Back to Basics: Creating Simple Meals for Busy Families
School is in full swing—which we all know doesn’t just mean the kids hop on the bus at 7 and mom gets to hang out on the couch all day! Life is filled with busy. From getting the kiddos on and off the bus or dropping off and picking up, after school activities, sports, music lessons, homework, permission slips, PTA meetings, not to mention keeping the dog walked and the house in order—who has the time to think about dinner?! So we grab takeout on the way home. Call for a pizza when it’s late and the kids are screaming and one needs a bath and one needs help with their homework and it’s just EASIER, right?
Well, it’s true. Having dinner ready in no time IS easier. Lunchables take ten seconds to pack, as opposed to making a healthy sprouted grain wrap with homemade hummus and veggies. Convenience food is, well, convenient. But is it really making your life any easier, if you feel sluggish and worn down all day, your kids are constantly hungry from the processed food blood sugar roller coaster and your jeans just don’t fit like they used to?Sometimes, easier doesn’t really mean easier. Imagine if you HAD the energy to go about your day with ease, if your kids were actually FULL after meals and didn’t constantly beg for food (mostly, I speak nothing of teenage boys!). If your food was both delicious, and nourishing, and you felt better, your jeans were less snug, your kids did better in school… wouldn’t that be easier?
One of my biggest passions is showing mamas that you CAN serve your family healthy, wholesome food, to feed them and fuel them, and look and feel better yourself—without spending hours in the kitchen. I have a lot of things to say on the topic, so I’m sure you’ll hear more from me on this one, but today I wanted to focus on the main point I like to drive home with all of the mamas who tell me that they don’t have time to create healthy meals.
The first step to finding time to create healthy meals? Keep it SIMPLE. Healthy meals do not have to be complicated. They don’t have to be fancy. They don’t have to be plated like a Michelin star chef. Heck, they don’t even have to be pretty. What they need to be is tasty (so your kids eat them), nourishing (so you feel good after having them) and easy—because I know life happens. Here are my five tips for keeping your meals simple (tasty, nourishing, and easy).
1. Meal Prep. I can, and I will, go into more about meal prep in the future—but I know what you’re thinking. Kristin, you told me you were going to help me make my life EASIER. Now I need to spend EXTRA time in the kitchen?! Au Contraire, mama. Meal prep can be as simple as baking half a dozen sweet potatoes, cooking up a batch of quinoa or chopping the broccoli when the kids are napping or watching a movie, on Sunday. All three, if you can manage. Having pre-prepped foods means meals—or at least PART of the meal, comes together in a flash.
2. Leftovers. Oh no she didn’t. Aren’t leftovers BORING? Let me tell you—if you’re going for quick and simple, sometimes boring has to do. But leftovers don’t have to be boring! You can re-purpose the same foods you used into a completely different meal to stretch more than one dinner. For instance, roasting a chicken and shredding the meat for chicken noodle soup, tacos, and casserole. One bird, four meals.
3. Divide your plate. Your dinner plate, and your kids’ plate—just in smaller portions, should look a little something like this: 1 fist of veggies (that’s your first for yours, theirs for theirs), 1 fist of starches (potatoes, root vegetables, grains, breads), 1 palm of protein, 1 thumb of healthy fats (that includes cheese and cream) and/or cup of whole dairy for that calcium. SIMPLE. Veggies + Starch + Protein + a little healthy fat thrown in there.
4. Keep healthy on hand. If you buy only healthy food, you will only eat healthy food! Is there a time and a place for treats? Of COURSE. But if you stop buying those frozen pizzas and that little blue and yellow box and instead opt for an option just as easy—but with a healthier spin, your kids, and you- will be much more likely to make that healthier choice.5. Have a meal rotation. You don’t need a different meal every day of the month to keep the kids from being bored. Choose 5-10 favorite, simple recipes that come together in 30 minutes or less and rotate them! Ensure that you always have ingredients on hand to make 1-2 favorites so you’re never stuck calling the pizza man (unless it’s pizza night, because yes mama- you do deserve a pizza night once in a while!).
I hope these tips give you a little encouragement to feel less overwhelmed with the thought of making complicated meals for your family, and keep it simple, tasty and nourishing. Want more simple, healthy family recipes? Check out the Healthy Mama Life Community.
This post first appeared on the Fit4Mom Newport Blog.