So you want to eat healthy. Not just you but you want this for your family. But no matter what you do , there just never seems enough time! Time to research healthy recipes and snacks, time to cook or prepare healthy lunches, time to even stop and breathe!! And then if you are lucky enough to find some time, your creative juices just aren’t flowing and you end up resorting to the same old snacks, lunches and dinners simply to get it done quickly!
This is the life of a typical full-time working mum who has all of the best intentions but not enough TIME! Trust me, I have been battling this challenge for the last 10 years!
Even with my advanced nutrition knowledge and experience making meal plans for others, I have still struggled from time to time to stick to the healthy lifestyle that I KNOW my family and I should have. Why? Because I don’t always have the time to get creative and so we end up getting bored with the same meals and snacks day after day.
So what’s the solution I hear you ask?
Meal Planning! Is that a groan I hear? PLANNING.....who has time for planning?
I know first-hand that if I don’t set aside a couple of hours each weekend to prep and batch-cook food ahead of time, then the rest of my week will fall apart! Mornings are always crazy in our house and if I don’t have healthy lunch items and snacks ready to grab, then my stress levels rise and lunches will end up being boring or even sometimes I don’t pack one at all! Now we have made the decision not to bring unhealthy snack and lunch items into the house in the first place so at least we don’t resort to pulling together a lunchbox full of junk. But I guarantee you that if we did have junk in the house, on those mornings it is very hard to resist when there is nothing healthy at my fingertips. I will curse myself all day and feel guilty that my child didn’t go to school with a lunch that will help her brain thrive but instead will send her blood sugar levels on a roller coaster ride!
Then there is the dinners! A typical day for me sees me finally get in the house around 5:30-6pm and I know everyone is starting to get hungry. But I still have to help my 10 year old with her homework, follow up with some clients and cook! Trust me, if dinner hasn’t already been thought out for that night BEFORE I went to the grocery store and if I didn’t plan ahead and defrost or pre-cook the meat, cut up the veggies on the weekend or batch cook a pot of brown rice, then a healthy dinner is just not happening! Best case scenario, I will pull together one of my quick, healthy “go-to” dinners only to be confronted with unhappy faces because that meal has become BORING! Worst case scenario, we end up calling for takeout! AAAGGGHH!
How many of you can relate to this? And if you are anything like me you will get down on yourself for not sticking to your healthy eating routine and this only sends you into a further downward spiral of stress, overwhelm and frustration.
So how do you easily make meal planning a part of your weekly routine so it happens like clockwork? Here are some of my favourite strategies....
Set aside an hour earlier in the week, whether it’s when the kids have gone to bed or maybe on your lunch break and source out some new, quick and healthy dinner recipes for the week ahead. Pull out your favourite cookbooks or google some reputable healthy recipe websites. Ones I recommend are:
Plan your grocery list to only include the ingredients you need for the dinner recipes you have chosen PLUS healthy options for breakfast, snacks and lunches (see my list of healthy breakfast, snack and lunch options below). Stick to this list and don’t be tempted to buy any unhealthy “convenience” foods. If they are not in your cupboard or fridge, you will not be tempted to stray off track.
Set aside 1-2 hours on your least busy day of the week to do some meal prep and batch cooking. Pull out your recipes and read through them. Wherever you can cut, portion out, pre-cook ingredients do so now to save time in the week. Most perishable foods can be pre-cut and batch-cooked to last up to 3-4 days. I don’t tend to go beyond this to ensure freshness. If you can find another 30 minutes in the middle of the week cut up some more healthy snacks for the last few days of the week. Below are some ideas of what you can prep and batch-cook for lunches, snacks and breakfast options
HINT: To be even quicker in the morning, make up your entire smoothie in a blender jug the night before and refrigerate overnight so all you have to do in the morning is press the POWER button the blender!
Boil a carton of eggs for quick “grab-and-go” protein sources.
Cut up carrots sticks, cucumber wedges, celery sticks and pepper strips to be eaten with your favourite, protein-rich, sugar-free dips (ie; hoummus, cottage cheese).
Cut up/portion out fresh fruit or dried fruit for snacks or freeze individual portions for breakfast smoothies. ther they are for lunches or snacks.
Prepare individual snack-size portions of trail mix (ie; raisins, almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds)
Prepare an “overnight oats” recipe that you can pull out and heat up easily (check out my tasty blueberry-hemp oats recipe here:
Cut up other fresh fruits and freeze for smoothies (unless you prefer to buy already frozen options which is fine too).
Pre-cook lean sausages which can be warmed up easily for a quick-protein breakfast
Try making a homemade preservative-free, sugar free granola recipe that you can easily mix with ½ cup of Greek plain yoghurt for a blood-sugar-balancing, filling breakfast.
Try different clean, sugar-free, homemade snack bar recipes with no preservatives or added sugars and batch cook them for a quick, healthy snack for you and the family.
Cut up carrots sticks, cucumber wedges, celery sticks and pepper strips to be added to salads or wraps.
Grill several chicken or turkey breasts or salmon fillets for inclusion in dinner recipes, salads and lunch wraps.
HINT: wraps can be completely made the night before! (I don’t recommend making more than a wrap for the next 2 days as they tend to get soggy even in the fridge depending on the ingredients you put in).
Pre-make green salads in glass mason jars for at least 3 days. Experiment with different combinations of ingredients. Some ideas are shared below. To ensure your salads don’t go limp or soggy prepare as follows:
Bottom layer – romaine lettuce, kale or spinach
Middle layer - nuts or seeds (walnuts, almonds, brazil nuts and sunflower, pumpkin or sesame seeds are your healthiest options)
Next layer - pre-cut vegetables of your choice (mixed peppers, grated carrot, radish, broccoli, cucumber, raw green beans
Top layer – beans/legumes (ie; chickpeas, pre-cooked black beans)
Optional – sprouts (broccoli sprouts, cress/alfalfa sprouts)
DON’T ADD DRESSING UNTIL YOU ARE READY TO EAT.
ONLY ADD MEAT, FISH OR EGGS WHEN READY TO EAT (OR AT EARLIEST THE MORNING OF).
Pre-cook vegetables for dinner recipes and refrigerate in a tightly locked container.
Pre-cook rice or other whole grains and store in glass jars/bowls with a lid for dinner recipes or for inclusion in wraps, stews, casseroles or soups.
If you have the time on prep day consider pre-soaking and cooking beans and lentils ahead of the week as they are much healthier than the canned/tinned options. If not, just be sure to rinse the canned/tinned versions thoroughly before adding to recipes.
Casserole recipes can often be made ENTIRELY ahead of time and frozen in a large Ziplog family-size bag in the freezer. Just don’t forget to take out the freezer the night before so you can easily empty the bag into the crockpot/slow-cooker in the morning.
Get into the habit of making more than you need for one meal so you can freeze extra portions for those even crazier nights!
Designate a drawer in your refrigerator and an accessible space in one of your cupboards for healthy, pre-portioned, “go-to” snacks so you and the family have something they can grab quickly when the munchies kick in!
Make a list of your favourite, tried and tested recipes and keep it on your fridge. Always keep those ingredients on hand in case you need to whip up something unexpectedly.
Like any new routine, it can take a few weeks to make it a habit. But trust me, this is one of the most important, healthy habits you can ever create! Don’t try too many new recipes all in one week. Get used to a few simple ones and then each week switch one out for a new one. Eventually you will have a library of “go-to” healthy recipes that you have tried and tested and prepping for them will become easier and easier.
And my biggest tip??? Take out 20 minutes each evening after the kids have gone to bed and pull together your lunch, snack and even your breakfast smoothie ready for the morning. Not only will you sleep better knowing it is all done but you will buy yourself an invaluable 15-20 minutes in the morning for some much needed YOU time!
Giving yourself a little bit of extra time in the morning can make all the difference in how you take on the rest of your day!
Ready to get started on your new healthy eating routine and want to find out whether one of my programmes or services is the perfect fit for you? CLICK HERE TO BOOK YOUR FREE STRATEGY SESSION TODAY.