature. Plan your meals, check.
Planning meals is the first step, but executing them is just as difficult. If I don’t prep dinner during the babes’ naptime, there is no dinner. That’s why knowing what I will have that day is so valuable. If we’re doing tacos and roasted cauliflower, I cut up the cauliflower and lay it on the pan; then I’ll prep the toppings for the tacos (lots of chopping), and I’ll get all the pots and pans out that I’ll be using. Or, if we’re having spaghetti with a salad, I’ll make the sauce—don’t freak out, this recipe is so easy, but using a jar is completely acceptable— http://reallifedinner.com/amazing-spaghetti-sauce/ (it’s just as good without the sausage). Then, I will get the noodles out of the cupboard and place them on the stove, and I’ll make the salad. Meal prep is a priority in my house so other things have to take a backseat—like the laundry, but there is no way I would be able to spend an hour prepping and cooking right before dinnertime. My little ones are “hangry” when dinner is creeping up, and I imagine your struggle is the same. While you have your short, oh so short, moments of free time during the day, the last thing you may want to do is meal prep, but it can easily become a habit that gives you and the fam healthy, happy bellies. If you don’t have the “luxury” of staying at home, I know your struggle is even greater. I would recommend waking up a few minutes earlier to attempt some meal prep (easier said than done), or make Sunday your meal prep day where you do whatever you can in advance to help get your dinners on the table in a smoother fashion. Prep meals ahead of time, check.
Remember, you can’t be on your A-game all the time and one week you might throw away a bunch of moldy veggies while the next you eat like a nutrition goddess. Slowly incorporate some changes, add a little prep to your life, and in time, the planning, prepping, and eating healthy will be second nature. Stay balanced, check, check, check.