We’re pretty intentional about eating for health in our house and we like to keep it manageable and uncomplicated. I often get asked about how we eat, and for recipes. Recently, quite a few mums have suggested that I share some of my tips here on the blog. So, here we are!
I want to stress that this isn’t a debate on which type of diet is best. That is totally your choice to make for yourself. We choose to eat a primarily refined sugar free, plant based diet because we feel that is best for us. But, I also love a high tea and my mum’s chicken rice. No matter what your diet, you’ll find tips you can use here.
First, some tips from an expert
Since I’m not a nutritionist, I thought it would be valuable to bring you some tips from an expert! So, I invited Dietician and Nutritionist, Kathryn Hawkins, to share her top 3 tips for eating well as a busy mum. Here’s what she had to say:
2. Plan snacks as much as you plan meals
3. Don’t be afraid to have eggs on toast one night a week for dinner!
How I make healthy eating easier
And now, here are the ways that I make healthy eating easier and more enjoyable in my household.
1. Only buy foods that nourish you
You’ll eat what’s in your house, so don’t buy the foods you don’t want to be eating. If other family members want particular foods that you want to avoid, buy smaller quantities and don’t replenish them early if they run out. You could also ask them to store the food where it isn’t easily accessible or visible to you. My dad always hid his chocolate in his study so no one else would eat it!
Try to buy fresh, raw foods as much as you can. I steer clear of highly processed, packaged food that doesn’t give me the sustained energy or nutrients I need. Of course, it’s totally ok to buy a pre-prepared meal to help save your sanity sometimes! But if you struggle to find time to eat, make sure what you do eat is as nutrient dense as possible.
As Kathryn suggested, I meal plan and then grocery shop once a week. This helps me avoid buying extras at the shops midweek and also ensures we are never short of healthy options. Repeat easy, favourite meals to keep things simple and reduce the brain power required. Cook meals that require less effort – I love soups, salads, slow cooked meals and 1 pan oven baked meals.
Also, don’t grocery shop when you’re hungry, because you’ll be much more likely to come home with the food you don’t want to be eating!
2. Stock up on lots of healthy snacks and always pack one for yourself
When I meal plan, I also plan snacks. Most weeks, I prepare 1 thing that requires work (healthy muffins, cookies, bliss balls, veggie slice, muesli bars). I make extra and freeze some. Then, I make sure we buy plenty of fresh, healthy, easy snacks such as fruit, vegetables (mini ones are really easy!) and raw nuts. You can make healthy eating easier by pre-cutting veggies into sticks and keeping them in containers in the fridge, ready to be eaten.
As I mentioned, I’m a fan of always carrying snacks. You probably already do this for your children. So, when you pack your children’s snacks, pack one for you too.
Find an healthier alternative for snacks that you know you will crave. Rather than depriving yourself altogether, you might like to cut back on the treats and for the rest of the time, substitute something else. For example, when I feel like something sweet, I find a medjool date very satisfying.
3. Veggies, veggies, veggies
To boost the nutrients you’re eating, include vegetables in as many snacks, meals and drinks as possible. I love to start our day well with veggies in our breakfast! My son loves pancakes, so I often make spinach pancakes (zucchini and carrot also work well) and I also have veggies on toast.
I add some fresh veggies to almost every snack. When I make fruit salad, I often add cucumber or sweet baby tomatoes. I often take a container of raw cut vegetables when we go out; it’s great when hunger strikes unexpectedly or to supplement a cafe meal that’s light on veggies. In winter, I make a big pot of vegetable and legume soup every week, which we eat for one dinner and multiple lunches. In summer, we have lots of salads. We aim to buy and eat a veggie rainbow!
Smoothies are pretty popular right now and for good reason! They are a really great way to quickly boost your vegetable intake. We regularly load our smoothies with baby spinach or kale and cucumber. I also like a bit of broccoli or avocado! Add some fruit (we use a combination of fresh and frozen fruit to make the smoothies thicker), some liquid (our favourites are coconut or almond milk, or coconut water) and some extras like LSA, flaxmeal, chia seeds and nut butters. Add a protein powder or greens booster if you want. If you want to make smoothies really easy, put all your ingredients (except the liquid) for each smoothie in a snap lock bag or other container and freeze them. Then you just have to take out the bag, add liquid and blend.
Do you find that you are often hungry while you’re preparing dinner (the kids might be too!)? This is a great opportunity to eat more vegetables. I often cut up some fresh veggies for my son and I to snack on while I’m cooking. That way, we’re not getting hangry and we’re eating something that contributes to a healthy dinner.
4. Eat regularly, when you’re hungry
We often don’t listen to our body’s hunger signals but this really is one of the best skills for making healthy eating easier. Your body tells you when it needs fuel to function and when it doesn’t need any more.
If you’re struggling to find time to eat at all, take any opportunity to start with! I find I need to eat every 2-3 hours. My son does too, so makes it easier. If your child is eating regularly, or even breastfeeding regularly, try eating at those times too, so you don’t have to find another time to eat. Grab your pre-prepared snacks from the kitchen or store them where you’ll find yourself most of the time – where you breastfeed, where you prepare your kids’ food, in the playroom, etc. Keep water handy too – in your bag, on the kitchen counter, in the playroom. Make it visible to remind you to stay hydrated.
Try to avoid letting yourself get so hungry that you just want to eat everything in sight. When we’re starving, we don’t always make the best food choices.
5. Eat healthy food most of the time
Food is meant to be enjoyable and so our approach to healthy eating allows us to enjoy some treats. I make sure the things I eat regularly and all home cooked meals are healthy. Then when I’m out, I’m free to enjoy a dessert or whatever meal I want. Perfection is not required, lovely, so don’t beat yourself up for having that piece of cake once in awhile! Just continue with your healthy choices at the next opportunity.
I always suggest looking at all the things you eat on a regular basis and where necessary, start swapping them for healthier options one by one. You don’t have to change everything at once. Try swapping out one or two things per week. You’ll get the biggest impact, by starting with the things you eat daily.
I think it’s worth mentioning that there are many breakfast foods that are pretty much devoid of any nutritional value, so try to get your day off to a good start with healthy and filling breakfast, such as oats, eggs or chia pudding. Some of these can be prepared the night before (and in batches for more than one day) to make the morning rush easier. Take a smoothie with you if you don’t have time to eat before you leave the house.
To help us eat well at lunchtime, I cook extra for dinner (it takes almost the same amount of time) and simply heat the leftovers for lunch the next day. Easy and delicious.
6. Find support and inspiration
As with most things, you don’t need to do this alone. Healthy eating is much easier if your family is on board but if they aren’t, then you can still ask for their support in reducing the amount of food you don’t want to be eating in the house, and trying new foods together. In some cases, when you take the lead and make the choice, they will learn to like it also.
Find friends who make healthy eating easier and ask them how they do it. Ask people for their recipes when you try or see something you like. I’ve found many of my favourite recipes that way. Even cafes are a good source of inspiration! I have often taken a photo of a smoothie description so I can try to recreate it at home!
Making healthy eating easier is a long term game with long term benefits for you and your family. We just need to make it simpler so it can fit into mum life.
Make one small change at a time and make it stick, lovely mum. Don’t give up when you experience a setback and tune into your body to notice the impact of your efforts.
What’s the first small change you will make to make healthy eating easier for you?