Life gets crazy and so does your eating. Learn how to calm the chaos with these healthy eating hacks for busy moms!
You wake up refreshed and actually feel a little spring in your step as your feet touch the plush area rug. You’ve determined that today is the day. Today, you’re going to focus on feeding your kids (and yourself) healthy meals and snacks (remember those apple slices decorated with dried fruit and nuts to look like owls you saw on Pinterest?)
Then, the baby wakes up early and an “accident” means you need to wash an extra load of laundry. You have an appointment to get the oil changed in the car and about a million other little errands to run.
By the time you get home, put things away, clean the kitchen, feed the dog, and put the kids down for naps, the day is nearly over. And once again, you ate what was available (ahem… PB&J crusts) and missed the healthy food wagon altogether.
I get it. When you’re juggling all the craziness of life and motherhood, feeding your family a healthy meal feels like it’s at the bottom of the totem pole.
I know that your health and weight loss are important to you and it’s discouraging when you have to put those things on the back burner. Today, I’m going to give you some awesome, healthy eating hacks. It’s a three-tiered approach that will help bring you a much-needed dose of sanity and help you live the healthy lifestyle you desire.
Healthy eating hack #1: Prepared like a Girl Scout
You’ve probably seen this hack before. It’s pretty common in many diets and blog posts to suggest that moms just think ahead. Be prepared for every situation.
But let’s be honest. Sometimes, it’s really hard to do that. I don’t know about you, but I set a time for meal planning. Still, it often gets pushed off my schedule by other things that are really important.
Always having something on deck or chopped or planned can be an unrealistic expectation for most of us. However, it’s a very helpful thing to learn, so I’m going to give you an overview of how you could apply this approach into your daily life.
Weekly meal planning
Being prepared comes down to having a set time each week where you sit down and look at your schedule. See what’s coming up, and notice that certain days may require easy meals. While other days, you may have a bit more time to prepare a more time-intensive dinner (or get meals ready for a busy night too).
I know some ladies like to spend their Sunday afternoons getting everything ready for the week. No doubt, it has to feel amazing to get it all done.
But those of us who prefer to spread it out need a different method. You may notice that on Wednesday nights you have church, so you need a really easy meal. But on Tuesday evenings, you’re home, and you can spend some more time making a double batch of something or preparing for the rest of the week.
You can be prepared by marking things down in your calendar so that you know when you’re going to need to get the crock pot going, thaw some meat, or hit the produce stand ahead of time.
Healthy breakfast, lunch and snack planning
- Ask your littles to pick one or two breakfasts they like for the week and keep. it. simple.
- Serving leftover dinner for lunch is a fabulous way to keep your kitchen time to a minimum. And consider even cooking a triple-batch of items that freeze well like soups, stews, and chili.
- In our family, I’ve created a one-month-long meal plan, which is essentially four weeks of five meals. I just repeat these, and I have coordinating grocery lists with it. It makes it super easy to stay on target.
- If there’s a new recipe or something fun that I want to try, I can easily swap out one of those meals. But I’m so familiar with it, I know that I need to have certain ingredients on hand all the time. I can pull together a meal pretty easily. That is being prepared like a Girl Scout.
Healthy eating hack #2: Easy-peasy meal prep
Easy-peasy meal prep means that you are relying on healthy convenience foods. I know, we “should” be making everything at home, right?
Well, you know what? Sometimes, that expectation can set us up for failure because it’s such a high bar that we’re always going to miss it.
Convenient grocery meals
Let’s take a realistic look and see what time and resources you’ve available and work from there…
Take a minute and jot down several meals that you know you can pull together in a 5-minute run to the grocery store where you just buy a few items. The idea is to be from the grocery store to home and prepped in a half hour.
Maybe that means a rotisserie chicken, a bag of salad, and some potatoes you can pop in the microwave. Totally cool. Totally fine.
If you live 30-minutes from the store, obviously this isn’t your best tactic. That’s ok, check out the next option here:
Quick freezer meals
Another great healthy eating hack are freezer meals that you can pull out at the last minute, even when you forgot to prepare.
For example, you can microwave some instant rice, stir-fry some frozen vegetables, and add some frozen shrimp and soy sauce…and you’re done.
If you have a membership to Costco or Sam’s Club, they have wonderful, pretty healthy options that you can just grab and go. Try things like cauliflower crust pizza, turkey burgers, steam bags of frozen vegetables, and many other things you can just toss together.
RELATED POST: How to Have a Healthy Lunch When You’re a BUSY Mom
You can grab a bag of frozen pasta mix and throw in fresh spinach or pre-chopped vegetables you grabbed from the produce department. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but it has to be easy for the easy-peasy method.
Fast food options
You may also want to have a list of fast food places you can visit in a pinch. Yes, I said fast food.
This could mean going to a restaurant and choosing the grilled chicken sandwich and a salad rather than always getting the full-blown fast-food approach of burgers and fries.
Or you may really enjoy fries, so you choose to do fries and a chicken salad and stop when you’re satisfied–totally fine! Remember, this is a step-by-step approach. You’re not going to go from hitting up the fast food to gardening your own organic kale overnight.
WHY THIS HEALTHY EATING HACK WORKS
Do what works for you and then feel confident that you’ve chosen what fits for your family’s life. Trying to meet a standard that is impossible is only going to frustrate you and will honestly lead to choices that aren’t as great.
Accept that half-homemade is cool with you because it gets food on the table. It gets mostly healthy food into your kiddos. Then, you can feel good about it and take care of other things on that seemingly endless to-do list.
Healthy eating hack #3: Body cues, baby
If these methods still seem overwhelming to you, I’ve got one final hack you’re going to love..
I recommend for everyone to take some time to familiarize yourself with your body’s hunger and fullness signals. However, when “healthy” eating is off the table, so to speak, it’s especially important to listen to our body cues. This consists of letting go of all your food rules.
That can feel kind of scary, I know. But it’s ok to take a break in this season of life and stop worrying about what’s healthy and what’s not–and to focus on strictly hunger and fullness.
Maybe you are on a really tight budget, or your time is super limited. Or if you just can’t seem to get your family to eat healthy food at this stage in the game, it is okay to let it go for now.
Just put a pin in it for a while and focus on your hunger and fullness cues. Try your best to eat when you’re hungry (30 to 60 minutes is usually a great window), and stop when you’re pleasantly full.
Here’s a little insider tip: if you’re eating really rich foods, your portions are going to be pretty small. If you’re able to increase the nutrient density in those meals and add some salad, some vegetables, some leaner meats, you’ll probably need a larger portion.
Eating according to hunger and fullness means that you’ll be able to reach your goals because there’s a weight-loss-sized portion to every food. But you’ll be able to reach them within the context of what your life really allows, and that’s super important.
The coolest thing about this is–I’ve seen people begin to see progress listening to the “eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full” guide, and then they start to desire to eat healthier foods naturally.
Plus, your grocery bills are going to go down because you’re not eating as much. And overall, you’re just going to feel better. Your body’s going to be utilizing any excess fuel/body fat that it needs to get rid of.
Now, there’s a caveat with this as well. It’s very easy to turn it into the “eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full diet,” which is going to make it crazy just like any other diet and lead to all-or-nothing eating. All of these approaches come with grace attached.
You can set your plans, but something’s going to happen. A child’s going to get sick. A tire’s going to go flat, and your plans may go out the door.
But it’s okay. It’s only a problem if you let it become a problem. Put on your thinking cap–because, Mom, you are great at coming up with solutions even in the heat of the moment.
Come up with your next best step. Don’t panic. None of this stuff is war. It’s just food. Make your next best step and move from there.
Bonus healthy eating hack #4: None of these–or all of these
You don’t have to LIVE in: Be Prepared like a Girl Scout, Easy-Peasy Food Prep, or Listen to Your Body Signals, Baby.
You don’t have to be pigeonholed into any one of those. You can move from one to the next, month to month, week to week or even day by day.
Let’s say that generally, you’re pretty prepared. You have food at home. You know what meals you like to cook. Sometimes, you chop up veggies ahead of time. Sometimes, you have fresh fruit on the counter. That’s your groove.
But…you go on vacation, or maybe an illness happens in the family, and it all goes out the window. Then you may choose to adopt more of an Easy-Peasy Approach or listen in to your “hunger signals way” for a period of time. Great!
You may have weeks or days where you switch in and out. Recognize–“We have a really busy day today. I’m not going to have time to food prep, and we’re going to be eating on-the-go. Today, I choose to listen to my body.”
And that’s awesome! There’s no rule that says you can’t do that. The overall concept is doing what’s best for you and what is possible. Don’t set yourself up for failure. And when failure does come–because it will, because you’re human–take it, learn from it, and move on.
WHAT TO DO
Review the lists above and choose what you want to do THIS WEEK. Then, table some ideas about how you could adapt each of the healthy eating hacks.
Keep it simple, keep it flexible, and enjoy the freedom!
Brandice Lardner is a Certified Personal Trainer, Nutrition Coach, Author, and Jesus Girl whose mission in life is to help women ditch the diet mentality and find peace with food and their bodies so that they are better equipped to do the great things God has called them to do.