Life is so busy. With school, extracurricular, and work schedules, it can feel like there just isn’t time left to have healthy eating habits. Thankfully, there are things that busy families can do to combat the temptation to fall into poor eating habits, which are sometimes seen as the only way to get food to the table.
What can you do to have healthy eating habits without sacrificing a ton of time in the kitchen? Here are 13 ways to embrace healthy eating for a family with a tight schedule. Pick a few that could work for your family, and add more over time.
13 Ways to Keep Your Healthy Habits
- Plan your week. Write out a meal schedule on your calendar or sign up for a meal plan, such as the Super Healthy Kids Meal Plan Membership, so that you know what you’ll be serving for the whole week. This frees you from frantically trying to figure out what to serve and how to get it to the table in the few minutes that you have to eat dinner.
- Make a grocery list. Once you have your meals planned for the week, make a grocery list and shop when you can for the whole week. Enlist the help of family members and split up the list between you if possible. This saves lots of time and trips to the grocery store during the week. And if you choose to go the route of subscribing to a meal plan, the grocery list may already be generated for you.
- Stock up on your repertoire of quick and healthy foods. If steam in the bag vegetables help you with time constraints and get your family to eat vegetables, use them. Buy chopped onions or minced garlic if finding time to chop vegetables is tough. If fresh fruit seems to disappear quickly and you don’t feel like you have time to stop for more during the week, stock up on frozen fruit to use in its place.
- Keep staples on hand. If your family eats pasta often, make sure that you have whole grain pasta in stock at all times. The same goes for oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa, applesauce, and more.
- Prep your meals in advance and use your refrigerator or freezer. Chop several onions at a time and freeze them into separate bags so that you don’t have the chopping step during the week. Look for other ways you can prep ahead of time. If you know you’ll need grated cheese during the week but you purchased a block of cheese, grate the cheese when you have time. Several prep and freeze crock pot meals can be found that allow you to dump them into the crock during the week for a healthy meal with minimal effort on a busy day. You can also bake eggs in muffin tins in advance to freeze and then defrost as needed. Another idea is to make overnight oatmeal so that breakfast is waiting for you in the refrigerator when you are ready for it in the morning. Bake and freeze muffins to use as snacks. Make smoothie packets with your smoothie ingredients, freeze, then add to the blender to make your smoothie as needed.
- Use your crockpot. The crock pot is an amazing tool for people who have little time to cook. The recipes for crock pot cooking are abundant, with several options being healthy and quick to throw together.
- Use your microwave. What can you make in your microwave in a pinch? Lots of recipes have been adapted to the microwave. You can make oatmeal, scrambled eggs, sweet potato chips, chicken fajitas and more.
- Eat mindfully. It’s so easy on a busy evening to stand to eat or sit in front of the TV or the computer screen. But it’s beneficial to health and to your family to see take time to savor your food while spending family time together. Being aware of your eating helps to keep you from overeating by allowing you to recognize clues that you are full. The bonus is that your family has time together, and you’ll pass on the importance of being present for the meal to your family.
- Use spices. Spices are a quick and easy way to boost flavor without adding fat and extra salt. Some common herbs and spices and how to use them can be found here.
- Add the vegetables. Adding vegetables into dishes where you may not typically do so lets your food multitask by boosting the nutrition in what you are eating. Add spinach or kale to your smoothie. Toss some carrots, zucchini and squash into your tomato sauce. Give your macaroni and cheese an overhaul by using whole grain pasta and adding squash. Sub in mashed cauliflower for mashed potatoes for a meal.
- Have snacks ready. Get healthy snacks ready to go in advance so that they are easy to grab and eat. Pre-portion nuts, dried fruit, hummus and yogurt. Have string cheese and baby carrots ready. That way vending machines or concession stands aren’t your only source of snacks. A great idea is to have designated areas in your refrigerator and pantry for snack foods.
- Pack lunches. If you’re tempted to skip lunch to stay at your desk, or if not bringing your lunch means you’ll stop for fast food, pack something healthy. When putting away your dinner at night, take the time to make a lunch so that it’s ready when you are in the morning. Another idea is to freeze individual portions of foods you’ve cooked to take from the freezer as needed for lunches. This ultimate guide to packing a home lunch is useful if you find that school lunches are not as healthy as you’d like or if your child doesn’t care to eat the school prepared lunch.
- Enlist help. There are services that can help busy families fit healthy habits into their lives. Some allow you to order your groceries for you to pick up. Others deliver the groceries to you. And still others will mail groceries or even ingredients for meals that you have preselected.
Another way to enlist help is by having family members chip in to have everyone invested in healthy eating habits. Teach your children how to put together a healthy meal using the Healthy Habits Plate so that they can put together lunches for themselves. Have the family split the grocery list to save time. Ask family members to add foods to the grocery list as they use the last of something so that you don’t have to figure out what’s been used up. Have kids help in the kitchen doing age appropriate jobs, such as washing fruit and vegetables, peeling carrots, etc.
Implementing even a few of the tips above can jump start your busy family’s healthy eating habits, creating a lifetime of healthy habits without requiring a ton of time from you.