Balancing healthy, nutritious food with busy family life is one of the toughest daily challenges parents face. Getting a delicious, balanced meal on the table every night of the week is hard for most of us. Time is precious, and convenience food is so readily available, it’s no wonder that, even with the best intentions, parents end up cutting corners now and then.
The good news is that less cooking and shopping time doesn’t mean you have to compromise on the nutrition you offer your family.
Here are five ways to save precious time for your babies, get them eating better, and help them stay within the normal height and weight for kids:
1. Plan ahead
Sit down one day every week and plan a week’s worth of meals, including packed lunches and breakfast and snack options. Then do just one shopping trip.
This has one enormous benefit for your family, aside from saving shopping time: You can check the nutritional balance of your meals over the week.
You can see clearly whether you meet the suggestions of nutrition advisors: Does your meal plan provide enough lean protein, dairy, fish and a variety of fruit and vegetables over the week? Are there too many treats? Tweak your plan as necessary, then feel content that you’ve got a week’s worth of healthy eating in the bag already.
Don’t forget to keep your plans safe. Once you’ve made a few different weeks’ worth of those, you can reuse each plan plenty of times, saving you even more time.
2. Batch cook, don’t take out
This is a tried and tested method of getting a nutritious and delicious family meal on the table in a matter of minutes. Pasta sauces, lasagnas, casseroles, soups and curries are the ideal types of meals that can be cooked in double, triple or even quadruple quantities. Freeze in portions so you always have something ready for another day.
Think of batch cooking as the healthy alternative to takeout. A collection of batch-cooked meals in the freezer can be really useful. For example, you can easily defrost and reheat your frozen meal when you come home too late to cook from scratch. You can have a hearty, healing soup ready in minutes when one of your children suddenly comes down sick. And perhaps best of all, you have something filling and comforting to eat even when you’ve been up all night with baby and just can’t face cooking at all!
3. Focus more on breakfast…
Lots of families prioritize eating a nutritious evening meal, but then often forget how vital a good breakfast is. Research has shown time and time again how vital breakfast is for brain performance over the day, and for keeping up energy levels.
Those who start the day well are less likely to look for quick, unhealthy fixes later in the morning. Including more protein from eggs or dairy products will help you feel full for longer, too.
But if you’re reading this, you probably don’t want to increase time spent preparing food.
Keeping well stocked with simple, quick-to-prepare but nutritious breakfast items is the way forward. Ideal foods include:
- Whole-grain bread for toast
- Cereals with no added sugar
- A stock of hard-boiled eggs in the fridge
- Plenty of fresh, canned or dried fruit
- Milk and yogurts
- Fresh fruit juice
Eating a combination of these each day is best.
4. … and the same goes for lunch, too!
So many busy working mamas rush lunch, or perhaps skip it altogether. However, it really is important for keeping energy levels up and ensuring your body gets enough nutrients, which is particularly important for breastfeeding mothers. You’ll also feel less hungry when you walk through the door at night, meaning you’re less likely to snack before dinner or overeat in the evening.
A perfect working lunch is one that is super-fast to prepare, and can be eaten quickly, or in stages. The classic sandwich is ideal; you can add salad and vegetables to chicken or egg, for example, to make a really quick balanced meal. By cutting it up into smaller portions, you can grab a piece when you have the chance.
5. Pick your snacks from the health aisle
Lastly, everyone needs snacks that they can just grab and go, but chips or candy aren’t the ideal choices, as you know.
For a healthy alternative, try looking in the health food aisle for bags of nut and seed mixes, or dried fruit. These can be bought in snack size portions, or you can divide up value bags yourself. You can stash these snacks where you nurse baby, in work or school bags, in the car, or in your desk drawer.