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4 Tips to Eat Healthy While Juggling Work, Family and Back-to-School
03, September 2014 11:31 AM

Back-to-school time usually means back to harried schedules that add homework and soccer practice into an already compressed evening for working parents. Making time for healthy meals and exercise can be overwhelming. No wonder that 60% of Americans say with all that they juggle, they only want to spend about 15 minutes prepping meals (see the full infographic from Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics). 

easy family dinnersAs a busy working mom, I make healthy eating a priority for me and my family, but I don't have hours to dedicate to the endeavor. Since having twins six years ago, I have learned some tips to make the evenings run smoothly while still getting everyone to eat healthy dinners. While the best tip I was ever given was to follow Ellyn Satter's Division of Responsibility, if you are already doing that, here are my top tips that will hopefully make your evening healthier and happier. 

1. Stock and rely on your pantry and freezer. 

When you are busy, you will eat what is around the house or resort to ordering in or using the drive-thru. By stocking your pantry and freezer with some basic staples (use our Staples Shopping List), you can rest assured that there will always be something to pull together at the last-minute. In my house, that often looks like tortillas, cheese, a can of beans for quesadillas or burritos served with vegetables from the freezer; whole wheat bread, tomato, deli ham and cheese for a quick grilled sandwich. 

2. Concentrate on a main dish and choose easy sides

If I do have some time to put into crafting a more-complicated main dish, I go with very easy side dishes to round out the meal and make sure all five food groups are present. (This also comes back to tip #1.) Baby carrots, frozen peas or a cucumber sliced with rice vinegar often constitutes our veggie. Already-cooked frozen brown rice, five-minute couscous or toasted whole wheat bread offers a grain. Fruit grabbed from the bowl on our counter hits that food group. Pouring glasses of milk feels like the easiest one of all. 

3. Take a few minutes to plan and rotate through family favorites

Each weekend, I take a few minutes to scratch out a meal plan for the week. I make my grocery list at the same time and think ahead about what nights we have commitments. I also determine whether I need to do some batch-cooking on Sunday to get us through the week, or if I should pick up a roasted chicken from the supermarket that can easily be added to a salad, quesadilla or served alongside pasta. 

I used to get stuck in this planning phase, trying to remember the meals that are quick and the family enjoys eating. I'd find myself flipping through cookbooks and searching online and my few minutes of planning turned into an hour or more. Getting organized and keeping track of your go-to meals or quick recipes is essential for making this part of the healthy eating process easier. I have been keeping mine on Pinterest. Try this Pinterest board for some of my favorite easy, family recipes and ideas. 

4. Know when to fold 'em

I used to feel guilty about the nights when life had gotten too hectic and the trip to the grocery store didn't happen as I'd planned so I resorted to serving my kids a bowl of cereal or yogurt with granola for dinner. But you know what? They love those nights and so do I. We still gather round the table, I set out some fruit to go with it, and we are having a well-balanced meal with a lot of nutrients. Dishes are a snap and we all get a moment to take a collective breath. I can't think of anything healthier than that.

What are some of your tips for juggling work, home and busy evenings with eating healthy?

LeAnne R. Ruzzamenti
@leanneruzz




Tags: back to school family meals Healthy eating healthy kids LeAnne Ruzzamenti
Categories: categoryHealthy Eating

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