If you don’t have laundry to do, there are groceries to buy. If you aren’t vacuuming, you’re picking up toys. If you aren’t dropping someone off, you’re picking them up. If there aren’t dishes in the sink, there’s a little one in the bath, needing to be cleaned. Sound familiar? From making meals to planning play dates, a mom’s work never ends. But neither does the joy.
If you’re having trouble finding the joy (maybe it’s in the black hole along with missing socks and hair ties?), it’s time to shift your perspective from overworked and under-caffeinated to “less is more” – starting with meals. No, that doesn’t mean feeding your family less often or giving them foods of less quality. Let’s begin by focusing on simple, nutritious meals that aren’t time consuming, expensive and will satisfy the whole family. Sounds impossible? If you’ve got 2 minutes to spare while in the bathroom or while waiting in car line, continue reading to soak up these helpful tips and ideas that make meal prep manageable.
Everyone loves the occasional happy meal – it’s quick, convenient and keeps the kids happy (not to mention, there are no dishes to wash). But when the happy meal makes an appearance multiple nights a week, it’s time to consider the long term effects. Quite often an impulse buy, drive thru meals and snacks on the go are usually not the most nutritious choice. Nor do they have a positive impact on your child’s definition of “healthy eating.” The decisions you make day to day will turn into habits. The habits your children form now will create the foundation of future decisions. It’s important to provide your child with the foods and behaviors that will nourish them today and all their tomorrows.
Where to Begin
If you’re still reading this, congrats. You’ve already proven to yourself that healthy habits are important to you. Regardless of what your family meals look like now, small adjustments will lead to big changes in the long run. One of the most important parts of family meals is preparing foods that everyone will enjoy. While it helps to start in the early years, this is a progressive goal that takes time and patience. Let’s move toward change one day at a time, one choice at a time and one meal at a time.
The Action Plan
Some of the most successful meals I’ve experienced with Clancy are also the simplest. Admittedly, I’m not a great planner. I don’t necessarily scroll through Pinterest every Sunday, bookmarking meals for the week and creating a grocery list (albeit those are great ideas and props to you if that’s part of your routine). The goal is to create a routine that is attainable and sustainable.
In the gym, your squat, push-up and lunge are 3 very basic moves. That’s because they’re effective. Sure it’s fine to spice things up now and then with different variations of these moves or new equipment. But if a 10 ingredient recipe that requires 2 bowls, 3 spoons, a baking sheet and a hand mixer is scarier than a morning without coffee, it’s unlikely you’ll sustain those routines. I’ve shared some of our MVPs (Most Valuable Products) below, along with some ideas to inspire you. By incorporating real foods, that both you and your littles enjoy, you’ll save time, money and stress.
- Chickpea pasta. While I don’t necessarily believe in “tricking” your child to eat beans or veggies (or other healthy foods), there’s something incredible about chickpea pasta. It’s high in fiber, protein and is much more nutritious than your standard flour based pasta. There are a variety of options available including fun shapes and mac and cheese mixes.
- Veggies Made Great muffins. Great as a stand alone product, these muffins come in a variety of flavors (they most recently launched Cinnamon Roll Muffin and it’s delish!) that feature veggies as the first ingredient. They’re gluten free and rich in protein while containing very little sugar. Clancy and I enjoy eating these alone, but they’re also yummy topped with peanut butter or dipped in yogurt.
- Oatmeal. Usually served at breakfast, this is one of Clancy’s favorite meals. Cooked with almond milk, I tend to add chia seeds or flaxseeds. From there, I’ll add banana, blueberries or raspberries along with a nut butter. And sometimes I’ll top it with some yogurt as well. Can’t beat this fiber rich meal that provides satiety and a variety of nutrients.
- Quinoa. While the stove top variety can be quite messy, there are also quinoa cups that can be a meal in themselves…or added to beans, plant based meat crumbles, ricotta cheese or hummus. I’ve found that hummus or ricotta are excellent “assistants” for keeping foods like quinoa or rice on the spoon.
- Avocado. This creamy, high fat fruit is also an excellent food to pair with something like quinoa or rice. I’ll add some low sodium taco seasoning as well for flavor and a Tex-Mex flair! Clancy also enjoys eating it on toast.
- Greek yogurt. One of my personal faves, Greek yogurt provides a lot of protein and is easy to feed the littlest of littles. Since I buy the unflavored (less sugar!) variety, I’ll sometimes mix in some vanilla or chocolate protein powder.
- Black beans. Hello plant protein! Black beans contain a lot of protein, along with fiber. They’re fantastic alone or with smashed tomatoes and rice.
If you’re craving change, then it’s time to move forward and implement these new ideas in your own life. Will it be scary? Possibly. Will it happen overnight? Not likely. One of the best things about feeding heathy meals to your family is that you’re likely to eat them too. You’ll become the role model for lifelong habits that will sustain them nutritionally and will provide a healthy perspective of food. Meal time isn’t about counting corn kernels and how many bites are left. It’s about connecting with your family and providing an atmosphere that encourages growth and creates a strong foundation for the future.