So I guess if I had to label myself I would say I’m a part-time registered dietitian, wife and mom of one beautiful daughter with another one on the way. I could also add daughter, sister, aunt, house manager and all-around-Ms-Fix-It. Whether you are a WAHM, SAHM or traditional working mom, one thing is undoubtably common to us all – we are all beyond busy and could use a break when it comes to meal planning and feeding our family. Thus I wanted to dedicate a blog during National Nutrition Month (NNM) to busy moms that included some useful tips to make mealtime a little more like “a day at the beach” and a little less like “Grand Central Station”. Here are some of my tips to help busy moms feed their family healthy MyPlate meals, help fuel their day and set a good example for their children.
- DO plan your meals and shopping in advance. I’m an uber planner, but I totally get if you are not. I’m generally not going to push my calendar-driven, iPhone-managed, list-making life on you; however, if you want to eat healthy and feed your family healthy meals, you have to plan in advance. This means having a plan when you go to the grocery store. At the very least you need to know what meals you are going to make that week and what ingredients you need to pull that off. I use an iPhone app to track my grocery list, but yours might be paper or even just mental. It’s key that you know what you are doing ahead of time so you can prep between phone calls or when the baby is napping instead of staring into your refrigerator or freezer right before dinner and praying for inspiration.
- DO take healthy short-cuts. I love to make my own baby food, pasta sauce and even bread, but let’s be real, that is not happening for every meal, 7 days a week. I take short-cuts, but I try to make them as well-informed as possible. I buy jarred pasta sauce (I like Newman’s Own Organic Tomato Basil Sauce and if I have time I add in fresh mushrooms, bell peppers and olives). I buy frozen vegetables so I always have broccoli, peas, sweet potatoes and mixed vegetables on hand. I even buy some processed foods like turkey meatballs, falafel and breaded chicken breasts that I can keep in the freezer. All you have to do is take the time to read the ingredient list and find ones that are minimally processed, lower in sodium and generally have ingredients you recognize as food. Take the time to do it once, find your “brand” and then it’s automatic.
- DO cook in batches. I make lasagna, chili, pasta and enchiladas like I’m feeding an army. Buy yourself some freezer-safe glassware or disposal aluminum trays and make at least double the quantity so you have enough left over to pack in kid’s lunches, have for lunch or dinner the next day and most importantly, freeze you so you just pull something out of the freezer when you are rushed or plain exhausted. You’ll want to label it with a name, freeze date and maybe some quick re-heat instructions. You might also want to keep an inventory list by your fridge so you know what you have in your downstairs freezer and you can take fully advantage of your precious emergency stash.
- DO dust off your slow cooker and make casseroles your friend. When I was single, I may have been know to turn my nose up at a slow cooker and casserole, but we have been reacquainted and are now official “besties” in my busy-mom-working-married life. Casseroles are great because you can prep them ahead of time, freeze them for later and toss in lot of vegetables to feed your family healthy. Slow cookers are great for many of the same reasons and they let you make large batches and develop hearty flavors while the meal simmers all day. There are so many books and websites dedicated to just casserole and slow cooker recipes including MyPlate on Pintrest. I urge you to experiment and find your family’s next favorite dishes.
- DO come up with your family’s staples meals – Have a few staple meals that you can always turn to when you have put off grocery shopping for an extra few days or just come back from vacation. These are staples because you always have the ingredients on hand and they are generally not perishable or have a long shelf life. This can be tuna, veggie and cheese macaroni because you have veggies in the freezer and a pouch of tuna and box of macaroni and cheese in the pantry. It could also be chicken parmesan since you have frozen, breaded chicken breast and marina sauce that you can serve over pasta or maybe quinoa. Along with your staples meals goes a staple shopping list. Again, it can be mental, but something you can print out every week or two works well. You can post it on your frig, cross off the items as you run out and throw it in your purse to reference as you run through the grocery.
- DO keep healthy snacks on hand…and maybe even in the car – Errands are going to run long or your kids are going to be famished when they get home from school or you pick them up from the bus stop. Again, be prepared. Have fresh fruit, dried fruit, nuts, whole wheat crackers, yogurt, Wholly Guacamole snack packs, hummus, cheese sticks, Kind bars or easy to grab veggies like baby carrots and cherry tomatoes on hand at all times. Don’t forget to treat yourself to 2-3 snacks a day to keep your energy level going and your metabolism revved.
- DON’T be afraid to get everyone involved in the kitchen. When your kids are old enough, get them involved in meal planning, shopping and even food prep and cooking. Have them select the veggie of the night. Have them come up with an idea for “Try it Tuesday”. Have them peel potatoes, toss the salad or set the table.
- DO make it a priority to sit down as a family – I know this is a hard one with crazy work schedules and sports practices, but it’s critical that you pick a few meals a week to sit down as a family. It doesn’t always have to be dinner. Find a time that works for your family and have everyone commit to making it a priority. If it’s not a priority, I guarantee it will be overcome by events. This is important so you can prepare a meal as a family, sit down at a table and talk about your day. Your family is invested in the meal, they see you eat healthy, home cooked meals and they follow suit.
- DO KISS – And like this last point, Keep it Simple Silly ;-). Find recipes with 5 ingredient or less or take 10-20 minutes to prep.
Here are some quick and healthy Busy Mom MyPlate recipes and ideas that you can try out on your family:
- Ultimate Turkey and Spinach Lasagna
- Chicken Broccoli Crunch from Meal Makeover Moms
- Sweet and Heart Beef Stew from Meal Makeover Moms
- Choose from the plethora of Superfast Kid Friendly Recipes from Cooking Light
- Find other favorites from Recipes for Busy Moms from MyRecipe.com
You don’t have to be a gourmet chef to feed your family healthy meals, but you do have to plan ahead, make it a family priority and find a groove that works for your family.
Are you a busy mom who strives to feed their family healthy meals? Share your favorite time-saving tip or favorite family recipe to inspire the rest of us.