No, this is not about why you should be vegan, or organic, or not eat a slice of cake for breakfast. I am a mom of twins, and a college student on the side. I get it, you guys. It is so hard to make healthy choices when your one year olds refuse to eat that single piece of broccoli left on their plate.
I have been a Nutrition Sciences major for 3 months now, and have already learned so many things that apply to my everyday life. I am in a unique situation. I’m not just a college student, taking in information and storing it for later; I am not just a new mom, wondering how to feed my children in a way that will kickstart a healthy life. I am both, and I have a few tips that are easy ways to
make, uh, encourage your family to eat healthy!
1. Meal prep
I know, I know, you’ve heard it before. But it’s seriously so helpful, y’all. Think about how often you plan to make delicious, home cooked meals for the entire week, only to go through the nearest drive up window because the meat didn’t thaw in time, or you were missing a key ingredient, or that “easy” crock pot meal wasn’t so easy because you forgot to hit “start”? Been there, done that. I plan on a week-by-week basis, keeping in mind my family’s schedule, so that I know exactly what I need to shop for, what meat to pull out of the freezer, etc. I am taking an idea out of “A Simplified Life” by Emily Ley (a must read!) when I say you should make a rough weekly plan. Here’s mine:
- Meat Monday (pork chops, beef roast, steak, or some meat we wouldn’t usually buy)
- Taco Tuesday (so many variations to choose from: hard/soft shells, refried/black/pinto beans, chicken/beef…)
- Vegetarian Wednesday (shhhhh, this one is a secret from my husband. I call it “rice and beans” night, because the word “vegetarian” will make him run to the nearest steakhouse)
- Breakfast Thursday (biscuits & gravy, pancakes, eggs & toast, waffles)
- Chicken Friday (chicken pot pie, cajun chicken fettuccini, BBQ chicken, and white chicken chili are some family favorites)
- Leftovers Saturday (or if there are no leftovers…sometimes a “go out” meal is okay)
- Soup Sunday (uses up any veggies that are going bad, meat bones if there are any, and is also great for lunches later in the week)
2. Don’t be afraid of fresh produce
Fresh fruits and veggies are so good for you and your children, mamas. Many people don’t eat enough, and I think it’s partially due to two huge gaps in our knowledge: how to pick out good produce at the grocery store, and then how to keep it fresh at home.
- Some basic guidelines for choosing fruits: avoid pits/dents/dark spots/bruises on surface, sour smells, and moisture (on berries). Look for nice even-colored surfaces, heavy fruits (this indicates they are juicy!) and a pleasant smell from melons.
- Vegetables are a bit harder, because there is so much variation. In general, you want vibrant & even coloring, and a firm surface.
- As for storage, don’t throw all your produce in the fridge when you get home! Tomatoes, potatoes, onions, melons, apples, garlic, and bananas should stay at room temperature.
- For berries and leafy greens, wash them when you get home and then dry them thoroughly. Then store those greens in an airtight container with paper towels to absorb the moisture that would otherwise create those nasty-smelling shriveled up leaves. Tearing (instead of cutting) your lettuce will also keep it from browning as quickly.
- To keep things like celery and carrots crisp, cut off the stalks, wrap in a wet paper towel, then wrap in foil.
- Store your herbs in a jar of water, like a flower bouquet, and then covered with a plastic bag.
3. Grocery shop often
It is so much easier to cook healthy meals when you buy fresh produce and meat each week. I also save money by doing this, because I am much less likely to buy ready-made meals or desserts!
4. Keep reasonable goals
Instead of trying to follow a certain diet or count my children’s calories, I choose to aim for feeding my family whole foods. Lots of veggies, fruit, lean meat, low fat dairy, and whole grains. We try new foods all the time to avoid ruts, and minimize waste by eating leftovers for lunch, storing produce properly, and serving our food in courses. We start with the vegetable (because who wants to eat steamed broccoli when there is a delicious smoked chicken breast right beside it?) and save sweets as a special treat a few nights a week.