Healthy Eating in busy homes
I am just like you. My week is busy, I often wish I could take a shortcut and sometimes I just don't feel like cooking dinner! It's funny because I remember vividly as a child, my mom begging us to tell her what to make for dinner and the three of us looking back at her with blank faces while she looked at us tortuously. Now I get it!! I love to cook, by now, you know it is one of the ways I find my center in life. But during the week, when I am busy, cooking dinner for my family had started to feel like a chore and making it healthy seemed even harder. So I have some strategies that make it MUCH better for me and I am hoping they can help you.
1. PLAN YOUR MEALS FOR THE WEEK!
I really can't explain enough how this changed our entire week in the biggest way! We have been doing it in a disciplined way for the past few years and it is my number one tip to families in my exam room for many reasons...
- It makes grocery shopping more efficient. You go with a specific list, you know what you want and you aren't making your weekly plans while walking around the store.
- It is shown that you waste less food and water when you do this as you are more specific with your purchases and use what you buy. And what is good for our environment only helps our health in the end!
- When you know what you want and have a specific list, you are less likely to make extra purchases including all that processed food available to you when you are searching for your groceries. You are more focused and can stick to your plan.
- And most importantly, you know what you are making every day so it takes that "What should we make for dinner tonight?" torture out of the equation. It also streamlines communication between my husband and myself so when one of us gets home first, they already know what to start getting ready. Please, please try this. It will be amazing to you how much of a difference it makes.
We even made it more fun by using this cute "menu board" in our kitchen. It makes the week feel more special and fun for the whole family.
2. PREP ON ONE DAY OF THE WEEK!
I can't stress this enough! Meal prep is essential to being able to cook healthier meals on those days that seem so busy. In our home, we do it on Sundays because that's the day that works for us. But your schedule might look different and it might make more sense for you on a different day. We use that day to shop for the week, prep for some meals and even cook a meal or two if that is needed. It feels sometimes like a lot of work but it ALWAYS, ALWAYS makes the week easier and less stressful. Pick the day of the week where you have at least a few hours free to do this. Sunday is also the day before our household's busiest day. Monday is the first day of school, start of the work week for my husband and myself and my longest day at work. And so getting this out of the way helps start our week off on the right foot. Now, these prep days have become fun because our children are also helping and find it a way that they are part of the plan!
3. ROAST SOME VEGGIES ON THE PREP DAY!
Roasted vegetables are not only yummy, they are a healthy way to make vegetables. Roasted vegetables also hold up well for a few days so they don't get wilted like steamed or sautéed vegetables do in the fridge. As well, they go with EVERYTHING! I love to roast up some root vegetables like turnips or carrots as well as cauliflower, beets, broccoli etc and then they are ready to go for any meal. Put them under an egg in the morning, on a salad for lunch or as a side at dinner. Of course, I use what is seasonal at the time but there is always something yummy that you can roast no matter what time of the year. And the best part is that it is super easy and roasts in the oven while you are doing other meal prep that one day of the week. It doesn't really matter what temperature you use. The higher temperature you roast, the shorter the amount of time. I like using somewhere around 350 degrees and it depends on what I am roasting for the amount of time I need. If you use veggies that take longer to roast, remember to cut those smaller than the ones that take less time. And if you have the time and energy, you can always roast different vegetables separately to get them just perfect. The truth is I NEVER do that and they are always tasty.
4. MAKE YOUR OWN SOUP BROTH
This is something I have been doing for a long time because of three reasons.
- I like to save money and not buy store bought products when able.
- It is the easiest thing you can do in the kitchen and a strategy on my "time neutral list" which means it takes me NO more time to do this in my day ( you will see what I mean)
- And last but most importantly(!), homemade food is always better than buying processed food that has so much sodium, preservatives and sugar (!) added.
It may sound hard but it is honestly the easiest thing I do. All the food scraps you would normally put in your compost (hopefully you are composting!) now go in a large ziploc bag or container and then in your freezer. Your onion, shallot, garlic peels, carrot tops, celery, all those herbs going bad in your fridge. Just keep out strong things like asparagus or beets that will overpower the whole thing. You just wait until it's full and put it all in a pot with water covering it (it's that simple, no measurements necessary) and bring to a boil. After that, I simmer it for whatever time I have. The longer you simmer, the richer the taste. You can get all fancy and add fresh herbs or roasted vegetables or mushrooms (if you like mushroom stock because it will take over the flavor) but you don't need to. I usually do this process of making the stock while I am cooking something else so it's no extra work for me. Just to note, I don't salt it when I make it so I can use it anytime and salt it as needed. This is also great for my son who has to limit salt intake due to medications (have you looked at how much sodium is in those store bought stocks?!) Then I keep it in the freezer if I don't know when I am going to use it or in the fridge if I am using it in the next couple of days. When I started teaching food as medicine cooking classes with a wonderful chef, I was so happy to see that she teaches the same technique and as simply as I do. On a busy night you could put the stock on the stove with some vegetables, potatoes, beans and make a one pot healthy soup as well. I also always add some fresh ginger, garlic, turmeric or herbs to my soup broth when I use it to give it that extra anti-inflammatory goodness.
I have so much gratitude for these strategies.
They help our home to be less hectic during a busy week.
And less chaos gives us more calm.
Let me know how these tips help you. And remember if and when the week unravels anyway, you are only human. Have compassion for yourself, none of us get this perfect all the time. We just have good intentions and try our best. The more you use habits diligently, the more you will see that you are reaching your goal more of the time. Share your favorite tips with me too!