It happens all the time – a point at which all your work obligations as well as your children’s extracurricular activities, drop-offs and pick-ups all unify so perfectly to culminate in a hectic mess of a week where you’d just rather spread out on the couch and order pizza every night. As if trying to eat healthy on your own is not hard enough, you’re now responsible for your entire family, regardless how depleted your energy levels are. We get it. Preparing healthy, balanced meals for the whole family is challenging. The only way to tackle it, considering that we can’t make days last longer, is by using these smart hacks that will save you time and energy, without compromising the quality and healthfulness of your meals.
Make sure you’re well stocked
For larger families, even weekly trips to the grocery store aren’t enough. If you’re always well stocked on fresh seasonal produce, it’s much easier to get the whole family in the habit of snacking on fruits and veggies rather than packaged, processed snacks. Keep a log and always write down what you need to buy, the moment you see you need it. Stock up on all the staples such as canned foods that you can use in main dishes and salads, and that way, you’ll never get in the problem of having no idea what to make. When there are things around, you can always load them in a slow cooker and make a delicious, healthy stew to warm everyone’s heats and stomachs.
Cook in batches
This is the single most important piece of advice to anyone who’s not really up for preparing dinner every single day after work. Reserve a day of the weekend or any other time that you’re free and prepare a couple of meals that can last all week – or meals that can be frozen and eaten months later. Store them away in containers and serve them throughout the week. They’re also great for taking to work as leftovers, so you’ll be sure you’re eating healthy lunches as well. always cook more than you need – with containers, refrigerators and freezers, nothing will go to waste, and you’ll be delighted to have something to just pop in the oven for ten minutes on the most hectic of days. You don’t have to prepare entire dinners; for example, you can just prepare a large amount of meat and add fresh vegetables in meals throughout the week. That way, you’ll always have variety and won’t get tired of eating the same thing.
Prep in advance
Just prep it! There will still be some recipes for meals that need to be eaten fresh. Although simple, they sound exhausting when you’re, well, exhausted and not up for chopping veggies even. There’s a hack for that: chop everything in advance when you have time, prepare sauces if necessary, store it all in the fridge, and voila, when it’s time to cook, you just throw it in the pot/pan.
Don’t shy away from supplements
A diverse, balanced diet is an absolute must, but sometimes – mostly in the winter when there’s less fresh seasonal produce, it’s just really difficult to get all the nutrients though diet. Don’t hesitate to take multivitamins to keep your immune system strong during the flu season or any other time when you feel you could use a boost. There are supplements for children that are recommended by paediatricians for picky eaters or for times when they simply need a boost. Likewise, if you’re making an effort to keep fit and tone your body, supplements such as casein protein support lean muscle growth and help keep cravings away. Paired with exercise, supplements can be of huge help in achieving your fitness goals. Maintain a diverse diet but don’t be afraid of getting an extra boost for you or your family when there’s a need for it – all in agreement with your medical professional, of course.
Make veggies a priority
In stews, sauces, as fresh snacks, in large portions as side dishes, grilled, cooked, sautéed – veggies are your best friends. Introduce a wide variety of them to your children and experiment with spices if there are some picky eaters around. Best of all, you can even hide them if need be: check out this delicious Spaghetti Bolognese recipe that has masterfully hidden veggies. Bit by bit, teach your children to love vegetables, by introducing all the colours, tastes, and smells in a wide and interesting variety. And whatever you do, never overcook them – overcooking doesn’t just make vegetables soggy and mush, it depletes them of all nutrients.
Lastly, keep in mind that as a busy mom, you’re in no position whatsoever to cook elaborate dinners throughout the week (and nobody is expecting that of you). If you love cooking and experimenting, save Saturdays or Sundays for new and elaborate recipes. The rest of the week, as well as when you’re batch cooking, stick to quick and simple dinners that you can make easily and in autopilot mode. That’s it – simplicity, efficiency, a few simple hacks, and the whole family is eating balanced, healthful meals!DEL2