Balance and food, how they can work together
The sun gleams through the window, sending shimmery rays of light around the room. You stop and take in the warmth of spring – but only for a second. If only you had the time for a mid-day pause. But you have to finish up at work to pick your kids up. It’s one of your many nights where your job as a mother is to race around like a glorified Uber driver. You’re tired and dreading the night. The balance of life seems lost.
What are you going to feed your kids before the hectic evening begins? You don’t have time to think, so you quickly decide on running through McDonald’s on your way home. The pang of guilt radiates throughout your body, but you push it away – you just need to survive the night. How can you break away from this weeknight meal guilt?
A common tale…
Did you read this little story and think, wait, is this story about me? It is, actually. It’s about me, too. And the girl who sits next to you at work. And the woman you almost accidentally pushed your cart into at Target last weekend.
This narrative represents a common struggle modern mothers experience every day, especially as the weather gets nicer and life gets busier. The balance between life and health seems like polar opposites at this point. Being a mother is a blessing for sure, but there are days it also feels like a curse. Why are we always the ones worrying about dinner? If you are married to someone like my husband, a farmer, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. They are so focused on ensuring things run smoothly at work that they don’t even consider everything that goes into things like dinner – it’s just something that happens for them.
It can sometimes be a tough pill to swallow, but we are the foundation of our families. No matter how progressive our relationships may be, mothers tend to be the ones who worry about what to feed their families and to schedule the weekly activities. Unfortunately, the constant hustle leads many of us to rely on overly processed meals that we associate with quick and easy.
And it’s no fault of our own. For most of us raised in the ’80s and ’90s, convenience foods were a way of life. Hamburger Helper, condensed soups, and frozen TV dinners made the world go round. Being someone who ate all of this growing up, I went off to college cooking the same way until I was exposed to other methods.
Why should we care about what we feed ourselves?
It’s too easy to push our health to the side when we’re busy. Survival mode is a real phenomenon, but I know we can resist with a bit of know-how and support. One of the first battles my clients and I take on during our coaching sessions is to shift the mindset from survival to personal empowerment in order to gain balance.
When it feels like we don’t have time to worry about our health, that’s when it’s the most critical to care. And how we fuel our bodies is key to so many things. When we are healthy, we’re mentally more stable and happier. Our energy levels are higher. We communicate better with our spouses and children. Eating cleaner clears out the haze in our brains and helps us focus better. I’m a big advocate of self-care, and food is a form of self-care – when you fuel your body with healthy foods, you are taking care of yourself first so that you can be your best for your loved ones.
Do it for your health.
There’s more to healthier eating than just how we feel, though. Like we were impacted by our own parents’ and their food habits, our children model themselves and their habits after us. We set the tone for their health later in life as well.
Obviously, the occasional fast food meal or boxed meal will not negatively affect our health. But there are dangers with consuming overly processed foods often throughout the week due to their preservatives. Here are a few health issues that we can potentially avoid through healthier food choices:
- Inflammation of the body
- Digestion complications
- Type II diabetes
- Weight gain
- Bloating and increased belly fat
- Heart disease
- Chronic headaches
As I’ve learned to eat cleaner, I’ve tried to channel my grandma Ethel. She grew a lot of her own food in her garden the size of a small house, baked her own bread, and canned everything she could. Growing up, I thought she was just frugal (which she probably was to some extent because she had 13 kids – can you imagine?), but as I’ve had my own kids, I have learned to appreciate her ways because she fed her family whole foods with almost no preservatives. I wish I’d spend more time with her to learn the tricks of the trade.
Most working mothers don’t have time to bake their own bread regularly or even have giant gardens. I know I sure don’t. But there are minor changes we can make to fuel ourselves and our children’s growing bodies with healthier, simpler foods.
As I meal plan, I try to incorporate as many basic foods as possible. The fewer the ingredients, the better – lean meats, fresh or frozen vegetables, fruits, clean dairy, chicken or vegetable stocks, etc. I avoid boxed meals as much as possible because I know all the processed fillers do more harm than good.
Follow my IGTV series where I talk about the simple ways you can change your eating habits to reach your health goals, even when you’re balls to the wall busy!
It’s about balance.
For us, balance is using the 80/20 rule. If you are new to this concept, try 50/50, and progress up. Start small. Of course, there are days I indulge in extra baked goods, fried food, and beer, but I try to balance it out by eating well the rest of the time. When we do splurge on processed goods on a grocery store run, I limit it to a few treats like a bag of Dots pretzels, Oreos, or fruit snacks. By keeping 80% of my cart full of healthy ingredients for simple meals, I’m teaching my kids about balance and not tempting myself with the junk that tastes good but will make me feel sluggish later.
Tips for grocery shopping:
Skip the “nutritional facts” on processed foods and focus on the smaller print under the chart. That will tell you all you really need to know – if there’s a laundry list of ingredients you can’t pronounce, it’s probably in your best interest to put it back on the shelf.
Stick to the perimeter of the store when you’re grocery shopping in person. The outside of stores tends to be where the healthiest food items are: produce, meat, dairy, and frozen foods. You go mingling through the middle, and you’re bound to be enticed by some marketing professional’s pretty labeling.
Simple swaps to use now.
Because we’re busy moms, we don’t have time to analyze every recipe we make for our families. But there are little swaps you can make to up the nutritional balance of your go-to recipes:
Trade the white pasta for 100% whole wheat or protein enriched. If you want to take it a step farther, reach for lentil or chickpea noodles.
Try to buy as many fresh fruits and veggies when they’re in season. During the off-season, buy frozen over canned whenever possible. When you do use the occasional canned bean or veggie, drain and rinse before using.
Switch up the oil you’re cooking with. Different oils have different smoke factors and should be used for different recipes. Avocado, coconut, and regular light olive oil are best for cooking things at a high temp and healthier than vegetable and canola oil. EVOO is full of healthy fats but is best for cold dishes or light sauteeing.
What pans we use makes a difference to our health, too! Swap your Teflon for ceramic or stainless steel as you buy new pots and pans. There are so many toxins in Teflon that can scrape into food as the pans age and break down. Barf.
Have you tried my eCookbook Weeknight Meals? It includes two weeks’ worth of meals plus the grocery list to save you time and money at the store! I developed it with kids and picky husbands in mind – it’s a real-time and energy saver for the nights you have to feed your families quickly before trading in your mom hat for chauffeur hat.
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