Thursday, March 29, 2012

Healthy Eating Tips for REALLY Busy People

We recently had a Momentum team meeting that took us on a tangent for a particularly vexing problem for all busy families: how do you get nutritious, convenient food in your busy lifestyle? My business partners felt a bit overwhelmed after hearing from an excellent nutritionist speaker at a recent event.

I totally get the overwhelm factor, and for us this has been 5+ years in the making. And the caveat is that I still love my Five Guys and Chipotle, but they're treats, not a daily occurrence. But the odd thing is, the healthier you eat, the more you crave more healthy food. Your taste buds change, you become more aware of how much better you all feel with better fuel for a busier lifestyle.

It started out when we began to discover food allergies and sensitivities in our boys, and has spread as we became more conscious about what we were eating. I am sure a trained nutritionist or environmentalist might look at my steps as falling short of ideal, but to really make this work in real life I think it makes sense to just break it down into smaller steps as you become more conscious about what you're buying, and thus eating. Pick one thing and just keep it in mind as you're strolling the grocery aisles, even if you don't always stick to it you're more aware. And bottom line, you (parents) bring food into the house. If you skip the junk for your pantry, when the kiddos have it at a birthday party it's a treat and not really a big deal in the long run.

For us, the steps went something like (but every family's goals are different):
  • Stop buying food with high fructose corn syrup. Hint, any organic food won't have this, so that's an easy cheat, but you really have to limit processed and packaged foods.
  • Eliminate red food dye. Buy organic ketchup, skip the Spiderman gummy snacks, buy nitrate-free turkey hot dogs.
  • Buy organic if it's reasonably affordable and easy. ALWAYS with eggs, mostly with chicken, typically with tree fruit and root veggies. There are a dozen lists of what to buy organic, this is just the simplest for us.
  • Keep it really simple. This was our nutritionist's advice when she banned dairy, soy, and eggs (in addition to the peanut allergy. "None of that casserole crap. Grilled chicken, steamed salmon on the stove top, fresh fruits and veggies for every meal."
  • Prep Work! You have to make it as convenient as grabbing a baggie of Goldfish. I make the veggie/fruit tray part of the evening kitchen routine. Pack lunches, make coffee, start the dishwasher and replenish the crudite tray. That way if we're having Bus stop happy hour or running out the door to lax practice, I just grab that container and nibble on it when we go. I set it out while I'm cooking or warming up dinner so the first thing my hungry boys eat is fresh fruits and veggies. I usually have carrots, celery with sunflower seed butter (get it from Trader Joes, $5/har, less sugar and fat than peanut butter and more protein and fiber), sugar snap peas, cucumbers, red pepper strips, basically whatever's on sale that week. Same thing for fruit, whatever's on sale, strawberries "with a hair cut" (as my 4 year old says), washed grapes, sliced apples. If you want to slice apples in advance and keep them from browning, use the slicer/corer thing but LEAVE IT ON THE CORE and wrap a rubber band around it so the "meat" of the apple doesn't oxidize.
  • Make your own to go dips. Kids love to dip darn near anything. It's not the most earth-friendly option but I haven't found reusable dipping containers small enough I buy the pack of 100 plastic disposable dip/top containers at the party store (like you get in a to go box from a restaurant) and reuse them when I can. I put in organic ranch, white bean dip, hummus or sunflower seed butter. When I make a batch I put a few dozen in the fridge so they're ready to grab and go. Sunbutter and an apple to "peel" off when sliced and dipped? That's a good time. Messy in my car, but that's why I have a 7 yr old minivan!


Anonymous said...

SOUP! It's filling, comforting, nutritious, and easy to make in big batches for freezing. Split pea, lentil, Italian wedding, Brunswick stew, beef/vegetable, chili, chickpea: these are staples in our house that you can pair with corn muffins or whole grain bread. I can't tell you how many mornings I take out a container for that night's dinner. Or pull out frozen and simmer on low with a little bit of water. You are right. When healthy is not on hand, it's too easy to make bad choices.

Jessica McKenzie Peterson said...

I LOVE this post! My family and I are also very busy and healthy eaters. It's so true about doing the prep work in advance ---- one of the most simple ways to ensure your family eats healthy, but not always the easiest to do, of course. Thanks for the tip about sunflower seed butter - our son is 1 so it's time to try some, great idea! Thank you for writing a great post about a topic that's close to my heart. said...

As a wellness & life coach and someone who has studied nutrition five ways to Sunday, I can say you are right on target with your healthy eating tips. If your readers simply followed the 1st tip faithfully, "stop buying food with high fructose corn syrup," they'd go a long way toward improving the health of their family.

Another good resource for ideas is the nutritious snack recipe flip cards called Boddler Bites, I didn't write the flip book, but wish I had! It is filled with smart, easy ways to make nutritious snacks for young children.