Moms and dads are the primary individuals running the household food environment, and we know that good eating habits begin in the home. In order to manage all the stressors and pressures that face parents daily, and still manage to pull off healthy, tasty meals, moms and dads have to get smart in the kitchen.
Here are some strategies to help you maximize your food efforts:
1. Gather the family and plan out menus for the whole week.
2. Shop with a list and limit “boxed treats” and processed foods. Taste test fruits and vegetables and herbs to get the family excited about healthy ingredients.
3. Buy as much as you can during one big supermarket shopping experience so you only have to do one extra “fill in” during the week.
4. Remember that canned and frozen are healthy too – just avoid added sugars, sauces, and salt.
5. Buy raw meat proteins in multiples of 4 ounce (kids and anyone on a diet) and 6 ounce size portions; explore and buy non-meat proteins.
6. Offer only one standby alternative like egg salad or tuna, which can be prepared in a large batch and refrigerated for the week, for anyone who decides they don’t like a particular dinner
7. Marinate and cook ahead of time – you do not need to cook fresh every night. Chicken, fish, chili, soups, vegetarian burgers, a vegetable/bean sauce for pasta are all dishes that can be cooked on Sunday, when you may have more time, and then flash frozen or refrigerated.
8. Cut up all the vegetables you need for the week for snacks, and store them in air tight containers.
9. Roast and bake when possible; remember you can “air fry” at 450 degree temperatures all kinds of potatoes.
10. Cut up a big salad to start the week off; wash vegetables and fruit when it comes home so it's ready to be grabbed.
11. Make snack bags and “at-home” snacks ahead of time – healthy trail mix, yogurt parfaits, mini muffins for example.
12. Make extra chicken cutlets or bean chili so it can be used for lunch the next day.
13. Go meatless a few days a week, and either have a meat protein for lunch or for dinner.
14. Prepare school lunches the night before.
15. Set the table for breakfast the night before and decide on selections ahead of time.
16. Freeze water boxes to help keep lunch cold and to have a healthy drink once it defrosts.
Amy Hendel is a Physician Assistant and Health Coach with over 20 years of experience. Noted author, journalist and lifestyle expert, she brings extensive expertise to her monthly shareposts. Her most recent book, The 4 Habits of Healthy Families is available for purchase online, and you can watch her in action on her shows Food Rescue and What's for Lunch? Sign up for her daily health tweets or catch her daily news report at www.healthgal.com.